John Dewey

Before I comment on the results of the poll, one question: Where are the polls that show the extremism of self-identified Democrats, liberals, or progressives? Why is it that the word “extreme” applies onlyto views on the right? Certainly we can chalk this up to media bias, and all the rest of the predictable conservative complaints, but part of it is that conservatives generally never refer to liberal/left policies and views as “extreme.” Maybe that’s a tribute to the fundamental decency of most conservatives and their worldview, but more likely it’s a function of the right having played defense to what the left claims is their moral superiority for over 100 years. More on this in a moment.

The survey by Research 2000 of 1,000 self-identified Republicans found the following:

  • 21 percent believe the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) stole the 2008 election and 55 percent aren’t sure.
  • 31 percent believe Obama is a racist who hates white people and 33 percent aren’t sure.
  • 23 percent want their state to secede from the U.S. and 19 percent aren’t sure.
  • Only 26 percent favor letting openly gay Americans serve in the military.
  • 67 percent believe the only way to get to heaven is through Jesus Christ.

Whatever one may identify as extreme, the only item here that gets close to that description is the first one, and that is only because the Republicans handed victory to Obama before it could possibly have been stolen.

As for the second item, that depends on how you define racist. Obama is a typical modern liberal, comfortable sitting in the racist, white-hating Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church for 20 years, who sees the world, and especially America’s past and present, through a predominantly racial lens. According to such a worldview, it’s not so much that individual whites are racist (although we are indeed seen as so), but some amorphous power structure that is impossible to define is racist and holds blacks and other minorities down.

This alleged racism is seen as being in the DNA of America because it was founded by a bunch of rich white guys who owned slaves. Most people don’t think of race in any such complicated and self-justifying way, so it’s not surprising that a third of those polled think Obama hates white people. Given that he associated with Rev. Wright and listened to his preaching for so long, that hardly seems an unreasonable conclusion to draw.

Plus, it seems rather self-contradictory to characterize something one-third of this big group of people believes—and one-third more suspects may be true—as “extreme.”

As for secession, is being sick and tired of the federal government’s overreach and constant demands on our liberty and bankrupting our next generations really extreme? Although secession is surely an unrealistic scenario, undoubtedly expressions of support for it are simply some people’s best coping mechanism for the vileness of our current and recent governments.

Similarly, that 26 percent of Republicans would not want homosexuals to serve openly in the military should not be at all surprising in a party that includes many Americans who claim a more traditionally religious worldview, and specifically Christianity. The Christian faith and the Bible it is based on doesn’t see homosexual sex as just another morally neutral lifestyle choice but as an activity that is morally wrong. If leftists see this as extreme, it says more about their own extremism than anyone else’s.

And that the last item on the list would be included at all in a survey to prove how “extreme” Republicans are is positively grotesque and is ignorant in the extreme. The statement described as extreme is simply the core belief of Christianity. One may think that particular belief terribly intolerant and narrow-minded, but it is a claim literally billions of people have believed, and hence cannot be described as extreme except by the incurably insane. Jesus was crucified specifically because he claimed to be God, as he said, “Before Abraham was I Am.” The charge against him was blasphemy. He wasn’t just another good man, or a prophet, as other religions claim. As C.S. Lewis rightly pointed it, he was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.

Since modern liberals are more apt to describe themselves as “progressives” today (‘liberal’ not being a word that gets a lot of love in public opinion polls), it is important to understand the mentality of this ideology. As noted above, the left, whatever they may wish to call themselves, believes in the inherent superiority of their worldview. It’s not just that other people are wrong but that they are dangerous, immoral, and inferior and must be dismissed out of hand lest goodness and decency perish from this earth.

This belief derives directly from the roots of progressive thinking in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was not only that these people wanted to improve the United States. Many well-meaning progressives, such as Theodore Roosevelt, saw some government action in response to the displacement caused by the industrial revolution as necessary. But the intellectual elites who defined this philosophy believed, unlike Roosevelt, that America was a fundamentally flawed and failed experiment. Built on a white racist patriarchy of wealth and oppression, the United States needed to be completely rethought and redefined.

With the advent of a scientific way of looking at everything, in their hubris these progressive theorists were convinced that they could engineer a better country than was bequeathed to us by the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Founding Fathers.

A recent issue of National Review had a very important cover section, “The Four Horsemen of Progressivism: The Men Who Created Our World.” An understanding of the history of progressivism and all of its basic assumptions is critical if we are effectively to combat its presumption of superiority, and this section provides an admirable start. The four men it covers are John Dewey, Richard Ely, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., and Herbert Croly.

Here are links to the four articles, but I believe you have to be a subscriber to National Review to view them:

It’s worth subscribing just for these, but if you can’t or don’t have a subscription, these men who truly were extremists are well worth looking into on your own.