"Strategic Extremism"


Virginia Postrel explains why politicians don't always move to the center.

NEXT: Good Night, Proud Eagle

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Of course, is a bad example. It’s binary, Yes-No… there is no median position it is a bi-polar distribution, one is either fer or agi’n it. Taxes allows for some variation, this tax, not that tax, or this rate or some other rate…

  2. Sure there’s a middle ground on abortion. I support the right to have an abortion, but I vehemently oppose public money being spent to finance them. Okay, you could argue it’s not so much a middle ground as an amalgam of two extreme positions. But there are probably enough people who feel the same way to build a true middle ground. Nobody really likes to have to buy a party’s platform wholesale when they only really want one plank.

  3. db, I think you’re wrong… IF you accept that abortion is murder, then your middle gorund is morally untenable for many. The “middle ground” of abortioon is far too crabbed a place for median voter theory to work well.

  4. Abortion is not murder. That settled that. 🙂

  5. Jason: Ah, but is the converse true?

    “I didn’t murder anyone, it was just a 164th-trimester abortion!”

    And is it a “middle ground” to be anti-abortion, but pro-choice?

  6. Joe L, even graduated issues like taxes get broken down into binary choices.

    For example, Gore supported a $600 billion tax cut, targetted towards middle and lower income taxpayers.

    Bush supported a $1.6 trillion tax cut, targetted towards upper income taxpayers, heirs, and corporations.

    The Democrats tried very hard to discuss the issue as “what kind/how much.” The Republicans tried to discuss the issue as “tax cuts: yes or no.”

    The Republicans won. Nonbinary position require too much nuance, and we can’t have that.

    BTW, this why you either support social programs to reduce poverty, or you’re a heartless bastard.

  7. Nocturnal emissions, masturbation and menstruation are murder. Every cell of potential human life must be preserved.

    Supposing abortion is made illegal. What will the penalties be. Will all parties be penalized: doctors, women, and men? Will all teenagers have to submit a DNA sample to ensure that they can be tracked down should a zygote be found? Will In Vitro be made illegal?

  8. Nobody so far has read slowly enough what Virginia had to say.
    I think I get it, and she confirms my intuition that this election was not about “moral values,” as that nincompoop, Nicholas Kristof was trying to incite.
    Virginia is talking about a model of complexity. Refer to the Santa Fe Institute.

  9. Okay well then here’s the ultimate binary issue, which Pat Robertson does not hide, but broadcasts on the 700 Club:

    ?We?ve sat idly by long enough and said, ?Well religion and politics don?t mix.? Don?t you believe it. If we don?t have moral people in government then the only other people that can be in government are immoral. That?s the only way it goes. Either you have moral people in there or you have immoral people.?

  10. As a counterpoint to Virginia’s cool reason, there is Maureen Dowd’s column today you esteemed associates here may want to read and comment on. Mo is my woman!

  11. Deron,

    There are significant differences between a sperm and a fetus, dubious assertions notwithstanding.

  12. That was a really great example/hypothesis.

  13. Middle ground? How about third trimester abortions are murder. You’d get most Americans to agree on that. Thinking that an undifferentiated clump of cells has a soul, however, is just an insult to God if he/she exists.

  14. Argh. Are we going to argue abortion here? I’ll try not to. But…

    Whether the embryo or fetus has a “soul” is a matter of faith that is not relevant to its legal status. However, there are non-religious issues of biology and logic that are relevant to the question of whether the embryo/fetus is a distinct human individual with human rights that must be respected and protected, and if so, at what stage of its development.

    There are a number of people who believe conception is the closest we can come to an objective event that demarcates “fully human individual” from “not fully human individual.” (If it splits into twins or whatever, the demarcating event is the split.) With those people, there can be no acceptable “middle ground” on abortion, any more than you can have a middle ground on the issue of slavery, if one side believes the slave is a human individual with human rights.

    Unless, through education, you can persuade that extreme viewpoint otherwise.

    I personally believe abortion will remain a contentious issue until some technological advance removes the market for it (e.g., contraception so easy and fool-proof that an unwanted pregnancy is almost impossible).

  15. I should have added that it’s my understanding that it was technological advances that are primarily responsible for eradicating the practice of slavery in most parts of the world, by making it less economical than other alternatives for getting work done. (The American South was a special exception.)

    I’m trying not to be a partisan in this case, but I remember something a soldier once posted on a BBS discussion board several years ago that I think is worth repeating — I remember what he said almost word for word. The topic was abortion and he was pro-choice. He said:

    “When I served in Vietnam, I was partly or totally responsible for the terminations of several fully grown fetuses. I take no joy in it. It was something that had to be done. Nor do I regret it. It was something that had to be done.

    “Taking a human life is to be avoided, but sometimes, it’s the choice with the least-worst outcome. Sometimes it has to be done. But we should be honest about what we’re doing, and not be mealy-mouthed about it and call it ‘a clump of cells.’ ” Sorry, those were his words.

    I think that was an honest pro-choice argument, and one I can respect even if I don’t entirely agree with it.

  16. Stevo Threadkiller,
    I do hope you have given a full term abortion to this thread.
    I grieve for Virginia because she had timely information that speedreaders squashed like a possom on the white line.

  17. ruthless my point was that I don’t know if I buy Virginia’s analysis here because it appears to me like some fairly extreme talk is right out there in the open. Not hidden among little groups. Have you ever listened to this thing called “talk radio”? It ain’t pretty.

  18. trainwreck, isn’t “talk radio” a actually a great example as well? I don’t know many M. Moore fans who listen to Rush. Personally I find talk radio great. Any time someone speaks thier mind without limit, I grin. And…talk radio is a great place to get “gotcha” quotes. I know a lot of “rush” fans. I love to “corner” them with some real Rush quotes, only the most extreme actually agrees with him, and you can easily embarass the most conservative people who love to support him, as long as they don’t have to know the kind of weirdness he actually says.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.