Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending? – Washington Post


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.”

via Why are liberals so condescending?.

  • http://twitter.com/Shoshana_v Lucius Czartoryski

    Thank you for the great tip, i need some time to think about this. I should just give up and take lessons from you

    Follow me on Twitter

  • Stan

    It's not just an American phenomenon, the same sneering attitudes are continuously on display in the UK, maybe even worse there.

    Just bait them and enjoy, they rise like starving fish.

  • William R. Stewart

    Perhaps liberals are "condescending" and "smug" (if this is even true) because conservatives and their policies have brought us to the brink of a second Great Depression, mired us in two wars, and raised the national debt to well over two trillion dollars. These are the people we're supposed to listen to for their useful ideas? Oh, and who was it that brought us the Great Depression itself? As I recall it occurred after three Republican administrations early in the last century, (although I'd say that Coolidge was more to blame than Hoover, who took the fall). Mr. Alexander's article is a good example of the sophisticated demagoguery (no one likes to be "condescended" to) which conservatives are using to cover up for the fact that their policies are bankrupt. The trouble is, it's those policies that are bankrupting the rest of us.

    • mike

      So let me get this straight. You are saying bush raised the debt? You are correct. He did make the debt too big. However, Obama's deficits are twice as big as those of Bush and projected to be so for 1.5 times as long. I will be honest and justifiably condescending – you are an idiot.

    • Chris Moody

      Thanks for confirming Alexander's commentary. Being an intellectual (of course) you might contemplate on the the old British saying, "there are none so blind then those that will not see."
      Then do some research into the role Rep. Barney Frank had on the sub-prime mortgage meltdown that was the main cause for what you call the second Great Depression.
      Your "oh so well stated position" is intellectually dishonest or maybe just stupid.

  • Greg Newman

    An equal number of Conservatives spend as much time insulting/mocking/talking-down to liberals as there are liberals who do to Conservatives.
    The simple and plain truth is this: If you are a conservative, anything a liberal says is going to sound insulting to you, and vice versa.
    That is the reason I dislike Conservatives and the same reason I dislike Liberals. Neither really want to percieve their actions as "insulting" (or wrong, for that matter). Look at the two post above for example. The apparent Conservative blogger "Stan" comes out and compares Liberals to starving fish (condescending), and the apparent liberal "William R. Stewart" comes out and launches his own attack on conservatives (also condescending). Its as if one side of the coin is insulting the other, and both sides believe with undue conviction that an insult is an insult only if it applies to them…