A Kind Word for Ted Cruz: America Was Built on ExtremismRoundup: Historians' Take
tags: abolitionism, Ted Cruz, extremism
Michael Kazin’s most recent book is American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation. He teaches history at Georgetown University and is editor of Dissent.
American politics is a famously contentious theater, especially today. But the vast majority of liberals, conservatives, and Washington journalists all seem to agree that “extremism” is appalling and should be eradicated.
Yet, the meaning of the term is as prey to ideological dispute as are such holy words in our political lexicon as “freedom” and “rights.” Conservatives call Bill de Blasio, who is about to be elected mayor of the nation’s largest city a “left-wing extremist,” while liberals counter that anyone with ties to the Tea Party is an “extreme right-winger.” “Extremist” is the description of choice for fundamentalists of any religion; unless, of course, you belong to one of the faiths being gored. In that case, it’s only traditionalists from the other religions who are “extreme.” “Community,” the literary critic Raymond Williams once observed, “seems never to be used unfavorably.” But no one has a kind word to say for extremism or extremists.
Well, let me be the first. Sometimes, those who take an inflexible, radical position hasten a purpose that years later is widely hailed as legitimate and just. Extremism is the coin of conviction, whether virtuous or malign. It forces middle-roaders to crush the disrupter or adapt....
comments powered by Disqus
- Black Family and Kansas History Converge at Nicodemus Reunion
- Law is Unclear Whether Public College Faculty Have Free Speech Rights in Classroom
- Recovering the Story of the Black Men who were the Nation's First Paramedics
- U of Idaho Advises Faculty of Legal Jeopardy for Discussing Abortion in Classrooms
- The Long Shadow of Pinochet Over Chile's Constitutional Referendum
- Misha Matsumoto Yee is Gilder Lehrman's History Teacher of the Year
- Aaron Burr: The Highest Ranking US Official to be Charged with Treason – So Far?
- When Italian Immigrants were Tricked into Debt Peonage in the Jim Crow South
- Joshua Tait: Will Thiel-Backed Extremists Torpedo GOP Senate Hopes?
- Marcus Weaver-Hightower on the Politics of School Lunch