Pointing out the faults of extremist ideas in itself is not a position. Although identifying what you do not believe can be critical, it is not a substitute for what you do believe. In an attempt to establish what’s viewed as “balance,” what I see is people placing themselves between two positions that in themselves are outside the realm of American principles and do not actually have any true middle ground. There’s no middle ground between extremists.
Much of what people think of as the political middle today is a category error. They are putting themselves between what amounts to false caricatures of the political left and right. What’s often portrayed as left and right extremism are not truly characteristics of either conservatism or American liberalism. White supremacists are no more the consequence of hard core conservatism than Antifa is the product of very liberal ideas. Neither white supremacy nor leftism is within the realm of principles and tensions that characterize traditional American political conversation. Neither focuses its attention on individual liberty.
Whereas conservatives seeks to conserve the societal structures built as an outgrowth of Enlightenment values like reason and individual sovereignty, liberals seek to adjust those structures as our environment changes. The tension between these two positions is necessary to assure we identify those structures that operate well, keep them running, and identify changes that are necessary as our environments change. There is nothing in extreme leftist or ethnic superiority ideals that fit into this framework.
Both leftist ideas and those of ethnic superiority are based on the idea that humanity is locked in a zero sum eternal struggle over power. While white supremacists seek to be on the top of the power hierarchy, leftists seek to destroy the structures that provide the power these groups are fighting over. But even if you disrupt the institutions or structures that create that power dynamic and the hierarchy is flipped, you now have a power dynamic with a new underdog, and the cycle must begin again to flip this new unjust dynamic. It’s a perpetual cycle of fighting for power that ignores and discounts every other portion of the human experience.
We’ve been listening to this idea for a couple hundred years now, and it is always the same, while only the identity of those groups changes. So far, it has resulted in little more than genocide.
This category error creates a couple of problems in political analysis and conversation.
For one, it creates an easy straw man of someone’s opposing viewpoints. People can easily point out white supremacy as a problem and demand that conservatives disavow it, even though conservatives principles have zero attachment to those ideas. In the opposite direction, people who would never spend their evening vandalizing businesses, establishing CHOPs, or blocking people from speaking in public, are expected to disavow organizations like Antifa. These positional clarifications are barriers to discussing societal problems that act as hurdles to clear, long before any substantive discussion can begin. You often see it when people cannot seem to start a political statement without a list of things they “First of all,” are not saying.
Secondly, it can lead to rationalization of groups and their violent actions by mistakingly believing that they are doing so in service of a shared ideal. But people in groups like Antifa or Neo-Nazis do not believe in the ideals that conservatives and liberals have traditionally wrestled over. They are fighting a battle over values that none of us in the American experiment believe to be fundamental. Antifa is no friend of conservatives, and if they ever finished conservatives off, liberals would be next.
It’s high time that we as conservatives and liberals connect again. Then, we can further marginalize the horrific ideas of the woke and the ethnic supremacists so we can get back to the business of liberty.