How to Tell if You are an Extremist

Politics has been called the “art of compromise”, but that title is only true in a democracy. In a democracy compromise is the only way to get things done. Democracy caters to the centre. It exerts tidal forces that push it’s participants to the centre of the political spectrum. That is why often, in a democracy, the dominant parties tend to end up, ideologically, looking very much like each other.

The extremes define themselves by their opposition to compromise. Extreme views exert the opposite force that democracy exerts. Extreme political views push participants away from the centre. The political extremes, whether “left” or “right”, favour dictatorial governments.

So the answer to the question is very simple. If you find yourself disliking democracy. If you find yourself wishing that a strong leader, who favours your political views, would assume control of the political discourse, and not relinquish it, there is a good chance that your political views are extremist in nature, no matter where they lie on the political compass.

4 thoughts on “How to Tell if You are an Extremist

  1. This definition of extremism relies on how we define democracy, and democracy in FPTP stopped catering to the centre some time ago. Is it extremist to want a better system than our current Parliamentary one?

    FPTP, First Past The Post, electoral systems do not give a truly democratic majority rule in any but a two party system– ours is not a two party system–the right side of the aisle figured that out…

    The minute you add a 3rd party, you can (and often do) have a ruling party who rules by the will of LESS than the majority vote but with majority power in the house. That is not democracy! If I live in a predominantly Conservative area does my vote count in the same way as it would if I lived in a predominantly NDP voting community? Am I represented in the same way in parliament as a conservative leaning person in my area?

    let’s put that aside for a minute.

    Do the math — Canadians aren’t getting the government they’re voting for | CBC News

    Using the figures in the article above, and my NDP example, one vote one share, would more than double the NDP representation in Parliament in 2019.

    We have one new (relatively speaking new) party in Canada that figured that out about 18 years ago give or take. They figured out that people who would vote for ’em were split in two groups. They joined forces. But guess what? when they did, they became MORE right wing–not more moderate.

    My riding’s been a Conservative won riding since the Alliance party and Progressive Conservative Party joined forces and became the Conservative Party for the 2004 election. Prior to that merger of the far-right and right, the seat swung back and forth between the Liberal and the Progressive Conservative party about every two elections, but with each side averaging 40% of the vote– more or less.

    If the two left major left leaning parties had joined forces, using the the 2019 election as a guide, the results in my riding would be 52% Left versus the 48% right that won–it would actually be a “majority”

    Taken at a national level that right wing move to the far right merger put the “right” back in the running for power, but it did so the cost of moderation, of compromise. Would the same happen on the left? is that the way we want to split? extreme on both sides?

    That’s where we’re heading with FPTP democracy.

    The game’s currently rigged in Canada. No, not to the extent it’s rigged south of the border–we don’t gerrymander to that extent–but it’s still rigged.

    Am I an extremist for wanting better representation? Am I extreme for wanting proportional representation that fosters compromise by reducing voting blocks to less than the false majority that we struggle with today?


  2. I am in no way saying that Canadian democracy is perfect.  It certainly isn’t extremist to want to improve a democratic system, or to work for that change.  The “tell” for extremism is when you want to replace democracy with a dictatorship, because you imagine that dictator is in your corner.

  3. One can argue about the details of representation, and the mechanics of victory in a democracy, and those discussions are worthwhile and important, but the absolute beating heart of democracy is the peaceful transfer of political power following an election.  When that is interfered with the entire democracy is jeopardized.

  4. When I was younger and dumber, I said, on more than one occasion, in private conversations that the best form of government was a “benevolent dictatorship”.  I was a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian.  And of course, what I meant was that God was going to be in charge.  Because God is perfect, so what could go wrong?

    There are so many ironies, paradoxes and dangers woven through that kind of thinking that it’s hard to know where to begin with it, but that kind  of thinking led to this post.  I was an extremist.  I wouldn’t have described myself that way, but it is clear to me now that I was.

    Democracy will never be perfect as long as it is a social construct.  Critiquing it and tinkering with it to see if it can be improved, to see if it can be more inclusive, more efficient and more robust, is a worthwhile exercise.  But dismantling it because someone you don’t agree with came to power is dangerous and extreme.

    As long as that mechanism of elections, followed by a peaceful transfer of power is in place, change is possible, and probably inevitable.

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