WHERE’S THE CENTER?….A couple of days ago I wrote a plea for a “center party.” Several people wrote to suggest that the Democrats actually are the center party these days, and there’s a lot of truth in that. So exactly what “extremism” is it that I’m so concerned about?

I was having a hard time getting my thoughts together on this, and then I read an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times this morning by Drew Limsky, a professor of English at Pace University and Hunter College. Remember Adrien Brody’s reaction when he won his Academy Award on Sunday? Everyone loved it ? it showed genuine warmth and spontaneity ? but Limsky was not amused:

When Berry read Adrien Brody’s name and the actor bounded up the stairs, scooped Berry up like prime chattel and branded her with a long smooch, there went dignity.

….The Brody kiss seemed to be the payoff to every [Steve] Martin joke that objectified Berry. Last year, best actress; this year, house squeeze.

This is part of the problem: extreme lefties as moralistic killjoys. There are plenty of serious problems with sexism in America, but complaining about the “objectification” of Halle Berry, a Hollywood star whose most recent role ? a voluntary assignment, I assume ? was as a Bond girl, makes feminism look ridiculous. The whole point of Hollywood is to put great looking men and women on the screen, and making millions of ordinary people feel guilty for enjoying this can’t possibly do feminism any good.

Other examples? Congressmen who travel to Baghdad to criticize American foreign policy on nationwide TV, gay rights parades that seem deliberately designed to repulse as many ordinary people as possible, college professors who publicly hope for lots of American deaths in Iraq, and tooth-and-nail opposition to bans on partial birth abortion, a procedure that’s rare, loathed by a large majority of Americans, and generally forbidden even in the socialist hell that is Europe.

I’m sure my two or three conservative readers could add other items to this list. The problem here is that, rightly or wrongly, this kind behavior is associated with Democrats, and it has the effect of either repulsing moderate voters or else making them feel like they have to walk on eggshells anytime they’re around us. Making people feel variously repulsed, guilty, and vaguely uneasy is not a vote-winning strategy for a national party.

Let me put it another way: I’m convinced that the Black Panthers set back the cause of civil rights, PETA sets back the cause of animal rights, and vomit-ins are setting back the cause of peace activism. It’s a free country, of course, and these folks can do what they want, but somehow we have to disassociate them from the Democratic party in the public’s mind. I know perfectly well that Republicans have the same problem with the Christian right, but for some reason it doesn’t hurt them among moderates as much as lefty extremism hurts Democrats. It’s not fair, but it’s a fact.

So there you have it: my problem with liberal extremism. It may not be an official part of the Democratic party, but it’s an albatross around our necks anyway. We need to do something about it.