What liberals don’t get about conservatives is basically everything. This occurred to me this weekend while chatting on the political web forums. Someone posted a news story of a crazed Republican School Board member going into a strange rant on 9/11, cryptanalysis, and George Bush. Anyone viewing the video would be hard pressed not to draw the conclusion that the woman is undergoing a breakdown and probably needs some sort of mental health counseling.
Unless of course you’re a liberal who views that as typical right-wing behavior.
This could be dismissed as a comment of a troll, of which there are plenty on the internet, but I had the impression that the person was more or less sincere in viewing people on the right as crazed and irrational. And there could well be a more or less scientific reason for this.
Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist who has written the book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. The book tries to show how morality is different depending on your political ideology. Reading a review of the book at a law blog, I came across this point:
One other point that I find really interesting and important about Haidt’s work is his findings on the ability of different groups to empathize across these ideological divides. So in his book (p. 287) Haidt reports on the following experiment: after determining whether someone is liberal or conservative, he then has each person answer the standard battery of questions as if he were the opposite ideology. So, he would ask a liberal to answer the questions as if he were a “typical conservative” and vice-versa. What he finds is quite striking: “The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who describe themselves as ‘very liberal.’ The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives.” In other words, moderates and conservatives can understand the liberal worldview and liberals are unable to relate to the conservative worldview, especially when it comes to questions of care and fairness.
This struck me since it matches up pretty well with my own anecdotal experiences. Conservatives get where Liberals are coming from, but Liberals just don’t get where Conservatives are coming from. In the US, we live in liberal-land. The educational system is run by liberals, TV & Movies are made and produced by liberals, and most importantly, all of the major news media, either Newspapers, magazines, or TV news, are run by liberals (liberals can bleat, “but what about Fox?”- But that just shows Fox is an outlier). So I’m constantly, surrounded by the worldview of liberals. For me to take a test or pass as a liberal would be ridiculously easy. I could go to a Netroots Nation, Think Progress convention or meeting and easily pass for one of them. I know your buzzwords and prejudices. As Patton said, (and I paraphrase) “You liberal bastards, I read your book!”
All things being equal, knowing nothing of politics, people should tend to be liberal. Of course the caveat to that is all things are not equal, but you can see the power of liberal institutions to set the agenda. That’s why, in an attempt to turn the conversation away from Obamacare, the administration started talking about about income inequality, The MSM dutifully followed along because being liberal institutions, they would rather talk about income inequality than Obamacare too. We really should be talking about economic growth and job creation but that’s not an issue that can help the administration or that they have any real ideas about. But because we all live in liberal land, liberals never have to think about their ideology or challenge any of their premises, which is something that conservatives have to do all the time because they are constantly getting push back on their premises.
As if to double down on Haidt’s ideas, last week The Nation ran an article called, Why the Curious Right Wing Silence on Michael Sam? Some passages are well worth highlighting:
Yes, the crazies in Westboro Baptist Church and some of the more reptilian swamps of the right-wing blogosphere have let loose with the homophobia, but the mainstream has been silent. It is not just Fox. Doesn’t National Review or The Weekly Standard have anything interesting, or even uninteresting, to say about any of this? Nothing? Really?
The New Republic’s Cohn even put out a plaintive tweet asking people on the right, “What do conservatives & Republicans think about a gay player in the NFL? Honest question, hoping for positive answers.” He did receive a curt tweet or two in response, mostly of the, “I don’t care as long as he can play football” variety.
In other words, the left cannot accept that in political terms, this is mostly a non story on the right. For them, this is HUGE! The answer is too simple for the Left to accept. For them, identity politics trumps everything. It’s why they can’t accept opposition to Obama’s policies as being anything other than closeted racism. When the most important thing about President Obama is his race, how else could opposition to his economic, social or foreign policies be interpolated as anything other than racism?
On the one hand, it’s kind of amusing that the Left is so clueless on figuring out the Right that even the simplest explanations elude them. But on the other hand, I really wish they understood what I was trying to say. When their default to anything I say is along the lines of a mentally ill school board member, it shows how large the gulf is between us.