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Extremism rulez, moderation droolz

Mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover Barry Goldwater again.

In his 1964 acceptance speech at the Republican Convention where he had been nominated to run against Lyndon Johnson, Barry Goldwater famously 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.

Great words although Goldwater would be blown out by LBJ 486 electoral votes to 52, facing as he did an impossible task of overcoming the national grief over the assassination of JFK and being stabbed in the back by his own party (a recurring theme in the GOP).

Many of the things said about Goldwater were also said about Ronald Reagan but by that time it stopped working, the disastrous incompetence of Carter made him the anti-LBJ with nothing to run on. Reagan was bold and brash compared to other Republicans and he won both elections handily. He was also the last really strong Republican candidate for decades to come. George H.W. Bush, Dole, Shrub W. Bush, McCain, Romney? What a pack of limp noodle pussies. It is a small miracle that Shrub won his first election, he won the second by virtue of riding that “War On Terror” bullshit but he would have been clobbered if he was able to run a third time.

Republican “leadership” from the top down has been lackluster, milquetoast, uninspiring wimps for as long as I can remember. Would you follow “Cocaine Mitch” McConnell anywhere? Or House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who is so useless I had to look him up because I for the life of me couldn’t remember his name? McCarthy is one of many political figures who has never had a real job of any sort in his life, I need to do a post about that one of these days.

In fact Republican “thinkers” and “strategists” have been counseling moderation for as long as I can remember and to the surprise of absolutely no one this strategy has led to a series of pussies running the show for the GOP. I still remember the VP “debate” between Sniffy Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. Biden ran all over Ryan, insulting him and talking over him while Ryan just smiled and took it. You see where taking the “high ground” has gotten the GOP. Principled loss after principled loss for years on end, until Trump got the nomination and all of the same people preaching moderation flipped out and told conservatives why they couldn’t support Orange Man Bad. The same NeverTrumpers who now are crowing about “their” victory over Roe v Wade.

What got me thinking about this was the Zman’s latest podcast, An Angry Return. His first segment was about dimwit Kevin Williamson of National Review fame talking about the triumph of moderation over fanaticism.

As Z pointed out, the Left has been consistently winning precisely because they appeal to their most fanatical zealots.

It isn’t a big leap to say that the “right” has the better arguments on virtually every topic. Libertarians can argue all day long in favor of all sorts of stuff but it generally falls on deaf ears. The right doesn’t lose because their arguments need to be a little better, they lose because they don’t appeal to people where it matters: their emotions.

Let’s look at the two recent wins for the “right” in America:

  • The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that overturned Roe and the “right” to an abortion
  • The NYSRPA v Bruen case that set the precedent for a right to carry a firearm outside of your home

It is hard to express as someone who has lived for 50 years under legalized abortion and the endless infringements on the Second Amendment how earthshaking those two decisions are. They will likely be temporary wins but after decades of no wins, it is incredible to see Roe go down in flames and the SCOTUS repeatedly affirming the individual right to keep and bear arms.

Why did those two issues win when so many other “conservative” issues have been steamrolled over the years?

Quite simply, they were based on emotional arguments made by absolute fanatics.

The arguments for banning abortion cover a lot of ground but ultimately it comes down to this:

Abortion is murdering a baby.

That’s it. That’s the argument. An unborn child is still a child, abortion kills that child. Therefore abortion is murder, straight up infanticide. Every argument against abortion centers around the fact that an abortion kills an unborn child.

Gun rights? Just as simple, just as emotional. Said nowhere better than from Charlton Heston.*

The rest of the saying is well known:

You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

That fit nicely on a bumper sticker and it captures the spirit. I am not giving up my guns. Not ever. It isn’t a nuanced position. It says something quite plain: if you try to take my guns, I’ll shoot you.

It is simple, it is emotional. American gun owners, tens of millions of us, have a very deeply personal relationship to our firearms. To allow myself to be disarmed is to be made into a slave, subject to the whim of my masters in D.C.. No. Fuck you, no.

For decades pro-life and pro-2A zealots have fought tooth and nail for their causes. They never wavered, they never gave up. In the end they won these victories not because they made the better argument to the rest of the American people but because they refused to back down. They won, and I count myself among them on both issues, thanks to a loudmouth lifelong Democrat appointing people to the Supreme Court that he knew would vote to overturn Roe and to support the 2A.

In the end it wasn’t the better argument, it was the zealous refusal by my people to let go of these issues even when it seemed like they would never win. In short it was emotional.

Arthur’s closing line is worth its weight in gold, more or less echoing an argument I’ve been making for years myself. Commenter Xzebek puts it bluntly:

Anyone who understands the circumstances in which we find ourselves and intends to act based upon those circumstances will be labeled an extremist. May as well accept the label and get used to it. And act on it.

Precisely so. If this be extremism, then I’m all in for extremism, and so be it.

* Here, Arthur embeds an image from the renowned NRA convention where Heston waved the antique rifle he’d just been given, a gift from the organization for his stellar service as its chieftain, over his head and declared, “From my cold, dead hands!” It was a truly beautiful moment; need to see if I can’t find vid of it to embed here.

Update! Well, that was certainly easy enough.

I just happened to be watching on TeeWee as it happened, and it still gives me a shiver every time I see it again. What an incredible moment.

2 thoughts on “Extremism rulez, moderation droolz

  1. “Your job is not to die for your country, it’s to make the other poor bastard die for his.” George S. Patton, Jr.
    “If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting.” Curtis LeMay

    I like those quotes better than the “cold, dead hands” one, for some reason.

    1. “The general sentiment of mankind is that a man who will not fight for himself, when he has the means of doing so, is not worth being fought for by others, and this sentiment is just. For a man who does not value freedom for himself will never value it for others, or put himself to any inconvenience to gain it for others. Such a man, the world says, may lie down until he has sense enough to stand up. It is useless and cruel to put a man on his legs, if the next moment his head is to be brought against a curbstone.
      A man of that type will never lay the world under any obligation to him, but will be a moral pauper, a drag on the wheels of society, and if he too be identified with a peculiar variety of the race he will entail disgrace upon his race as well as upon himself. The world in which we live is very accommodating to all sorts of people. It will cooperate with them in any measure which they propose; it will help those who earnestly help themselves, and will hinder those who hinder themselves. It is very polite, and never offers its services unasked. Its favors to individuals are measured by an unerring principle in this—viz., respect those who respect themselves, and despise those who despise themselves. It is not within the power of unaided human nature to persevere in pitying a people who are insensible to their own wrongs and indifferent to the attainment of their own rights. The poet was as true to common sense as to poetry when he said,
      Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow. … This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.”

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