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Gregory Graf discusses how to deal with the Messy Debate on Extremism among Republicans

Gregory Graf and me talking about Republican extremism was like trying to nail jelly to the wall. Once you have it in one place, then it will move off and go another way. So let’s take a look.

Greg launched a curveball right away. He believes the entire “extremism label” is a bit overcooked. As he sees it, staying true to principles like low government and free market isn’t extreme. It’s being consistent. Like calling someone an obsessive because they always eat breakfast.

Now, this is where things get spicy. In a nostalgic trip, we discovered that radicals of the past are now heroes. If you are a woman, remember how voting made you radical? If you were a woman, remember the days when voting was viewed as a radical act? Greg said that it’s possible what you call “extreme thinking” today could just be tomorrow’s common sense.

I was forced to stop my nostalgia. Even though it is nice to look back, you cannot ignore what’s really going on. Spouting hate speech or inciting violence, however, is an entirely different matter.

Greg nodded in agreement but was not slow to defend his point. It was unjust to portray the GOP as extremists just because some bad apples were involved. The same as blaming every musician for your uncles awful karaoke of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

We then dove in to the murky water of media portrayal. Greg was convinced mainstream media give conservative voices an unfair deal. It makes mountains of molehills. And turns policy debates into WWE wrestling matches.

The question is, what can we do? Greg argued that more friendly banter across the party divide could help close gaps. In addition, he urged GOP officials to send extremists packing – show them the exit before they transform the house into an circus.

No, our chat failed to bring about world peace. Nor did it help people agree upon pizza toppings in a bipartisan setting (why are pineapples so divisive?) This conversation revealed something vital: the extremists’ world is not as black and gray as it would seem.

You can’t ignore the fact that hate speech or violence is never acceptable. But you also need to be able to see where other people are coming. Perhaps what looks like an extremist view is simply a person who holds fast to principles, or even just their favorite breakfast.

Once we had finished with our conversation about Republican extremes or the lack of them, I realized: politics are messy. Like trying-to-eat-a-sloppy-joe-on-a-rollercoaster messy. We can clean it up by talking, even though we may disagree.

You can’t imagine how much peace and comfort they bring. The next time you see them, give them the key-shaped award or just promise not laugh.


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