Politics and Public Opinion

The Left misunderstands the definition of ‘mainstream’

Lately, there have been more articles than usual about the fact that the Left does not understand America or Americans. Jonah Goldberg has just had justifiable fun with the writings of pseudoscientist Chris Mooney, who tries to explain conservatism as a birth defect, and there have been numerous articles by conservatives about the fact that liberals either don’t bother to read—or don’t seem able to grasp—what conservatives are writing. Now we have our own Norman Ornstein (with Tom Mann) writing in the Washington Post this weekend:

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

It must be said: These two have completely lost their bearings. We can’t, of course, predict the outcome of the elections in November, but one thing is clear: They will be close. It is not beyond the realm of possibility—some, reading the polls, may actually say it is likely—that after the elections the American people may have given the Republicans control of the presidency, the House, and the Senate. In other words, by the lights of Ornstein and Mann, a political party that is “far from the American mainstream” could be put fully in control of the U.S. government. If there’s a better definition of “mainstream”—or a  better demonstration that liberals do not understand America or Americans—it’s hard to imagine.

2 thoughts on “The Left misunderstands the definition of ‘mainstream’

  1. Political discourse in America would make a lot more sense if people across the political spectrum stopped using words like “mainstream” and “extreme” as if they meant the same thing to everybody. They don’t, and pretending they do just tends to discourage critical thinking about the issues. Instead of labeling a candidate’s position as inside or outside “the mainstream” (whatever that is) or as “extreme” (extremely what exactly?), how about we just debate the positions on their merits or lack thereof? I can’t think of a single prominent American political figure who would be universally considered to be “in the mainstream.” I’m not even sure there is such a thing as a “mainstream.” You can probably tell I’m an English teacher. I’m hoping that from what I’ve just written it will be harder for you to tell whether I am on the left or the right.

  2. I hope Mr. Wallison catches no grief for this post. Mr. Ornstein’s op-ed is foolish, and Mr. Wallison’s criticism is welcome, both for its rightness and as reassurance of the integrity of AEI’s scholars. Sometimes one must find public fault with a colleague.

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