In today’s polarized society, politicians are increasingly using the term “extremist” to label their opponents. But what is an extremist? Merriam-Webster defines the word as “the quality or state of being extreme,” being the “farthest possible point from the center.”
Now those definitions by themselves are largely subjective; my view of the center and how far something is from it may be entirely different than yours.
But let’s consider an example: you are well within your constitutional rights to peaceably oppose partial-birth abortions. Likewise, someone who peaceably opposes the banning of such abortions would be within their rights. One could argue that this free exchange of ideas, for or against abortion, would be the “center.” Since neither group imposes upon the rights of the other, this is how our civilized society properly functions. Each citizen is entitled to his or her opinion and we empower government to express the will of the majority, provided the majority itself doesn’t interfere with the rights of the minority.
Extremists, those at the furthest possible point from the center, would be people willing to break laws and violate the rights of others in order to enact their goals. Someone willing to blow up a clinic that performs partial-birth abortions would be a perfect example of an extremist, as there is no further point from “the center” than taking the life of another in defense of your cause.