The Overton window is a concept in political theory, named after the former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Joe Overton, who developed the model. It describes a “window” in the range of public reactions to ideas in public discourse, in a spectrum of all possible options on an issue. Overton described a method for moving that window, thereby including previously excluded ideas, while excluding previously acceptable ideas. The technique relies on people promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous “outer fringe” ideas. That makes those old fringe ideas look less extreme, and thereby acceptable. Delivering rhetoric to define the window provides a plan of action to make more acceptable to the public some ideas by priming them with other ideas allowed to remain unacceptable, but which make the real target ideas seem more acceptable by comparison.
Everyone has noticed that Hillary Clinton and other “liberal” Democrats have adopted more centralist or even right-wing positions on war, torture, wiretapping, etc. But we are now seeing Republicans shift even farther to the right, and adopt can only be called the bizarre stances of those who live in some sort of Bush fantasy world. It’s even too much for some on the religious right. Their opposition to the children’s health insurance bill, embryonic stem cell research, global warming, and their support of corrupt and/or bizarre individuals like Rush Limbaugh and even Fred Thompson are simply off the scale. Consideration of war with Iraq is simply the next step in this madness.
Where will it stop?