The 'Extreme' Label

Barry Goldwater finally wrestled the presidential nomination away from the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party.  If nothing else came out of the electoral trouncing he would receive at the hands of Lyndon Johnson some months later, two things did.  First and foremost was the fact that he had gotten the nomination at all, snatching it from Nelson himself, no less.  Thus was the modern conservative movement born. 

The other shining moment was a campaign speech.  Given by a rising conservative star, Ronald Reagan, in support of the Arizona senator, it is now copiously quoted in tea party circles.  It's known today as "A Time for Choosing," and shame on the tea party organizer who doesn't have a copy bookmarked on his browser.

It was 1964, and those of us old enough to remember that election cycle may recall the "daisy commercial" -- the one that pictured a little girl standing in a field of tall grass, haltingly counting from one to ten as she plucked petals from a flower -- until her reverie is shattered by the explosion of what we called in those days an "atom" bomb. For President Johnson, it was a very effective use of a relatively new campaign medium -- television -- playing on the fear that Goldwater, who had advocated a policy of "rollback" of the Soviet Union rather than containment, would recklessly lead us into a nuclear war.  The commercial helped to cement the Democrats' proposition that Goldwater was a dangerous "extremist."

It was at the Republican National Convention, in San Francisco's Cow Palace, that Goldwater broached the charges and spoke the words for which he is now most famous.  Knowing that he would come under attack for his muscular foreign policy and unabashed conservatism in an era that would spawn the failed "Great Society," he said:

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!  And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue...

Defending against charges of extremism is difficult. Defining it, however, is even more difficult, perhaps by a full order of magnitude.  One man's extremism is another man's common sense.

And so when Republican Representative Michael Grimm (NY13) issues a
statement supporting a second Continuing Resolution, while decrying the "extremist" elements of the two major parties and the tea party who would dare to oppose it, he exhibits a very real misreading of the point at which extremism ends and common sense begins.

To his credit, he made a very adept and logical explanation for his vote to pass the Continuing Resolution -- you may buy his rationale, or you may not.  Either way, there is certainly room for debate and differences of opinion.  However, in labeling the opposing argument as extreme, he is incorrectly placing
more than half of the modern conservative movement -- not to mention 54 fellow Republicans -- out on the fringes of political thought.  And that is just plain wrong.

Our country remains on the brink of financial crisis, and many believe that the time for bold and decisive measures is upon us. To demonize those who are ready to take such drastic action, including a shutdown of the federal government, is a mistake and a misreading of the mood not only of a good portion of his district -- but a good portion of the American electorate.

Those who would vote against the CR are fully aware of the implications of doing so, but are of the belief that drawing a line in the sand is long overdue. Grimm's approach, which gives the Democrats the rope by which to hang themselves when the budget clock ticks down to zero, has merit, too.

But the issue is not so black-and-white that opponents should be called extremists.

Words matter. How many times have we heard that in the past few years? Representative Grimm is a freshman -- as was predecessor in the district that is comprised of the borough of Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, Democrat Mike McMahon. But McMahon had been a politically savvy city councilman for years before he went to DC, Michael Grimm had no prior political experience. Indeed, that unjaded freshness was one of the things that made Grimm's candidacy so attractive.

But in this case his use of the word "extreme" was unnecessary and insulting -- especially so to tea partiers who have been eating, sleeping and breathing drastic -- even draconian -- spending cuts since Bush's first TARP.

"Extreme" implies "fringe." What Congressman Grimm needs to know is that there is a rising tide of conservatives who believe that allowing the federal government to shut down is a consummation devoutly to be wished -- a belief held not just by a few radical kooks living on the edge, but by serious, intelligent people numbering in the millions all across the country.

Frank Santarpia is the co-founder of the Staten Island Tea Party and can be reached at taxdayteapartysiny@gmail.com.  The group's blogsite is at www.teapartysi.com
Barry Goldwater finally wrestled the presidential nomination away from the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party.  If nothing else came out of the electoral trouncing he would receive at the hands of Lyndon Johnson some months later, two things did.  First and foremost was the fact that he had gotten the nomination at all, snatching it from Nelson himself, no less.  Thus was the modern conservative movement born. 

The other shining moment was a campaign speech.  Given by a rising conservative star, Ronald Reagan, in support of the Arizona senator, it is now copiously quoted in tea party circles.  It's known today as "A Time for Choosing," and shame on the tea party organizer who doesn't have a copy bookmarked on his browser.

It was 1964, and those of us old enough to remember that election cycle may recall the "daisy commercial" -- the one that pictured a little girl standing in a field of tall grass, haltingly counting from one to ten as she plucked petals from a flower -- until her reverie is shattered by the explosion of what we called in those days an "atom" bomb. For President Johnson, it was a very effective use of a relatively new campaign medium -- television -- playing on the fear that Goldwater, who had advocated a policy of "rollback" of the Soviet Union rather than containment, would recklessly lead us into a nuclear war.  The commercial helped to cement the Democrats' proposition that Goldwater was a dangerous "extremist."

It was at the Republican National Convention, in San Francisco's Cow Palace, that Goldwater broached the charges and spoke the words for which he is now most famous.  Knowing that he would come under attack for his muscular foreign policy and unabashed conservatism in an era that would spawn the failed "Great Society," he said:

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!  And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue...

Defending against charges of extremism is difficult. Defining it, however, is even more difficult, perhaps by a full order of magnitude.  One man's extremism is another man's common sense.

And so when Republican Representative Michael Grimm (NY13) issues a
statement supporting a second Continuing Resolution, while decrying the "extremist" elements of the two major parties and the tea party who would dare to oppose it, he exhibits a very real misreading of the point at which extremism ends and common sense begins.

To his credit, he made a very adept and logical explanation for his vote to pass the Continuing Resolution -- you may buy his rationale, or you may not.  Either way, there is certainly room for debate and differences of opinion.  However, in labeling the opposing argument as extreme, he is incorrectly placing
more than half of the modern conservative movement -- not to mention 54 fellow Republicans -- out on the fringes of political thought.  And that is just plain wrong.

Our country remains on the brink of financial crisis, and many believe that the time for bold and decisive measures is upon us. To demonize those who are ready to take such drastic action, including a shutdown of the federal government, is a mistake and a misreading of the mood not only of a good portion of his district -- but a good portion of the American electorate.

Those who would vote against the CR are fully aware of the implications of doing so, but are of the belief that drawing a line in the sand is long overdue. Grimm's approach, which gives the Democrats the rope by which to hang themselves when the budget clock ticks down to zero, has merit, too.

But the issue is not so black-and-white that opponents should be called extremists.

Words matter. How many times have we heard that in the past few years? Representative Grimm is a freshman -- as was predecessor in the district that is comprised of the borough of Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, Democrat Mike McMahon. But McMahon had been a politically savvy city councilman for years before he went to DC, Michael Grimm had no prior political experience. Indeed, that unjaded freshness was one of the things that made Grimm's candidacy so attractive.

But in this case his use of the word "extreme" was unnecessary and insulting -- especially so to tea partiers who have been eating, sleeping and breathing drastic -- even draconian -- spending cuts since Bush's first TARP.

"Extreme" implies "fringe." What Congressman Grimm needs to know is that there is a rising tide of conservatives who believe that allowing the federal government to shut down is a consummation devoutly to be wished -- a belief held not just by a few radical kooks living on the edge, but by serious, intelligent people numbering in the millions all across the country.

Frank Santarpia is the co-founder of the Staten Island Tea Party and can be reached at taxdayteapartysiny@gmail.com.  The group's blogsite is at www.teapartysi.com

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