Gerard Alexander - Why are liberals so condescending?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by mkrishnan, Feb 10, 2010.

  1. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    #1
    This has been getting tweeted and e-mailed around a lot... I didn't see it here, so I hope there isn't already a thread.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/04/AR2010020403698.html

    I have multiple feelings about this... I consider myself fairly centrist to begin with, in many issues, but I also am not at all sure how to have a conversation with the "extreme" component of the right.
     
  2. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #2
    Currently the major problem is that most sensible politics are vaguely centrist. Most successful countries are economically roughly somewhere between (say) socialist China and the Anglo-saxon capitalist United States - and socially between (say) the Netherlands and fairly socially conservative countries like Singapore.

    The problem is that the US is that economically they are at the far right edge of successful government so being politically left of the current US status quo essentially makes you "more correct" than being right of the current US status quo.

    Additionally socially the US likes to think its really liberal, when actually it isn't and is probably slightly right of centre. Additionally the Christian conservatives - who dominate Republican politics at the moment - are very socially conservative, much more so than Singapore for example.

    Another problem with socially conservative viewpoints generally have less hard evidence to back them up. For example with HIV/AIDs needle exchanges and condoms (which are liberal) are by far and away the most successful way to go and drugs legalisation is generally considered by the scientific community to be better than keeping it illegal.

    Finally both the Democrats and the Republicans are very corrupt and ineffectual for a developed country so positions to the left of the current status quo haven't really been tried for a long time, which is probably why US politics is so distorted.
     
  3. mcrain macrumors 68000

    mcrain

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2002
    Location:
    Illinois
    #3
    I read that article and almost made a thread about it yesterday. It really made me think.

    On a lot of issues, I'm guilty of exactly what the author was writing about.

    Liberals need to do a better job of discussing issues in a less, I'm right, you're wrong, tone.

    That being said, it would be nice to have those discussions with people who used their common sense. I mean, really. Death panels? People actually believed democrats wanted to create death panels? That's just silly. Birthers? Do you really think SOS Clinton wouldn't have vetted him? Socialism! Do people really think that creating a public option is somehow socialism? It's an additional choice.

    You can't even have a rational discussion about things like universal health care vs. public option vs. private exchanges without silliness ensuing.

    That being said, I thought the article was well written, and I'll try to be a little less right all the time. (Although, I seem to recall numerous posters on the left being willing to admit when they are wrong, or when they disagree with the right... on the other hand... *sweet sound of silence* )
     
  4. Desertrat macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2003
    Location:
    Terlingua, Texas
    #4
    I'm one of the oldest people who post here, and one of the more conservative on many issues. Hey, listen, there's no way I'll waste my time with the far-out Right. They're as weird in their notions as the far-out Left.

    But I've noticed this sense of self-righteousness on the part of the more Liberal and Leftist folks I talk to--and I don't limit that to this website, not at all. Too much "I believe it, so that makes it right and proper." Er, uh, no.

    Now, there may be an equal amount of dogmatism among small-c conservatives, but I don't see this self-righteousness which I find offensive. I also see more willingness to stick with a subject and discuss the meaning of facts. Overall, it's a bit easier to drag folks back on track when they go to wandering off into red-herring land.

    Look: I don't profess to be all-knowing or all-wise. But the majority of my opinions and beliefs are based on direct observation over quite a few decades. So, it's the flip side of the old Abbott and Costello shtick: "Who'm I gonna believe? You, or my own lying eyes?" :)
     
  5. yojitani macrumors 68000

    yojitani

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2005
    Location:
    An octopus's garden
    #5
    The article is short on examples and for that reason, I have a hard time understanding just what Mr. Alexander is talking about. The right DID make public healthcare out to be some sort of socialistic plot against 'America.' They ARE a bunch of quacks when it comes to environmental issues etc. The problem as far as I see it is that average right wing/ republican responses to political issues are grounded in disturbingly imprecise and emotive language that is near to impossible to respond to. Mr. Alexander is beating on the wrong tree IMHO.
     
  6. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #6
    Agreed.

    This is the problem with the US :(.
     
  7. mcrain macrumors 68000

    mcrain

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2002
    Location:
    Illinois
    #7
    http://www.slate.com/id/2243797/

    Interesting argument about the public being a big part of the political problems, not to mention standing in the way of fixing the bigger problems.
     
  8. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #8
    Its not just the last year, its been going on through Bush and Clinton (attempting to impeach the president for lying about a blowjob? Seriously?)
     
  9. freeny macrumors 68020

    freeny

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2005
    Location:
    Location: Location:
    #9
    While the left may be condecending, I find the right to have an overwhelming sense of entitlement as well as an "I dont care what you think" mentality.
     
  10. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #10
    Thinking some more mcrain does have a point about the public being to blame. While Britain's politics aren't exactly a picture of perfection (and are definitely heavily flawed - there isn't enough difference between the major parties for starters, and they aren't always good at highlighting what they've done that's good.) you'd never get so many people unable to articulate their views like the Tea Party protestors or the Palin book buyers even if they were members of the general public (the BBC does that kind of thing sometimes on issues). Let alone people who are clearly interested in politics as they haven't just stayed at home.

    True
     
  11. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2009
    #11
    I believe that part of the problem is the structure of the American political system. Everything is about win/lose, elections, legislation, torts, even business. The political culture that has developed from this system forces people onto one side of the line or the other.

    I rather dislike my congressman. He is actually a pretty decent guy, but he belongs to the wrong party. The problem is, as a member of that party, he has to support their causes or risk being marginalized or even excommunicated. I think he probably has some good ideas, but they mostly tend to get lost in the party-driven noise.

    As long as the concept of winners and losers remains in place, the situation will not change. My vote will end up meaning nothing because I am forced to pick one side or the other (or stay home), which leads to the face-offs we are witnessing. Yet, even in parliamentary systems like Australia, where there is some degree of proportional representation, the situation does not, to my untrained eye, appear much better.

    I often wonder (have for more than a quarter century) why we need a full-time president in the first place. His primary function seems to be to keep us divided by pissing off half the nation, and he does not even need to try.
     
  12. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #12
    And a lot of your complaints do apply to the British system as well.

    That said the US system does seem to be pretty damn incompetent. The healthcare debacle would be frankly unbelievable over here.

    Even the EU seems to get more done than the US government and it is notoriously awful (e.g. on the EU's energy labelling they didn't exclude clothes dryers as they use a lot of energy). Frankly the EU only gets away with being so incompetent as the member states are usually better organised.
     
  13. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2003
    Location:
    the faraway towns
    #13
    At times, it appears the choice is either be a condescending bastard or a complete fruitcake, and since I'm ready the former I find it much harder to be the latter.

    That said, there's certainly a human tendency to think that your own way, opinions, and anecdotes are special. Somehow inherently good, thoughtful, and logical, but I don't think that tendency is special to the left.

    We see it here in posts that proclaim certain ideological positions as "obvious" and inherently right, but which often lack the support of evidence or data (as we say around here Link Please) and often ascribe to a single individual a sort of higher power.

    Each of us needs to think about how we define our positions and try to be patient and kind to each other, even when we're explaining our ideologically opposed thinking.
     
  14. Gelfin macrumors 68020

    Gelfin

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2001
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #14
    Just so. The constant complaints about rampant leftism in the United States are patently absurd. There are extreme leftists in the US, but they do not have a political voice. Literally no one with any influence takes them seriously. These are people who are worse at organizing a protest and keeping it on-message than the tea partiers, as hard as that is to imagine, and the so-called "liberal media" always reports on them under the tacit understanding that they are kooks, an assumption an objective observer would be hard-pressed to disprove in many cases.

    On the other hand, the extremist fringe of the American right has been effectively mainstreamed. Viewpoints that thirty years ago you could only have heard bellowed into an AM radio microphone at two in the morning have earned the tacit imprimatur of the GOP, and are sometimes even voiced by their official members. Arguably the party's over-reliance on the single-minded passion of this fringe during the decline of the Bush administration is in large part responsible for the fracture that spawned the tea party movement to begin with. They are certainly passionate, an advantage for any political party, but convince them they have a real voice not moderated by a more reserved party elite, and they become impossible to control.

    Where the American left is condescending, the American right is furious. Where the left sees its detractors as ignorant, the right sees its detractors as evil. One cannot have a calm difference of opinion with the increasingly-mainstream American extreme right, because in their minds all dissent is an attack orchestrated by an organized conspiracy to destroy them utterly. This is true even when the they can offer no reason why these "leftists" would want to destroy the place where, after all, they also live. One finds oneself reduced to the perplexing motives of a comic book supervillain, which are simply accepted as a given because they beggar explanation.

    Working backwards from the presumption of evil intent, any reasoning or facts presented in defense of a moderate position must be some sort of trick, so a canny fringe right winger knows never to listen to an argument and to redouble his faith in his position. The intractable conflict comes because the condescending left believes that differences of opinion are a matter of education and the angry right sees justification as empty sophistry meant to tempt them away from their pure ideological certainty. Between them, they get nowhere.

    As a result of the imbalance in tolerance of extremist expression, the American right has become like a boa constrictor of self-righteousness, squeezing ever more moderation out of the political discourse by labeling it leftist extremism. Thus we've come to a popular definition of "liberalism" in the United States that includes anyone to the left of Mussolini.

    The real way back to functional governance must include a moderate right wing presence that negotiates in good faith and understands compromise as a synthesis of reasoned ideas rather than a Solomonic split-the-baby positional bargaining process. The left could certainly do some work to present its viewpoints more compellingly for a popular audience, but if policy decisions cannot be made on the basis of a mutual exchange of the understanding and evidence on which positions are based, then failure is guaranteed.

    Condescension is not condescension if both sides are speaking on the same level. Do we want the left to lower the tone, or do we want the right to raise it?
     
  15. mcrain macrumors 68000

    mcrain

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2002
    Location:
    Illinois
    #15
    Gelfin, interesting post.

    I note that you used the terms faith and belief, and it made me wonder about the connection between the right-wing and fundamentalist Christians.

    It can't be coincidence that the political right rejects facts and fundamentalist Christians reject any science that disagree with their belief structures.

    There are scenes in Jesus Camp showing fundamentalist Christians homeschooling their children. (If you haven't seen Jesus camp, rent it, it's interesting/disturbing.) They expressly reject science because it doesn't fit their beliefs. Here's a link... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DH_wPUVlJ38
     
  16. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

    Zombie Acorn

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2009
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    #16
    It is a coincidence as we have many atheist people who would be considered right leaning on this board. The burden of proof is on the person deviating from known reality.
     
  17. Iscariot macrumors 68030

    Iscariot

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2007
    Location:
    Toronteazy
    #17
    **** you, pot! I'm the mother-****ing kettle, and you're a ****ing dick. I condescendingly suggest you take your condescending ways and shove them up your ass.
     
  18. mcrain macrumors 68000

    mcrain

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2002
    Location:
    Illinois
    #18
    The set of people who are right leaning includes some athiests. My guess is that almost the entire set of people who are fundamentalist Christians and who teach their children to not believe in science are right leaning.

    Burden of proof? Known reality? What?
     
  19. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

    Zombie Acorn

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2009
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    #19
    If we take climate change for instance, the known reality before Al Gore brought it to the limelight (I can see the liberal hairs perking up already) :p was that climate changes over time. Now it is theorized that we are the major contributors of this most recent change in climate, the burden of proof is on the ones who propose the theory to prove that its not only an anomaly, but conclusively prove through experimentation that we are the ones causing the problem.
     
  20. mcrain macrumors 68000

    mcrain

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2002
    Location:
    Illinois
    #20
    So, if say, 99% of all scientists agree, you'd be willing to agree? (I can see the right-wing hairs perking up already) :p Nope?
     
  21. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

    Zombie Acorn

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2009
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    #21
    If 99% of scientists agreed at a 97%+ certainty level that we were the major and only variable cause in the current rising in temperatures I would be willing to agree.
     
  22. eawmp1 macrumors 601

    eawmp1

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2008
    Location:
    FL
    #22
    My kids homeschool due to their particular academic needs. We attended our state's annual homeschool conference. There was a LOT of anti-establishment, anti-empirical science, pro-religion element. Frankly, I was scared of what can only be descibed as indoctrination.

    When belief trumps objective proof, how can one engage in a logical, constructive dialog?
     
  23. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #23
    How can you be anti-establishment and pro-religion? Isn't that a misnomer?
     
  24. mkrishnan thread starter Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    #24
    Since we've never had establishment of religion, I think people here frequently mean anti-establishment to mean being against the social structure, or American societal norms....

    OTOH, non-CoE Protestants and Catholics in England were also pro-religion and anti-establishment.
     
  25. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #25
    Fair enough.

    What I was thinking (but not expressing very well) was that when you are a member of a club with over 1 billion members its hard to say you're really anti-establishment :p.
     

Share This Page