Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Illiberal Liberals

By now it’s an established fact: when it comes to politics Democrats are more ignorant than Republicans.

It doesn’t end there.

Yet another new survey shows that Republican supporters know more about politics and political history than Democrats….

The Pew survey adds to a wave of surveys and studies showing that GOP-sympathizers are better informed, more intellectually consistent, more open-minded, more empathetic and more receptive to criticism than their fellow Americans who support the Democratic Party.

Considering that the Democratic Party has always prided itself on its intellectual superiority the results might come as a surprise.

Of course, there are Democrats and then there are Democrats. The Daily Caller diagnoses the Democratic Party as “bipolar.” Since bipolar involves mood swings, the word “schizoid” would have been more precise.

The Democratic Party contains a strange mix of the overeducated and the undereducated.

Even though a significant number of those who have earned advanced degrees are Democrats so are a large number of high school grads and dropouts.

When we think of liberals we most often think of the first group and ignore the second.

Liberals with advanced educations tend to be very well informed. Liberals with a high school education or less tend to be poorly informed.

When pollsters take surveys them lump both groups together, and the large number of undereducated Democrats drags down the score.

Of course, there’s advanced education and then there’s advanced education. I do not know the breakdown of these statistics by academic field but I think it fair to say that the group with advanced degrees skews toward intellectuals, especially educators, and toward people who want to help others. I am assuming that it does not include a large number of Ph.D. mathematicians or scientists.

Anyone who wants to teach must have an advanced degree. So does anyone who wants to practice psychotherapy or mental health counseling.

Over recent years there has been a great increase in the number of  mental health counselors, especially psychologists and social workers.

If we combine the teachers, the mental health workers, and the lawyers, we get a picture of the Democratic Party’s intellectual elite.

The Democratic Party elite tends to be more idealistic and more compassionate, less pragmatic and less empirical. It prefers ideas to reality; feeling to scientific fact.

Of course, the Party has enhanced its political power by buying off those who are less fortunate.

Undereducated Democratic voters tend to pay less tax and be more reliant on government programs. Thus Democratic thinkers always want to raise taxes on the rich and increase entitlement spending for the poor.

Strangely, liberal Democratic elites tend to be less liberal minded than Republicans and conservatives.

Surveys show that they are more narrow-minded, less tolerant of diverse opinions, and more prone to groupthink.

Since they demand ideological conformity they are far more likely to punish those who think differently.

The Daily Caller reports the statistics:

A March 12 Pew study showed that Democrats are far more likely than conservatives to disconnect from people who disagree with them.

“In all, 28% of liberals have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on SNS [social networking sites] because of one of these reasons, compared with 16% of conservatives and 14% of moderates,” said the report, tiled “Social networking sites and politics.”

The report also noted that 11 percent of liberals, but only 4 percent of conservatives, deleted friends from their social networks after disagreeing with their politics.

This puts a nice face on some very ugly behavior. Democrats are more likely to shun people who disagree with their dogmas. They are more willing to excommunicate those who hold opposing points of view.

Liberals might see themselves as great defenders of free debate and deliberation but they are only comfortable when surrounded by people who echo their own thoughts.

It’s a form of intellectual narcissism. Liberals are less willing than conservatives to engage with different points of view. They are more likely to enforce ideological conformity by ostracizing those who disagree with the group’s opinion.

Groups that function this way are properly described as cults. If everyone thinks the same thing, then no one is really thinking.

Or else, you might see liberals as intellectual monopolists that tyrannize their members and  fear the competition of the marketplace of ideas.

The world has seen this kind of illiberalism before. It has led to witch hunts and brainwashing. If you only judge a person according to how he thinks and feels, you have a problem. You can never really know with certainty what anyone else thinks of feels. 

Liberals are hypersensitive to the least deviation from political correctness because they are almost paranoid about finding out that someone who had presented himself as liberal was really just telling what they wanted to hear. 

Having an advanced degree does not necessarily make you smarter or more knowledgeable than those who do not. If you have been brought up surrounded only by people who think as you think you will have much more difficulty defending your position against those who disagree.

If the group thinks that an idea is bad when Republicans propose it but good when Democrats propose it, it is encouraging rank hypocrisy.

A March Washington Post poll showed that Democrats were more willing to change their views about a subject to make their team look good. For example, in 2006, 73 percent of Democrats said the GOP-controlled White House could lower gas prices, but that number fell by more than half to 33 percent in 2012 once a Democrat was in the White House.

In contrast, the opinions of GOP supporters were more consistent. Their collective opinion shifted by only a third, according to the data. In 2006, 47 percent in believed the White House could influence gas prices. By 2012, that number had risen to 65 percent up 17 points compared to the Democrats’ 40 point shift.

This suggests that liberals are the more unprincipled group. Knowing that groupthink is strictly enforced, they hew to the party line, mindlessly.

This explains how liberals could denounce Bush administration policies about Gitmo, for example, while embracing the same policies once Obama took office.

Obviously, shunning people who hold different political opinions is morally repulsive. Liberal democracy cannot function without granting respect to differing opinions. Extra-constitutional efforts to shut down the free exchange of opinions should be abhorrent.

It would seem that liberal elites who shun and ostracize people on the basis of political opinion are judgmental. They would beg to disagree.

Normally, we ought to judge people by “the content of their character.” We judge them by the way that they conduct their lives and the way they behave toward us and toward others.

Character involves public behavior. Liberal groupthink aims at private thoughts.

When a group decides that it will judge others, not on the basis of their character, but on their willingness to adhere strictly to dogma, then it is also giving them a free pass to behave as they please.

It is a powerful recruiting tool for liberals, one that has a special appeal to young people. If you allow progressives to control your mind and your vote, they will happily return the favor by offering you a free pass on bad behavior.

When Clarence Thomas was accused of having made sexually suggestive remarks to Anita Hill, liberals excoriated him for having committed a horrific crime. But, when Bill Clinton was accused of sexual harassment and rape, liberals were happy to blame it on the “vast right wing conspiracy.”

When liberals claim to love individual liberty they seem to mean the freedom to do as you please when you please with whom you please.

Beyond all of that, liberals tend to be more narrow-minded, even emotionally obtuse. They consider themselves to be paragons of human empathy but they are are incapable of grasping the potential validity of any position that differs from their own.

According to a recent study by University of Virginia Professor Jonathan Haidt, conservatives are fully capable of grasping the importance of values that liberals hold dear: values like care and compassion and fairness.

Unfortunately, they are so severely blinded by their ideology that they cannot understand why conservatives value loyalty, authority, and sanctity.

Failing to respect the point of view of those who disagree with them is endemic to contemporary liberalism.


The Ghost said...

just look at the liberal elites reaction to the Supreme court hearings on ObamaCare ...

they where stunned by the weakness of their sides argument ... it was as if they had never actual debated the subject with a serious person before ...

RR had it right ... so much of what they "know" is simply wrong ...

JPL17 said...

Obviously, shunning people who hold different political opinions is morally repulsive.

Stuart -- I agree with your statement above, but draw a line between a person who simply "holds" or respectfully expresses his liberal political opinions, for which I have a high degree of tolerance; and his expression of hatred for groups of people such as conservatives, Tea Partiers, Republicans or people of faith. I have zero tolerance for this latter behavior. Indeed, I've blocked perhaps half a dozen or so Facebook "friends" who have repeatedly used Facebook to express their contempt for such groups. One Facebook "friend" was so offensive in his language that I eventually "unfriended" him.

I don't think my doing this is immoral or narrow-minded. I would hope that you would agree. But if you have thoughts on this issue you'd like to share, I'd be interested to know them.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Of course, I agree.

Unfriending people who do not respect elementary rules of decorum seems entirely correct to me. When someone expresses hatred, for example, it feels right to unfriend them.

Unfriending and shunning people because they have expressed an opposing political view is repulsive. I hoped to make the distinction clear.

Anonymous said...

Your article completely validated what I have thought and seen in my interactions with liberals, especially in the last few months. I have a few FB groups that are a mix of liberals, conservatives and libertarians. We urge all to stay on topic and dont allow "hate speech." Those that don't comply are banned by the poster of the original post. We have gotten into some lively debates but generally come away having said our peace, and or having learned something from the other side. These commenters are older...40s on up. My problem arises when I get into a debate/discussion with those in their 20s or 30s and sometimes even older liberals, they tend to ignore facts or opposing views presented to them, and often go into attack mode and name-calling.They especially hate it when I debunk something they post from Huff Post or Moveon.org. I have had to unfriend or block some due to their inability to have a sensible debate and their name-calling. Some have blocked me. My question is, is this also an age thing? I would hate to think so, since they are our next generation, and most I debate with are college educated.