Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Liberalism and Its Discontents

UVA political scientist Gerard Alexander exposes the liberal mindset by analyzing case after case of attributing conservative success to a failure of reason, on either the left or the right.  To an almost pathological extent, liberals can't seem to admit that it's the conservatives who might have reason on their side.  After they dig out of the snow, DC-area denizens can hear Gerard expound further at AEI this Monday evening.
Categories > Conservatism

Discussions - 2 Comments

It occurs to me upon reading Alexander's piece that this condescension comes to liberals at their own political peril. The majority of voters are no longer amused by it and they certainly are not persuaded by it. The assumptions of progressivism are not the default position or the beginning point of most political conversation in America anymore--even as they remains so in liberal circles. I credit conservatives (intellectuals, politicians, media, etc.) a victory in this. They have won the battle in opening the American mind to other possibilities in understanding America--including the correct and older understanding. But the problem for most liberals now (and therefore, in the end, for conservatives) is that they are completely unfamiliar with how to argue with a conservative or against conservative ideas because they have been trained to assume that they don't have to do this. They have not awakened to the new reality. They only know how to attempt to discredit a conservative and this now almost always seems pathetic or low-minded. They cannot meet on the battlefield of ideas because most of them cannot demonstrate the validity of their own ideas. This is what is happening today, in my view, and it explains--to a large degree--the popular revolt against liberals and the growing sense that they cannot be trusted. Liberals are at a loss as to how to deal with it--they sense that they are losing ground, and they grow petulant.

But I am only partly cheered by this. It may mean political gains for our side in the short term--but I fear that unless conservatives are forced to confront liberals on the battlefield of ideas, that they may slip into this kind of arrogant condescension as well and forget that we have to keep educating Americans about America. We have to keep justifying ourselves and our ideas--there can be no end to this part of the fight. We can never proceed upon assumptions. If it gets too easy, we are likely to get lazy and then we will find that it gets very hard indeed. It seems to me that serious debate about American purposes--and, therefore, a coming to agreement about our most basic ideas (i.e., a new starting point for serious political discussion worthy of thinking Americans) is long overdue. If the other side of the debate is this clueless, I fear we will keep missing our chance.

Paul Krugman has a short article that serves as a good follow-up to the Alexander question:

Money quote:

"It goes like this: Person A says “Black is white” — perhaps out of ignorance, although more often out of a deliberate effort to obfuscate. Person B says, “No, black isn’t white — here are the facts.”

And Person B is considered to have lost the exchange — you see, he came across as arrogant and condescending."

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