Sunday, February 7, 2010

Liberal Condescension? Whatever couldst though mean??

In the Washington Post Professor Gerard Alexander of the University of Virginia handily breaks down the near-universal phenomenon of liberal condescension and contempt for anyone daring oppose their premises, presumptions, and/or grand designs for us all.

Why Are Liberals So Condescending?

By Gerard Alexander

Sunday, February 7, 2010; B01

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 liberal tradition that for generations has impoverished American debates over the economy, society 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 attitude comes in the form of four major narratives about who conservatives are and how they think and function.

The first is the "vast right-wing conspiracy," a narrative made famous by Hillary Rodham Clinton but hardly limited to her. This vision maintains that conservatives win elections and policy debates not because they triumph in the open battle of ideas but because they deploy brilliant and sinister campaign tactics...

{snip}

But, if conservative leaders are crass manipulators, then the rank-and-file Americans who support them must be manipulated at best, or stupid at worst. This is the second variety of liberal condescension, exemplified in Thomas Frank's best-selling 2004 book, "What's the Matter With Kansas?" Frank argued that working-class voters were so distracted by issues such as abortion that they were induced into voting against their own economic interests. Then-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, later chairman of the Democratic National Committee, echoed that theme in his 2004 presidential run, when he said Republicans had succeeded in getting Southern whites to focus on "guns, God and gays" instead of economic redistribution.

And speaking to a roomful of Democratic donors in 2008, then-presidential candidate Obama offered a similar (and infamous) analysis when he suggested that residents of Rust Belt towns "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" about job losses. When his comments became public, Obama backed away from their tenor but insisted that "I said something that everybody knows is true.

In this view, we should pay attention to conservative voters' underlying problems but disregard the policy demands they voice; these are illusory, devoid of reason or evidence. This form of liberal condescension implies that conservative masses are in the grip of false consciousness. When they express their views at town hall meetings or "tea party" gatherings, it might be politically prudent for liberals to hear them out, but there is no reason to actually listen.

The third version of liberal condescension points to something more sinister. In his 2008 book, "Nixonland," progressive writer Rick Perlstein argued that Richard Nixon created an enduring Republican strategy of mobilizing the ethnic and other resentments of some Americans against others. Similarly, in their 1992 book, "Chain Reaction," Thomas Byrne Edsall and Mary D. Edsall argued that Nixon and Reagan talked up crime control, low taxes and welfare reform to cloak racial animus and help make it mainstream. It is now an article of faith among many liberals that Republicans win elections because they tap into white prejudice against blacks and immigrants.

Race doubtless played a significant role in the shift of Deep South whites to the Republican Party during and after the 1960s. But the liberal narrative has gone essentially unchanged since then -- recall former president Carter's recent assertion that opposition to Obama reflects racism -- even though survey research has shown a dramatic decline in prejudiced attitudes among white Americans in the intervening decades. Moreover, the candidates and agendas of both parties demonstrate an unfortunate willingness to play on prejudices, whether based on race, region, class, income, or other factors.

Finally, liberals condescend to the rest of us when they say conservatives are driven purely by emotion and anxiety -- including fear of change -- whereas liberals have the harder task of appealing to evidence and logic. Former vice president Al Gore made this case in his 2007 book, "The Assault on Reason," in which he expressed fear that American politics was under siege from a coalition of religious fundamentalists, foreign policy extremists and industry groups opposed to "any reasoning process that threatens their economic goals." This right-wing politics involves a gradual "abandonment of concern for reason or evidence" and relies on propaganda to maintain public support, he wrote.

Prominent liberal academics also propagate these beliefs. George Lakoff, a linguist at the University of California at Berkeley and a consultant to Democratic candidates, says flatly that liberals, unlike conservatives, "still believe in Enlightenment reason," while Drew Westen, an Emory University psychologist and Democratic consultant, argues that the GOP has done a better job of mastering the emotional side of campaigns because Democrats, alas, are just too intellectual. "They like to read and think," Westen wrote. "They thrive on policy debates, arguments, statistics, and getting the facts right."

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?"

I doubt it would take long to design a survey questionnaire that revealed strange, ill-informed and paranoid beliefs among average Democrats. Or does Moulitsas think Jay Leno talked only to conservatives for his "Jaywalking" interviews?

These four liberal narratives not only justify the dismissal of conservative thinking as biased or irrelevant -- they insist on it. By no means do all liberals adhere to them, but they are mainstream in left-of-center thinking. Indeed, when the president met with House Republicans in Baltimore recently, he assured them that he considers their ideas, but he then rejected their motives in virtually the same breath.

Read the rest here.
It is safe to say that those with the pretension to believe they alone have a monopoly on the way things must be, along with the willingness and desire to force it on the rest of us "for our own goods", must condescend to anyone not in line with them 100%. Clearly condescension is pretty much hard-wired into the core of their ideology.

Summed up : "You should be grateful that we the enlightened are saving all you poor misguided fools from your pitiful selves, and f**k you [insert derogation e.g. "racist", "reactionary", "teabagging", "wingnut" ] fools who dare think otherwise!"

Nick Gillespie at Reason has commentary on Alexander's column in his post : "Liberals Wouldn't Have to be So Condescending if The People Who Disagreed With Them Weren't Such Idiots

4 comments:

duhlusional said...

even better was the fact that the Washington Post sought out this guy to write this post.

Chris Slavens said...

I disagree with some of the views of both the Delaware Politics and Delaware Liberal blogs (though I agree with some of the views as each). Being a libertarian often means being caught in the middle of conservative-liberal debates.

But on one of those blogs, an opposing comment will be met with (for the most part) respectful debate. At the very least, the contributor will explain why he or she disagrees with your view. On the other blog, you're more likely to be called a dickhead or worse, while your argument goes unanswered.

Hube said...

Hmm, let me guess which is which, Chris!! ;-)

tom said...

And then there's Libertarian Republican, where your comments may get you an insightful reply or a stream of obscenities...