Joe Klein’s “you might be a left-wing extremist if…” list is quite revealing. A number of his items are somewhat strawmannish substantive positions. Many of them, however, rather plainly have nothing whatsoever to do with extremism of any sort. To wit:
- Dismissively mocks people of faith, especially those who are opposed to abortion and gay marriage.
- Regularly uses harsh, vulgar, intolerant language to attack moderates or conservatives.
I mean, there’s a term for people who express left-of-center views in a vulgar manner and it isn’t “extremist” — it’s vulgar. The sentiment “that asshole Bush ruined the balanced budgets of the 1990s all for the sake of his fucking tax cuts” is perfectly centrist. Similarly, whether or not you tend to mock people you disagree with about matters of religion is just a matter of politeness. But rudeness has no ideology. Under certain circumstances, of course, it’s important to maintain a certain standard of politeness, but there’s no reason to elevate this to a core ideological point.