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America is neither left nor right but centrist

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Centrists -- who may be broadly defined as fiscally conservative, socially libertarian-ish -- have been relatively quiet as "patriots" have made threats, building armies of "hunters" to bring down RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) and DINOs (Democrats in Name Only) or creating online "leper colonies" to post the names of those who, for example, dared speak out against Sarah Palin. The latter was the creation of Erick Erickson, founder of RedState.com, recently hired as a CNN commentator and famous for calling retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter a "goat-[expletive] child molester," among other similarly trenchant observations.

Thusly do hyperpartisans become mainstream.

It's fine to be angry about bad policies; it's fine to hold politicians' (and journalists') feet to the fire. But it is not fine to demonize dissent and cultivate rage. We should know by now where demagoguery leads.

America's first popularly elected female senator, Maine's Margaret Chase Smith, knew -- and she bravely faced down fellow Sen. Joseph McCarthy in 1950 with her "Declaration of Conscience" against hate and character assassination. Twenty years later, on the anniversary of her declaration, she wrote words that resonate yet again:

"It is time that the great center of our people, those who reject the violence and unreasonableness of both the extreme right and the extreme left . . . shed their intimidated silence and declared their consciences."

Hear, hear. And, dare I say, mega-dittos.

kathleenparker@washpost.com


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