BOSTON (CBS) – I’d like to be able to tell you that the presidential race this week has reached rock-bottom, what with Donald Trump calling Hillary Clinton a “bigot” and Clinton casting Trump as a tool of the Ku Klux Klan. But you and I both know this race has no bottom.
So as the campaign rhetoric grows more and more extreme, let’s take a moment to consider how Americans seem to feel about extremism in politics.
In 1964, Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater made the case that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” He then proceeded to lose 44 states.
But we’re a less-extremist country than we were then. Civil rights have expanded. Every time a president has tried to push the envelope a bit harder than normal, the voters tend to push back by rewarding the opposition party at the polls. Perhaps that’s why Clinton and Trump seem eager to cast the other as extreme.
To hear Trump and his backers tell it, Clinton would unleash a far-left-wing agenda on America if elected. But didn’t we just watch her survive a nomination process in which she was repeatedly cast as too moderate, too cautious, too responsive to outside pressure?
Clinton wants you to believe Trump is the front man for the most far-right-wing elements imaginable.
Check out this new Clinton web ad featuring racist support for Trump.
But aren’t we seeing Trump desperately trying to tack toward the center these days? So which is he – a radical, or a pol on the make with an eye glued to the polls?
Our political track record suggests extremism doesn’t sell in the end. Even if that’s what the mudslingers would have you believe is being peddled.