“The true means of being misled is to believe oneself finer than the others.”
-Francois de La Rochefoucauld
I have always felt that liberals were arrogant and condescending. My feelings were not based on any poll but on observation and anecdote. In my mind I had created generalities, liberal straw-men, and caricatures that caused me to distrust those from the left. Eventually all of that broad brush thinking started to bother me that maybe I was just being intolerant and closed minded. Maybe I was but the conduct of the left in recent days has far surpassed all of the mental caricatures I created. Apparently my thinking is not totally unfounded.
In a recent Washington Post article entitled, “Why Are Liberals So Condescending?“, professor Gerard Alexander documents four narratives that liberals use to marginalize the thinking of their political counterparts. The first narrative is that of a “vast right-wing conspiracy”. This was popularized by then first lady Hillary Clinton in response to questions about President Clinton’s conduct. This narrative suggests that conservatives employ nefarious back-room tactics that manipulate the truth and smear their opponents. Alexander illustrates this narrative by stating:
This liberal vision emphasizes the dissemination of ideologically driven views from sympathetic media such as the Fox News Channel. For example, Chris Mooney’s book “The Republican War on Science” argues that policy debates in the scientific arena are distorted by conservatives who disregard evidence and reflect the biases of industry-backed Republican politicians or of evangelicals aimlessly shielding the world from modernity. In this interpretation, conservative arguments are invariably false and deployed only cynically. Evidence of the costs of cap-and-trade carbon rationing is waved away as corporate propaganda; arguments against health-care reform are written off as hype orchestrated by insurance companies.
The second narrative that liberals offer is that Americans are stupid and easily distracted by conservative red herrings such as family values, abortion, and gun control. Alexander cites liberal author Thomas Frank’s 2004 best seller “Whats The Matter With Kansas?” as claiming that working class voters had gotten so distracted by issues like abortion that they had voted against their own economic self-interest. Comments that President Obama made in reference to rural Pennsylvanians further demonstrates the extent of this narrative:
they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
The liberal response to conservatives who voice their concerns is to listen but dismiss any calls for policy change because such concerns are devoid of any real reason.
The third narrative liberals use to dismiss conservatives is that they play on white sympathies and prejudices. Alexander references liberal authors Thomas Byrne Edsall and Mary D. Edsall who proposed that Nixon and Reagan disguised prejudice against blacks by using socially acceptable terms like crime control, low taxes, and welfare reform. This narrative totally ignores the fact that prejudice against blacks have sharply declined and that many of the prominent conservative leaders are themselves black.
The final narrative liberals offer is that conservatives are driven by fear of change. Their case, so they say, is more difficult to make because all conservatives have to do is play on fears whereas liberals must appeal to evidence and logic. This narrative furthers the idea that conservatives are suspicious, irrational, conspiracy theory believers who cannot be talked of the proverbial ledge. Alexander cites Daily Kos publisher Markos Moulitsas as an egregious example of this narrative:
Markos Moulitsas, publisher of the influential progressive Web site Daily Kos, commissioned a poll, which he released this month, designed to show how many rank-and-file Republicans hold odd or conspiratorial beliefs — including 23 percent who purportedly believe that their states should secede from the Union. Moulitsas concluded that Republicans are “divorced from reality” and that the results show why “it is impossible for elected Republicans to work with Democrats to improve our country.” His condescension is superlative: Of the respondents who favored secession, he wonders, “Can we cram them all into the Texas Panhandle, create the state of Dumb-[expletive]-istan, and build a wall around them to keep them from coming into America illegally?”
Conservatives, however, are not not without fault. There are conservatives that attempt to demonstrate liberals as being all wrong all the time. These conservatives tend to be overlooked even by other conservatives. By contrast, the narratives presented above are relentless and ubiquitous emanating from Hollywood and the White House and many points in-between.
Regardless of who wins when liberals successfully marginalize conservatives, it is the American people who lose. The national dialogue is better when both points of view are taken seriously and considered. Alexander closes his column by demonstrating the danger of liberal arrogance:
Democrats have been busy expanding, enacting or proposing major state interventions in financial markets, energy and health care. Supporters of such efforts want to ensure that key decisions will be made in the public interest and be informed, for example, by sound science, the best new medical research or prudent standards of private-sector competition. But public-choice economists have long warned that when decisions are made in large, centralized government programs, political priorities almost always trump other goals.
Even liberals should think twice about the prospect of decisions on innovative surgeries, light bulbs and carbon quotas being directed by legislators grandstanding for the cameras. Of course, thinking twice would be easier if more of them were listening to conservatives at all.
I encourage you to read Dr. Alexander’s article which can be found here.