CAN THE CENTER HOLD?….The LA Times has a local columnist, John Balzar, who writes some very nice pieces. Today he talks about extremism:

Speaking in terms of culture, not advocation, I find myself wondering about the center and its place in society. A large share of American political energy has taken flight. From a shared sense of direction, people have dispersed to the self-righteous poles.

It took two presidents and several bloody, unhappy years of Vietnam before 100,000-plus people demonstrated in the streets for an end to the fighting, or before officers were fragged in their tents in the field. This time, we’ve witnessed both in the opening hours of war.

I know this is just idle chatter, but I can’t tell you how much I yearn for a new political party that represents, as Al Franken puts it, the mushball middle. The Finns have a party called, appropriately, the Center Party, and I want one too.

Why? Because I think that fundamentalism is the real enemy of progress, and that includes both fundamentalist take-no-prisoners conservatives as well as fundamentalist America-is-a-sink-of-corruption lefties ? both at home and abroad. I’m tired of Christian fundamentalists, who apparently think America should be ruled via some lunatic interpretation of the book of Leviticus, and I’m tired of Islamic fundamentalists, who think it’s a sin for women to drive cars. Likewise, I’m tired of tax-cut fundamentalists who want to ruin the American economy via deficits as far the eye can see, and I’m tired of anti-globalization fundamentalists who think McDonald’s is the root of all evil.

Like Balzar, I have a hard time empathizing with any extreme view of the war with Iraq. It’s a close call, after all. The fact is that Saddam poses only a moderate ? and long term ? threat to the United States, so it’s a little hard to understand the mouth frothing rage that conservatives bring to the pro-war cause. At the same time, Saddam is about as brutal and unliberal a dictator as you could imagine and the world will undoubtedly be a better place without him, so it’s also a little hard to understand the anti-war fervor that some liberals bring to their cause.

End of rant, I guess. But if anybody were ever able to set up a credible political party for the middle 60%, they could sign me up in a flash. Sure, I’d end up losing a few fights and compromising on some things I’d rather not compromise on, but there’s a chance that we’d be able to keep the extreme loonies out of power, and that would be reward enough.

Feh. Maybe my serotonin levels are just a little low today. Back to the fight tomorrow…..

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias says I’m just reading too many blogs. He’s probably right.

And both Matt (directly) and Atrios (indirectly) make the point that the Republican party really does have an extremist wing with real influence, whereas extremists in the Democratic party are pretty marginalized. That’s true, and it’s why I’m a registered Democrat. But I think there’s more to it, and I’ll blog about it when I get my thoughts together.