Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Are Liberals Stupid?

Of course not. Broad generalizations of that nature are a sign of intellectual laziness, a way to avoid facing the arguments of your opponents. Why, then, do so many on the Left assume that education and 'progressivism' go hand in hand?

If you're a conservative and vocal about it, you know what I mean. A very liberal co-worker of mine said to me during the election campaign that 'smart people tend to vote for Democrats'. He was serious. This is like saying saying 'fat people tend to like Adam Sandler movies' - one has nothing to do with the other. Today, I was reading the local 'progressive' weekly (the Austin Chronicle - check out the handwringing the editorial staff has been doing since the election, if you have some time to kill) and I came across this from the Chronicle's editor, Louis Black:
...I'm thinking about a letter on my comments about this country's true elite, which ran in the Jan. 7 Chronicle. Im trying to wrap my head around the letter. I agree with almost everything in it, but I cant [sic] quite grasp the edges.

My point was that those who gloated over the defeat suffered by the so-called liberal elite on Election Day were missing the point that the real elite in America is still very much in power. The writer complained that by "lamenting how the Democrats have been labeled with the charge of elitism ..." I had reduced "elitism to mere wealth. Were it only so simple. ... While the two qualities often overlap, they're not necessarily connected. For better or worse, elitism in America is fundamentally a cultural phenomenon."

This is what got my thinking hung up. The writer asserts that "elitism in America is fundamentally a cultural phenomenon," which I don't buy, but I think this is just a faulty statement on the way to a larger point. This country boasts more than one type of elite; the point would be that the kind of elitism people were objecting to was the "cultural phenomenon" type. This doesn't challenge the notion that the true elite are still very much in power and largely unaffected by whether Republicans or Democrats win, though they usually make even more money directly from government activities if it is the former (more defense spending, tax cuts, tax breaks, etc.).

The writer goes on to say (and this is heavily excerpted): "Democrats are labeled elitist more often than Republicans because we tend to appreciate things like contemporary art. ... We are more likely to support cultural expressions that are experimental rather than romantic (a sure sign of our strong cerebral nature). Beyond the art analogy, we are also more likely to buy organic food, worry about trans-fat, breast-feed in public, hug trees, support homosexual rights, save mutts at the shelter, read The New Yorker, shave less often, and swear that David Brooks has devolved since the Times hired him. ... Of course this portrait sounds like parody, but American politics is nothing if not parody. ... Heres the real problem, one that I think Louis Black downplays: the fact that Democrats are more likely to support policies that value economic justice over crass cronyism pales next to our predilection for cultural judgments that casually dismiss Clint Black, AM radio, and the Hummer as grotesque abominations. ... Until the Democrats ... acknowledge that our cultural tastes genuine or parodied contribute considerably to our perceived elitism, then popular perceptions are unlikely to change anytime soon.

On this we definitely agree. The problem is one of perception over reality. In general, I think that is key to a lot that is going on politically in this country.

The perception that the liberal elite mocks the rest of the country and holds its values up to ridicule is probably critical to the whole positioning of moral values as an issue. And it is perception.

To the credit of Mr. Black, he does attempt to understand the strange aliens called conservatives in his midst, and he tries, mightily but in vain, to be even-handed. Louis, thanks for the effort, but it's not just a perception that the liberal elite hold 'Jesusland' in contempt and think we're a bunch of inbred hillbillies. Not every liberal thinks that way, but a truly sizable portion do.

If liberals really want to understand conservatives, as opposed to demonizing us, three things must be understood:
  1. The 'Silent Majority' is tired of the creeping moral relativism that is eroding the principles that make us strong. The Left love to bring up the Janet Jackson episode as an example of how prudish we are. 'Look, they're scared of a breast!' It's not Janet Jackson's breast we object to, we just don't want to see it in the middle of the Super Bowl. Tolerance taken to extremes is nothing more than moral anarchy.
  2. Evil does exist, and you can't hide from it. All the symposiums and books and speeches in the world attempting to 'understand' the roots of terrorism will grant you no reprieve whatsoever if you happen to be working in the next skyscraper that goes down. Osama just wants us out of the Middle East, some say; it's our support of Israel, say others; it's all the injustice, poverty, blah-blah-blah-blah...Osama bin Laden DOES NOT dictate our foreign policy. I can't stand 'Mother Jones', but I'm not trying to blow up their headquarters. The cold-blooded murder of innocents is wrong on every conceivable level. There is no justification. Those who would say I'm a hypocrite because of the innocent Iraqis who have no doubt lost their lives in the latest war are deliberately equating the unfortunate, but unintended, casualties of war with the deliberate slaughter of thousands. If you can't make that moral distinction, God help you.
  3. America is not the source of all the world's ills. Criticize our policies, past and present, by all means, that's freedom. Please spare us, however, your Chomskyesque alternative history scenarios. Most Americans believe that America is exceptional because America IS exceptional. The fact that we sometimes fall short of our lofty aims doesn't invalidate them. We are the envy of most of the globe, for our prosperity, our freedom, and our diversity, yet the Michael Moores of this world, fat literally and figuratively off the hard-earned money of the 'disenfranchised' they claim to represent, would have us believe that the story of America is the story of oppression, rather than the story of liberation. In a few weeks, Iraqis will experience democracy first hand - and the silence from the Left is deafening.
No, liberals aren't stupid, but that IS a stupid way to frame the debate. Moral clarity does not require a good deal of intelligence, but it does take some work; it's a lot easier to go with the flow, live and let live, until one day, we all wake up and that great country of ours really isn't exceptional anymore. That's not the America I believe in.

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