The New Brand of Radicalism: Mainstream Extremism

In the late 1960s, as the U.S. government waged War in Vietnam, the voices of the far left grew louder. They were not only furious at Republicans, but they were upset with their own party. They felt betrayed by government and by the Democrats in power for taking the country into, what many considered (and what is now commonly accepted) as an unjust war. They were angry that the party no longer represented their ideals and had put the country in a ditch. These radicals took to the streets—sometimes violently—and incited a movement that in 1969 helped the Democratic Party lose their power to the Republicans, who would remain in control of government for eight years.

The radical groups in the late Sixties broke away from their party in the hopes that their party would follow them.

Similar characters and organizations on the far left and the far right exists these days (many of them the same as in the Sixties) fight with the same intentions in mind: to get their party to join them, even if they are the minority.

But in most of the cases that come from the political left (and my parents and their friends are going to hate me for saying this), the radical platforms alienate and weaken the very party they hope will take them on (take, “A Vote for Nader is a Vote for Bush,” certain incendiary filmmakers, and many activists groups, most of which are probably from my hometown).

Yet as Barack Obama’s campaign has united the Democratic Party more than any other president or presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy, John McCain is tearing the Republicans apart.

What differentiates the extreme right in 2008 from the extreme left in 1968 is that the Republican candidates today not only embrace the extremism from the right, they fuel it.

The question is, how much of their party have McCain and Sarah Palin come to represent and how many republicans have they estranged by taking such radical stances on issues such as international relations (warfare over diplomacy), energy (“drill baby, drill!”), anti-choice (even in cases of rape or incest)? From what I’ve been reading and hearing, it seems that most of those in the Republican Party are against these hate politics, smear campaigns and radical policies put forward by McCain and Palin. It’s clear the GOP candidates have responded to an extremism that helped Bush rise to power.

Yet, seven years after Sept. 11, in the wake of discovering that the reasons the administration cited to justify an invasion of Iraq were bogus and as the world economy crumbles, is embracing the dogma of the radical right going to help the McCain campaign? I’m hoping not. And if history has anything to show us, it would be that such extreme tactics do not work and are not favored by the American populous.

–Jamie Wong