With extremists on both left and right driving so much political debate in the US these days, it seemed an appropriate time to talk with John Avlon, author of “Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America.”

What they’re hijacking is a system that only succeeds when there is compromise from both sides. Unfortunately, the concept of working with those you disagree with to achieve a common good seems to be lost between the 10% on one side and the 10% on the other side who disavow anyone in the middle, particularly those who attempt any kind of cooperation.

Among the points Avlon and I discussed:

  • how so many Tea Party protesters don’t know that their tax rates and government pork have both been reduced in the last year
  • the irony of Fox News stars turning on Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative members of the US Senate
  • which liberals qualify as members of the lunatic fringe
  • whether the media is failing in its coverage of these extremists
  • what effect he expects these political divisions to have on the elections this fall and in 2012

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John Avlon is senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and a contributor to CNN.