Friday, February 5, 2010

Condescending Leftists

I don't use the old-fashioned term "liberal" to describe today's political left, and while my view on this has been firmly grounded in abstract ideological thinking (which some, in futility, have challenged), it's interesting we have some confirmation of such leftist identification in David Paul Kuhn, discussing Gallup's new poll, "Majority of Dems View Socialism Positively."

And that socialist ideological foundation -- found in places like the vapid rogue's gallery of Larisa Alexandrovna,
Lawyers, Guns and Money, and No More Mister Nice Blog (and not to mention the T-Bogg demon seed) -- provides the background for Gerard Alexander's essay, "Why Are Liberals So Condescending?" (via Memeorandum):

Every political community includes some members who insist that their side has all the answers and that their adversaries are idiots. But American liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological and unworthy of serious consideration. Indeed, all the appeals to bipartisanship notwithstanding, President Obama and other leading liberal voices have joined in a chorus of intellectual condescension.

It's an odd time for liberals to feel smug. But even with Democratic fortunes on the wane, leading liberals insist that they have almost nothing to learn from conservatives. Many Democrats describe their troubles simply as a PR challenge, a combination of conservative misinformation -- as when Obama charges that critics of health-care reform are peddling fake fears of a "Bolshevik plot" -- and the country's failure to grasp great liberal accomplishments. "We were so busy just getting stuff done . . . that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are," the president told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in a recent interview. The benighted public is either uncomprehending or deliberately misinformed (by conservatives).

This condescension is part of a long liberal tradition that for generations has impoverished American debates over the economy, social issues and the functions of government -- and threatens to do so again today, when dialogue would be more valuable than ever.

Liberals have dismissed conservative thinking for decades, a tendency encapsulated by Lionel Trilling's 1950 remark that conservatives do not "express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas." During the 1950s and '60s, liberals trivialized the nascent conservative movement. Prominent studies and journalistic accounts of right-wing politics at the time stressed paranoia, intolerance and insecurity, rendering conservative thought more a psychiatric disorder than a rival. In 1962, Richard Hofstadter referred to "the Manichaean style of thought, the apocalyptic tendencies, the love of mystification, the intolerance of compromise that are observable in the right-wing mind."

This sense of liberal intellectual superiority dropped off during the economic woes of the 1970s and the Reagan boom of the 1980s. (Jimmy Carter's presidency, buffeted by economic and national security challenges, generated perhaps the clearest episode of liberal self-doubt.) But these days, liberal confidence and its companion disdain for conservative thinking are back with a vengeance, finding energetic expression in politicians' speeches, top-selling books, historical works and the blogosphere. This attitude comes in the form of four major narratives about who conservatives are and how they think and function.
RTWT at the link.


Anonymous said...


Tim Johnston said...


Although the previous comment looks a hard act to follow, I would like to say that if there's one thing I've learned is that leftists don't think in terms of competing marketplaces of ideas.

As a conservative you are A Bad Person because
a) you believe in Defence because you like to blow people up,
b) you don't believe in Obamacare because you hate sick people,and
c) you're suspicious of welfare because you hate poor people.

no discussion required!

Dave said...

I don't use the old-fashioned term "liberal" to describe today's political left...

Neither do I. In fact, I no-longer bother with socialist or even Marxist anymore. I refer to them as what they are - communists.

After all, no less an authority than Vladimir Lenin himself once said that the ultimate goal of socialism is communism.

Why waste time beating around the bush?

Classical liberalism is all but extinct in America today. While classical liberals were wrong, and still not a little annoying, they weren't hell-bent on demonizing and even silencing their opposition, at least not like their modern liberal replacements.

And given the repeated and well-documented failures of communism in the century just past, how can any intelligent person point to this freedom and dignity-robbing ideology and say with a straight face that it is "progressive," or even intelligent?


Opinionnation said...

The Leftist agenda is a very scary thing...

It scares me more than terrorism