Liberal and Conservative Arrogance

I read multiple articles in the Washington Post recently where writers sought to examine an alleged problem among liberals.  These writers pointed out that some influential liberals have a tendency to dismiss conservative ideas because these liberals assume that conservative thought has no validity.  Thus, the argument goes, whenever anyone is advocating a conservative cause the advocate must be (pick one) a. stupid  b. insane  c. cynically manipulating the stupid and/or insane  d. greedy  e. some of the above  f. all of the above.

Treating conservatives and their ideas with respect seems to simply not occur to the liberals in question.

I think this theory is valid but it is also misleading for one key reason: some conservatives do this, too.

Don’t get me wrong–as a product of graduate school and after having taught at several colleges, I have seen plenty of liberal disdain and condescension for the lowly (Republican) masses.  My point is that I have also seen the other side of the coin.  How many Republicans have operated under the belief that if the voters really new President Obama, they never would have voted for him.  This is code for “the voters were ignorant.”

But the President himself is not immune to any of this.  What was his response to the voters’  apparent rejection of government-run health care in every significant election over the last few months?  President Obama said he had not done a good enough job of explaining the issue to the American people.  This is code for “the voters are ignorant.”

The reality is that a lot of times a large number of voters are ignorant.  But setting that aside, it is worth pointing out that sometimes two smart, well-meaning people can look at the same problem and come up with different solutions.  Real dialogue won’t happen in politics until politicians, and the media, recognize that people can legitimately disagree on stuff.  A disagreement doesn’t always mean that one person is right and the other person is stupid.