How far left is left in politics? And how far right is right? It depends on which way one tends to lean.
You can go back to the 1964 presidential election when Republican nominee Barry Goldwater, champion of the right, was being attacked by those who called him an extremist and called for labeling the John Birch Society as an extremist organization on a par with the Communist Party. He raised a firestorm with his acceptance speech pronouncement that “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice … moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
He was playing with words, of course, in answering his critics. But it gave the Democrats a hook for their campaign tactic of labeling him a trigger-happy extremist.
Comes now 2014 when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, darling of the left, is at it again. In a radio interview, he pitted the Tea Party conservatives against the more moderate GOP voices: “Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”
Which prompted conservative talk-show host Sean Hannity’s threat to relocate his base to Florida, taking his substantial state tax base with him. And Dennis Poust, spokesman for the state’s Catholic Conference, tweeted, “My governor thinks there’s no place in NY for people like me. Can I get a state grant to relocate?”
While New York state has garnered a reputation of late as a bastion of liberalism, Cuomo’s insinuation is bound to alienate millions of voters with leanings in opposition to his positions on the subjects in question.
But the truth is, Cuomo, himself a Catholic (the right-to-life issue comes quickly to mind), has so absorbed the liberal point of view that he cannot conceive of anyone who favors these issues to any degree as being anything short of extremist.
I once questioned a prominent minister as to whether he viewed himself as liberal, conservative or middle-of-the-road. “Middle-of-the-road, of course,” he replied. “Everyone sees themselves as being middle-of-the-road.”
Liberals, whether in politics or religion, tend to envision life as they want it to be, thus favoring change. They look at the conservative point of view as trying to take a step backward.
Conservatives, on the other hand, are more inclined to view life as it is in reality, thus trying to preserve what is good about the establishment. They see liberalism as trying to destroy it.
While I tend to identify to a greater degree with the latter, liberals don’t have a monopoly on demagoguery. The greatest leaders this nation has had were those who were able to engineer compromise.
Just as east is east and west is west, liberals are liberals and conservatives are conservatives. And never the twain shall meet.
Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.