Extremist fringes damaging both parties

Our two, not-so-great political parties are stumbling and fumbling their way to the the 2022 and 2024 congressional and presidential elections because of the antics — to use a kind word — of their respective extremist wings.

The Republicans are suffering from a tendency to pander to the pro-Donald Trump, populist/right base that seems to have become noisier since his defeat while still not growing large enough to win anything.

At the same time, the Democrats appear reluctant to offend their very own crazies on the left.

“Signs of Progressive Overreach Abound” was The New York Times headline the other day over a story about the Democratic Party’s left wing trying to outdo the Republicans’ right in sowing discord.

Of course, nothing the left has done has come close to the Jan. 6, 2021, Trump-led insurrection aimed at illegally overthrowing the election of a president.

But you’ve got to give the Democratic left credit for trying.

However, the party’s moderates have been fighting back. In normally liberal New York, the very unpopular progressive mayor Bill De Blasio, his gubernatorial and presidential dreams demolished, was succeeded by a Democratic centrist, retired NYPD Captain Eric Adams. In one of the new mayor’s first moves, he proposed cuts in nearly every part of the city budget — except the police at a time when crime was on the rise and the left was campaigning to defund the police.

Minneapolis, home of the murdered George Floyd and the subsequent anti-police demonstrations that sometimes became violent, survived a referendum that would have replaced the city’s police department with an agency that emphasized social work over law enforcement.

That Minneapolis vote seems to have ended the brief run of the aforementioned “defund the police” movement.

But the most interesting reaction to the excesses of the Democratic left came in mid-February in San Francisco, the most liberal locality in all these United States.

While keeping the city’s public schools closed longer than most places during the pandemic and showing little to no interest in the impact of remote learning on students and families, the liberal board of education occupied its time conducting a crusade against 44 figures from America’s past whose names adorn the city’s public schools.

All 44 were considered guilty of what amounted to not living up to the contemporary moral, social and cultural standards of the San Francisco board of education even though they lived mostly in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

The list contained the usual, but also, the most unusual suspects. Slave holders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were easy targets, without regard for their other, rather significant contributions. But others on the list attracted more attention and ridicule. Abraham Lincoln was considered unworthy of having his name on a school because he wasn’t sufficiently anti-slavery and Paul Revere, the guy who rode through the Massachusetts countryside notifying the Colonists that “the British are coming,” also had to go.

Other victims included John Muir, one of the fathers of the environmental movement, and the current senior senator from their own state of California, the apparently not liberal enough liberal Democrat Dianne Feinstein.

But the board’s greatest offense — after keeping the schools closed while working diligently on rename them — was the decision to end the merit-based admissions policy that had made San Francisco’s Lowell High School a city and state  treasure.

The school’s merit-based admissions resulted in an overwhelmingly white and Asian-American student body, so the school board’s action especially rankled the city’s large, politically active Chinese-American citizenry.

While this was going on, Chinese-Americans across the nation were being attacked — sometimes violently — following the discovery of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China and  President Trump’s attempt to dub the spreading disease the Chinese Virus and the slightly more pejorative “Kung Flu.”

But it didn’t stop the school board from ending merit-based admissions, leaving San Francisco’s largely Democratic, Chinese/Asian-American population mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, to quote the old movie.

In a city that is 36% Asian-American and 40 percent white, they formed a recall movement that removed the board’s three most progressive members by a whopping 70 percent of the referendum turnout.

So, which party’s extremists can do their party the most harm as we move toward the coming elections? It was interesting on a recent Sunday to hear the respected Republican pollster Frank Luntz offer his analysis.

Without knowing the future of the pandemic and Ukraine, said Luntz, “If you look at polling data and do the focus groups and talk to independents,  I find it difficult to see any other conclusion than Republicans winning control of the House and Senate.”

But, and there was a big but, “only Donald Trump could stand in the way. If he tries to make it [the election] about November of 2020 or January of 2021, if he tries to make it about himself, the Republicans could lose.”

Can you imagine Donald Trump doing anything like that?


Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at rahles1@outlook.com.

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