“Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.” So said Barry Goldwater during a speech at the Republican National Convention at San Fransisco’s Cow Palace in 1964. They are strong and noble words. And this quote keeps resonating with me because right now the meaning of these words is being twisted by the fringes of the left and the right so that one could imagine this quote being interpreted by the Far Left and the Far Right as justification for their acts of extemism to defend their version of liberty which is not the America that we know.
The shrill tone of today’s extreme dialogue, encouraged by the 24/7 media fanning the flames of these political outliers who are now ripping America apart must be stopped because these views are not shared by the majority of us and we reject their vision for our country.
Both groups, vile white supremicists with their twisted notion of who should be Americans and leftist street thugs who want to silence all thoughts that they oppose, have no place in a democratic America. At our best, we have always been in favor of broad debate and tolerance – except at the extremes. And right now the extemists are killing our great nation.
The funny thing is that the majority of Americans really aren’t that polarized from one another. On the political Spectrum, the majority of us are somewhere between 25% to the left and 25% to the right. Every national election our politicians fight to pull a few of those closer to the center over their line on the left or right and emerge victorious. It really is that close. Imagine a giant game of tug of war where our political leaders try to pull a few from the other side into “no man’s land” – in every national election.
So why does the media spend so much time on the extemes on the Left and the Right? Because it makes for sensational stories and breathless accounts of violence. I mean, who can resist that?
In the footage of the Goldwater speech in San Fransisco, you will note that in the front row there sits none other than Richard Nixon and his wife Pat. How ironic that it would be Nixon’s task after the 1968 election to bring together a much divided , polarized nation.
As I’ve written before, America in 1968 was torn assunder by racial strife, the Vietnam War and the Baby Boomer’s Rebellion witnessed on many a college campus. It was a time of enormous and important social change that we now take for granted, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement and the anti-war movement. It was a horrible and tumultuous time that I’ll never forget. It scared many of us; it felt like America was coming apart and we didn’t know what it would look like afterward.
So in 1968, Nixon was elected over Democrat Hubert Humphrey who was nominated in Chicago, while ouside the convention, Chicago police went wild in a “police riot” as they dealt violently with anti war protesters who were against Humphrey’s nomination. You see, as Lyndon Johnson’s Vice – President, he was a target for the anti-war crowd.
Nixon’s other oponent was George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama who swept the former stronghold of the Democrats, often referred to as “The Solid South.” He was openly racist and deplorable to the rest of the country.
So Nixon found himself in an odd position. Despite what many now may believe, he was fairly centrist. He promised that he would restore law and order to the country. This was something that the majority of Americans in the middle of the polarizing violence craved desperately.
In a 1969 television speech, Nixon opened by saying: “And so tonight—to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans—I ask for your support.” And by doing so, gave a voice to the hopes of the middle and empowered it against the Far Left and Far Right.
And so it is today as we face a similar inflection point. Will the forces on the extremes pull the middle out of America? In England there is a radio talk show host and politician, Maajid Nawaz who has coined a rallying message for those of us in the majority middle. He is an English born politician of Pakistani roots and a Muslim who has been outspoken about Muslim extemism. He has written several books on the subject.
Nawaz’s message to encourage the silent majority to speak out? “ Ctrl – Left, Alt – Right Delete.
I think he’s got it about right. Let’s call out the extremists and heal America before its too late. It’s time for the “silent majority” to step up and break the silence.
Jon Saltzman is the Publisher and Senior Editor of Political Storm