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Ruben Navarrette: Memo to both political parties: Americans are sick of extremism

From the commentary: In striking down Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court embraced extremism. American voters are likely to recoil from it. ... And that's bad news for the one party that has, as of late, on one issue after another, made extremism part of its brand: the GOP.

Protesters gather on the second day of pro-Trump events fueled by President Donald Trump's continued claims of election fraud in an attempt to overturn the results before Congress finalizes them in a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
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SAN DIEGO — What the world of politics needs is a lot less nonsense and a little more nuance. And that goes double for the universe of political analysis.

Ruben Navarrete column logo
Ruben Navarrete column logo
Kit Grode / Tribune graphic
From the commentary: Even in a season marked by unpredictability, some things never change. Politics is still a street fight. And it never hurts to get in the first punch.
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From the commentary: Immigration is a serious issue. We need serious people who deal with it in serious ways. And these days, the offerings from both parties are awfully skimpy.
From the commentary: It's always the right time to do the right thing. And in this story — besides the girl and her family — no one even came close.

The correct interpretation rarely turns up at the extremes. It's usually somewhere in the middle. When a major event happens, partisans are going to try to spin it to suit their own agenda. One camp will claim that it's nothing, while the other camp insists that it's really something.

Just take a look at what's happening with what we might call the politics of abortion in the excruciatingly suspenseful lead up to the midterm elections. In June, the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, with its head-scratching decision in Dobbs v. Jackson's Women's Health Organization. In doing so, the justices returned the issue of abortion to the states.

That was the cue for the political parties to swap scripts. For the past 49 years, Democrats — mostly abortion rights advocates content that the court was on their side — have attempted to keep the electorate calm over abortion, while antiabortion Republicans have tried to get it riled up in the hopes of overturning Roe. But now, Republicans — pleased that Roe has been overturned — have tried to keep the electorate calm, while Democrats have attempted to get it riled up in the hopes of using the abortion issue to help retain control of Congress.

The parties can't seem to agree on one central question: Is abortion on the ballot in November?


Liberals claim the answer is an emphatic "yes." Conservatives insist the answer is a very low-key "no." Democrats went from downplaying the abortion issue for years to playing it up in the last several weeks as the most important issue facing Americans. Conversely, Republicans went from arguing — to antiabortion groups and deep-pocketed donors — that abortion was the single most important issue on planet Earth to now insisting that no one cares enough about it for it to affect the outcome of the midterm elections.

Both parties are being dishonest. That's not exactly news. But, in this case, the parties also are both wrong.

After voters in Kansas, a deep red state, recently defeated a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have outlawed abortions in the state, the left-wingers were euphoric. This was just the beginning, they said. In this "pro-choice" nation, they said, voters were primed to punish the GOP for trying to restrict or even outright eliminate abortion rights.

Meanwhile, the right-wingers framed the Kansas vote as an outlier that had more to do with voters' reluctance to tinker with the state constitution than with preserving abortion rights. Abortion, they argued, isn't an issue that determines how most people vote. In November, they said, many more voters are likely to be focused on bread-and-butter issues like the economy, inflation or gas prices -- and this will be bad news for Democrats, the party in power.

From the commentary: ... The question of whether state courts should enforce state constitutional protections of voting rights should be easy to answer with a resounding yes. That it is an open question is clearly what troubled the conference of chief justices, and rightly so.
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From the commentary: Sadly, even assuming a happy ending for a revised Electoral Count Act, that's not the takeaway from this legislative saga. Instead, what stands out is that Congress couldn't get unanimity in either house on its attempts to rewrite a badly drafted 19th century law that was at the center of a bloody attack on the lawmakers' own corridors and, potentially, their lives.
Election administrators and judges are part of the community. We are your neighbors and co-workers, people you see at church on Sunday or in line at the grocery store. I believe I speak for all election officials when I say we are honest citizens who want to serve our community to the best of our ability.
From the commentary: Viewing t.. the Court as just another political institution staffed by the usual hacks, deprives the Court of the grandeur and dignity that an institution without an army to enforce its decisions needs to be respected. The rule of law holds force ... because of the power of our belief, both in the law and in the people enforcing it.
From the commentary: The one thing we can do is build relationships at the local level. The notion of building relationships across differences can feel quixotic. But part of the beauty of being human is that we have the capacity for empathy and kindness, and these feelings can grow even in the most painful circumstances.
From the commentary: So, the ideological, political and legal war rages on. Welcome back, justices.

As is usually the case, the truth may be somewhere in the middle. Of course, the issue of abortion won't literally be on the ballot in November. But the vote in Kansas suggests that "extremism" will be.

Voters are likely to recoil from extreme positions in both parties and be drawn to more moderate views. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., are sure to win their own races. But if these two had to be judged by a national referendum, they would both be wiped out.

In an interview last year with Susan Page of USA Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., passed along her message to AOC, and other members of "The Squad." Pelosi said that, while she admired their passion, "when you come in, cross that door, take that oath, you have to be oriented toward results." The speaker reminded the firebrands: "you're not a one-person show."

Recently, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. — who is unlikely to survive her own reelection battle due to her opposition to former president Donald Trump — told the New York Times that she had no interest in working with Greene because "what the country needs are serious people who are willing to engage in debates about policy."


In striking down Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court embraced extremism. American voters are likely to recoil from it.

And that's bad news for the one party that has, as of late, on one issue after another, made extremism part of its brand: the GOP.
Ruben Navarrette can be reached at ruben@wctrib.com.
© 2022, The Washington Post Writers Group


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