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Defining Political Extremism

I usually don’t comment much on politics.  When I do, it seems that my political posts don’t do so well, but here goes anyway.  A few months ago, I got an email from a friend asking me about how the church defines political extremism.  She had some relatives that were concerned about government conspiracies for population control, the New World Order, and a few other things.

Then I was talking to my sister a few days ago.  She asked me what I thought of the Tea Party movement.  In brief, I’m not a big fan.  Anyway, I thought it might be time to put together some of my political thoughts, and quotes from former apostle Hugh B. Brown into a post.  I considered waiting until closer to the election, but decided to go ahead and put this out now, since I was just talking to my sister about this issue.  I have combined a few emails into this post.

My sister’s email quoted a blogger complaining about President Obama.  The first question from the blogger was terrible.  “If Obama wanted to destroy the United States, what would he be doing differently?”

I don’t for a second think Obama is trying to destroy the United States.  People are welcome to disagree with Obama–certainly I do on a fair number of issues.  However, when we try to demonize people we disagree with, we have crossed the line into political extremism.

I had an email from a friend asking me about political extremism, and how the church defines it.  Well, here are some thing I told her, and I think they apply to this blogger as well.

You may be interested in this letter that was read here in Utah on Mar 22, 2010.  See http://www.newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/first-presidency-letter-on-utah-precinct-caucus-meetings

“Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of various political parties.”  (Emphasis mine.)

I usually lean republican, but I do like Jim Matheson (D-Congressman Utah) and Peter Caroon (D-SL County mayor.)  I’m not real fond of Harry Reid, but it is cool to have such a high ranking Mormon.  Matheson is a Mormon and crusades against wasteful government spending.  He was one of the few guys who voted against the Bank Bailout (and caught a lot of heat when the bailout was popular), and voted against Health Care Reform.  He’s a real fiscal conservative, opposes abortion, and I really like a lot of his stands.  In states like NY, CA, or MA, he’d be a republican (more conservative than Guiliani, McCain, or even Mitt), but Utah is so ultra-conservative that he is really a very conservative democrat.

The following quote comes from Hugh B Brown’s famous speech “Profile of a Prophet.”  This is the beginning of the commencement address he gave to BYU students in 1968.  The first 3 minutes of the speech, Brown gives a few jokes and advice, and then gets onto Politics, before addressing his main topic of “Profile of a Prophet.”

“You young people are leaving your university at a time in which our nation is engaged in an increasingly abrasive and strident process of electing a president.  I wonder if you would permit me as one who has managed to survive a number of these events to pass on to you a few words of counsel.

First, I’d like you to be reassured that the leaders of both major political parties in this land are men of integrity, and unquestioned patriotism.  Beware of those who feel obliged to prove their own patriotism by calling into question the loyalty of others. Be skeptical of those who attempt to demonstrate their love of country by demeaning its institutions. Know that men of both major political parties who guide the nation’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches are men of unquestioned loyalty and we should stand by and support them, and this refers not only to one party but to all.

Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit which will enable you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy variation of political belief. Do not have the temerity to dogmatize on issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent.  I’ve found by long experience that our two-party system is sound.  Beware of those who are so lacking in humility, that they cannot come within the framework of one of our two great parties.

Our nation has avoided chaos, like that is gripping France today, because men have been able to temper their own desires sufficiently, seek broad agreement within one of the two major parties, rather than forming splinter groups around their one radical idea.

Our two party system has served us well, and should not be lightly discarded.  At a time when radicals of right or left inflame race against race, avoid those who teach evil doctrines of racism.  When our Father declared that we, his children, were brothers and sisters, he did not limit this relationship on the basis of race.  Strive to develop that true love of country, that realizes that real patriotism must include within it a regard for the people of the rest of the globe.  Patriotism has never demanded of good men hatred of another country as proof of one’s love for his own.  Require the tolerance and compassion of others and for them.  Those with different politics or race or religion will be demanded by the heavenly parentage which we all have in common.

-Hugh B. Brown, Commencement address, Brigham Young University, May 31, 1968

I’m sure he is referring to the Civil Rights, Vietnam, as well as the upcoming presidential election following Lyndon B Johnson’s announcement that he would step down.  Of course Nixon won a 3 way race over D-Hubert Humphrey, and I-George Wallace.  There were Vietnam demonstrations, and I think it was a much more divisive time than today, though today is a very divisive time.  Let’s not forget that Wallace was later shot in 1972, and we all know what happened to Nixon.  I didn’t know what happened in France in 1968, so I looked it up on wikipedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_1968_in_France Apparently there were some big-time riots, strikes, and protests that almost brought the French government down.

Here’s a different talk by Hugh B. Brown that gives some good advice too.  http://unicomm.byu.edu/president/documents/brown.htm

[T]he possibility of coherent community action is diminished today by the deep mutual suspicions and antagonisms among various groups in our national life.

As these antagonisms become more intense, the pathology is much the same. . . . The ingredients are, first, a deep conviction on the part of the group as to its own limitless virtue or the overriding sanctity of its cause; second, grave doubts concerning the moral integrity of all others; third, a chronically aggrieved feeling that power has fallen into the hands of the unworthy (that is, the hands of others). . . .

Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: An excessively simple diagnosis of the world’s ills and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all. . . . Blind belief in one’s cause and a low view of the morality of other Americans–these seem mild failings. But they are the soil in which ranker weeds take root . . . terrorism, and the deep, destructive cleavages that paralyze a society.3

I am a bit wary of the Tea Party Movement, as well as MoveOn.org.  I view them both as unhealthy extremes.  My opinion is that it is fine to disagree with Democrats or Republicans.  But when we turn to decisiveness and refer to President George W Bush or President Barack Obama as “worse than Hitler”, we are guilty of political extremism.  As Hugh B Brown said, “the leaders of both major political parties in this land are men of integrity, and unquestioned patriotism.”

What say you?

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254 comments on “Defining Political Extremism

  1. Let’s revisit:

    BTC: And the reason I have anymosity toward conservatives is for just these reasons — their tendency to spout talking points and platitudes to put down others, with no backing or support or reason. Their goals is not to achieve anything but say their guy is great and the other guy is satan.

    As I said before, Bush was labeled similarly by Liberals and Democrats. I’m not seeing how Liberals/Democrats are above any of this. You dodged this earlier, or yesterday, by saying that you hadn’t spouted any talking points. But my comment wasn’t directed solely at you, any more than yours was directed solely at me. It was at conservatives generally, and mine was at liberals and Democrats generally. Your depiction of conservatives not backing up their beliefs and showing no reason is an opinion. I, along with most conservatives, share the same opinion of liberals. But that is an opinion. It isn’t opinion, however, that liberals and Democrats are very verbally abusive towards conservatives and Republicans. My opinion is that they are generally much more vile than conservatives in their criticisms.

    Now for the issues. I could probably add more later as I think of things, but these are probably the biggest issues, and that’s all I’ve got time for right now. So have fun with it.

    Health Care:

    1. Obama promised that the health care debate would be broadcast on CSPAN. It was not, and there was no reason that it couldn’t have been. Obama flat out lied.

    2. The bill was passed through the unconstitutional use of reconciliation. legislation cannot be rewritten after it has passed. Reconciliation was meant to be used only to balance the federal budget. Even Democrats Robert Byrd and Kent Conrad agreed that the use of reconciliation to pass the health care bill went against its intended purpose. Byrd, who wrote the rules for reconciliation, even called it an outrage.

    3. Obama promised that he would sign an executive order which would prohibit federal funding of abortions as a compromise with House Democrats to agree to pass the health care bill. The executive order that he signed does nothing to prevent it, and nothing in the health care legislation itself prohibits states from using federal funding to pay for abortions, according to the Congressional Research Service.

    4. Obama “sold” the health care bill to the public as “insurance,” not a tax, because he campaigned on the promise that he wouldn’t raise taxes on the middle class and knew that labeling it as a tax would make it even more unfavorable. Then in order to protect it from being overturned in court, they’ve had to resort to calling it a tax. The government, under the commerce clause of the constitution, cannot compel citizens to purchase anything (not even car insurance, in case you want to use that defense, because people are not required to buy or drive cars), but they do have the power to tax.

    5. The health care bill represents an encroachment on the sovereignty of the states, and as such, violates the 10th amendment for various reasons.

    6. Why is it socialist? One definition of socialism states that the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy. In the case of health care, the federal government would be the centralized government controlling health care. A second definition of socialism states that it is the stage between capitalism and communism, in which collective ownership of the economy under the dictatorship of the proletariat has not yet been successfully achieved (this is a more modern definition of socialism, which is more of a hybrid of capitalism and socialism, but really isn’t Marxian socialism). If government is controlling the health care system, then it will not be 100% capitalist. But it will not be entirely communist either. In addition, the bill will not necessarily be paid by each individual. Those who cannot afford it will be subsidized by those who can. As Marx stated, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” The very definition of socialism.

    6. One question that really has nothing to do with Obama, but something I have yet to understand that perhaps you might, is Nancy Pelosi’s statement during the health care debate where she said something to the effect of, we have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it? If her statement was meant as is sounds on its face, I have to wonder why you wouldn’t want to find out what’s in the bill BEFORE you pass it. Was this somehow supposed to inspire the public to support the bill? I don’t get it. I think she said the same thing of another bill after health care. There may have been other Democrats that said the same thing as well if my memory is correct, though I could very well be wrong about that. In any event, it was a very troublesome statement.

    So anyway, here’s how I see it. The tactics used to garner support for the health care bill and to get the bill passed equate, to me, as an attempt to pass it at any cost. Lies were told, deals were made and broken (with no real intention of keeping them in the first place), unconstitutional means were employed, and the health care bill itself is unconstitutional and should be struck down as such. That is why, to me, it is an indication of Obama’s (and other Democrats) radicalism. Other than FDR, I don’t know of a more radical administration.

    The bailout of GM and Chrysler:

    I already addressed the fact that the government now owns a majority share in these companies, which closely meets the definition of socialism. But in addition, Obama fired the CEO of GM and said that the federal government would guarantee GM warranties. Chrysler, meanwhile, was given a mere 30 days to consummate a merger with Italian automaker Fiat. I suppose when government owns a business, it has the power to do that, but the Constitution does not provide for the government taking over private business for anything that doesn’t relate directly to national security.

    Also, as part of the bailout deal, GM and Chrysler were forced to shut down a large number of their dealerships. According to TARP Special Inspector General Neal M. Barofsky, not only was this not necessary, as it didn’t (and it was said that it wouldn’t) save GM much, if any, money. In fact, it was stated that it might even cost them money. Barofsky also reported on the criteria used to determine which dealerships would be shut down. He said, “[D]ealerships were retained because they were recently appointed, were key wholesale parts dealers, or were minority- or woman-owned dealerships.” That’s 2,000 dealerships closed and 100,000 jobs lost for virtually nothing. What was the point, and what was the basis of deciding which dealerships got to stay open because of their race or gender? That’s pure racism and sexism. There’s something terribly wrong with that.

    To add to all that, Barofsky said, “experts said that while metro areas were oversaturated with GM and Chrysler dealerships and reductions were needed in these areas, this was not the case in rural areas where GM and Chrysler had an advantage over their import competitors.” He goes on to say that, “ultimately close to half of all of the GM dealerships identified for termination were in rural areas.” So what was behind this? Political pay back? Records indicate that in 2008, Obama lost the vote totals in the nation’s 1,300 rural counties by nearly 80%. This is purely speculation, of course, but you have to wonder what reasoning went into this.

    The Arizona Immigration issue:

    Federal immigration law is not being enforced in Arizona, so they’ve taken measures to enforce the laws themselves, since their efforts to get help from the federal government have gone unmet. The Arizona law did not go outside of the bounds of federal law, but rather mirrored it, contrary to what the media and the president himself have said. So, Obama takes Arizona to court. The federal government’s case was horrible and the judge ruled against Arizona, not on the basis of evidence, but on the basis of speculation of what “could” happen, saying that it “might” be a burden to local law enforcement. Where was the constitutional argument against it? There was none. It was a foregone conclusion. A terrible ruling on the matter and another example of Obama violating state sovereignty. Analysis of the ruling by Mark Levin, who is a Constitutional attourney.

    Cap and Trade:

    I’ve already discussed the issue of the coal industry, or rather, the coal-burning power plants being targeted for bankruptcy, so I won’t go over that again. But right now, and I think I mentioned this before as well, Obama is holding the nation’s oil refining capability hostage in an attempt to pass a cap and trade bill. This will only further damage our nation’s economy at a critical time. Raising taxes, in any form, will only make this recession worse and will not increase revenues.

    But anyway, even if the government has the power to tax and/or regulate a business to death, does not mean that it is right, and I don’t know of any president or congress that has done that (There may be the rare exception, but it is not the rule, and that is why it is radical). But that is exactly what Obama has proposed he will do. Now whether or not he does it remains to be seen. I just can’t believe that he could say that and it not be considered a big deal. What if it was your job or your business that was targeted? Would you not view that as outrageous? It’s easy to sit back and not care when you aren’t the one who is directly affected. But what does that say about you?

  2. Chicken, I just checked my spam filter, and I’m not sure why several of your comments went there. I released 1 (the rest looked like duplicates.) Carry on.

  3. I guess Chicken is done with this one.

  4. Tara – sorry, yes I had moved on. I’m not sure if there’s anything that really needs to be addressed here as you’ve stated nothing more than anyone can find going to any number of conservative websites. The vast majority of it is opinion supported by falsehoods – but even if it weren’t – anyone who thinks we shouldn’t have health care for millions of children because we didn’t have all of the debates on C-SPAN, is too shallow to reason with. In my opinion.

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