Gerard Alexander, an associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia, writing in the Washington Post asks a pertinent question, “Why are liberals so condescending?” He opens with, “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.”
However, he counters with the following statement,”Of course, plenty of conservatives are hardly above feeling superior. But the closest they come to portraying liberals as systematically mistaken in their worldview is when they try to identify ideological dogmatism in a narrow slice of the left (say, among Ivy League faculty members), in a particular moment (during the health-care debate, for instance) or in specific individuals (such as Obama or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom some conservatives accuse of being stealth ideologues). A few conservative voices may say that all liberals are always wrong, but these tend to be relatively marginal figures or media gadflies such as Glenn Beck.”
Professor Alexander strikes a raw nerve in conservatives when he says, “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.”
That last sentence resonates with me and, I believe, applies equally to both dedicated liberals and dyed in the wool conservatives who attempt to shutÂ discussion down instead of inviting dialog. TheyÂ proclaimÂ their opinions as truth or insult those who hold opposing opinions.
So far, our generation (left and right) has a terrible record of selecting political leaders who have driven our nation into decline.Â We certainly have no evidence to support our belief that we know all of the answers. Rather, the evidenceÂ clearly shows that we don’t know all of theÂ correct answers and we are not interested in learning them.
What do you think?