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Analyzing extremism: O'Donnell vs. Coons

By Selwyn Duke
web posted September 27, 2010

Unlike for most Americans, the Delaware senatorial primary was not my first introduction to Christine O'Donnell.  I remembered her from as far back as approximately two decades ago, making appearances on shows such as Politically Incorrect.  So when I heard about her supposed "extremist views," I had to wonder if I was overlooking something.  It's hard to forget such a pretty face, but did I fail to recollect some strange aspect of her ideology? 

So I did a Google search and quickly found criticism of her at the Huffington Compost.  "What better source for getting the dirt, real and imagined, on a Tea Party candidate?" I thought.  Yet I figured I knew what I'd find, and I was right.  Had she ever proclaimed herself a Marxist?  No, that was her opponent, Chris Coons.  Had she ever belonged to a socialist party?  No, that was Barack Obama in the 1990s.  Did she once advocate forced abortions and sterilization?  No, that was the president's "science czar," John Holdren.  Had she headed up an organization that promoted "fisting" for 14-year-olds and books featuring sex acts between pre-schoolers?  No, while Obama's "Safe Schools Czar" Kevin Jennings did do that, O'Donnell's sin is far different:

She believes in sexual purity.

Christine O'DonnellTo be precise, she is a Catholic who embraces the totality of the Church's teachings on sexuality.  I could elaborate on that, as I'm a devout Catholic myself, but this misses the point.  To wit: The most the left can do when trying to cast O'Donnell as a danger in government is cite something that she believes has nothing to do with government.  She won't propose the "Self-gratification Control Act" of 2011 anymore than she will mandate that you must attend Mass on Sundays, fast during Lent or believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  (Note that former senator Rick Santorum never did, and, as a devout Catholic who often attends Mass even on weekdays, he presumably believes all O'Donnell does.)  What the left is mischaracterizing as her ideology is actually her theology of the body.

Then, I must say that I tire of how the word "extremism" is bandied about so thoughtlessly.  This isn't primarily because the label is often misapplied.  It is because it is always misunderstood.

The late Barry Goldwater once said, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."  But to be more precise, extremism that happens to reflect Truth is a virtue.  After all, if you live in a land where everyone believes 2+2=5 and you insist it is 4, you'll be considered an extremist.  All being an "extremist" means is that your views deviate greatly from those of the mainstream.  It doesn't mean you're wrong.

But we don't talk about wrong, or right, as much as we should in this relativistic culture.  Instead, believing "Man is the measure of all things," we naturally take the norms of current civilization as the default and any deviation from them as defect (in fairness, all cultures tend to be guilty of this).  But the reality is that while Truth sometimes lies at the center of a culture, other times it occupies the fringes.  Sometimes, like an abolitionist in 1800, an extremist is just someone who is right 50 years too soon.  Or you might say that an extremist is someone who upholds the wisdom of the ageless despite the folly of the age.

So saying someone is an extremist relates nothing about his rightness.  The problem with Islamic extremists, for instance, isn't that they're extreme — any truly religious person is thus viewed in a secular time.  It's that they're extremely wrong.  This brings us to O'Donnell's opponent, Chris Coons.  

Since we're digging up old O'Donnell quotations, it's only fair to delve into Coons' past.  And when we do, we find this interesting bit of extremism: An article he wrote titled "Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist."  It details how a trip to Kenya that Coons took as a junior in college served as a "catalyst," completing his transformation from "conservative" to communist.  Yet, while one could elaborate further here as well, as with O'Donnell, this misses the point.  To wit: Marxism has everything to do with government, as it is about transforming it through socialist revolution into something tried and untrue, something that slays the light and visits a dark age of a thousand sorrows upon its victims.  It's something that killed 100,000,000 people during the 20th century and every economy it ever touched.  That is a negative extremism if ever there were one, and it should scare the heck out of every one of us.

And what is this supposedly balanced with on O'Donnell's side?

Oh, yeah, the sexual purity thing.

Chris CoonsOf course, Coons' piece was written 25 years ago when he was 21 and will be excused by some as youthful indiscretion.  But I'll make two points.  First, the ability to profile properly is always necessary when choosing candidates, as the information you have at your disposal when judging them is limited and managed.  A politician certainly wouldn't admit to harboring Marxist passions; thus, in keeping with the maxim "The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior," the best yardstick we have for measuring Coons is actions and pronouncements taken/made before he had a vested interest in lying about his aims.  (And wouldn't we instinctively apply this when judging someone with a neo-Nazi or KKK history?  Would we give David Duke the benefit of the doubt many would give Coons?)  Then, when profiling, know this: People who embrace communism but then truly renounce it generally become passionate rightists.  Those who remain leftists usually haven't renounced anything but honesty about their intentions.     

The reason why we should fear Coons is the exact reason why leftists fear O'Donnell: In their universe, moral statements are synonymous with policy positions.  If they don't like salt, fat, tobacco (paging Mayor Bloomberg) or free markets, they play Big Brother and give us a very un-free society.  But traditionalist Americans are different: We don't think that every supposedly good idea should be legislated.  We understand that government and its coercion aren't the only forces for controlling man's behavior; there is also something called society, with its traditions, social codes and persuasion; and something else called individual striving.  We can preach sexual purity while also adhering to constitutional purity.  As to this, note that while some snarky leftists have criticized O'Donnell for living in the 1800s, the men who gave us our Constitution lived in the 1700s.  And the norm back then was to have traditional sexual mores.  But guess what they didn't have.  Marxism.

Speaking of which, that great adherent of Marx, V.I. Lenin, once said, "The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation."  Given that we have a government poised to do just this — with steep tax increases and rapid money-printing that will cause inflation — should we really be concerned about a candidate's views on sexual propriety?  Or should we be more concerned about a candidate who may be harboring Marxist passions?

So all the libertines amongst us should know that Christine O'Donnell will not take their sex toys away.  But Chris Coons may want to take all their toys away.  To vote for him is to play with fire. ESR

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