Sunday, November 4, 2007

Difference #3

This is the third installment in an ongoing series in which I attempt, as diplomatically as possible, to shed light on the actual differences between liberals and conservatives. For previous "Differences," see below:

Difference #1
Difference #2

Introducing Difference #3:

Liberals need to feel smarter than everyone else; conservatives need to feel tougher than everyone else.

Like any club or religion, political parties and their accompanying schools of thought are "superiority" vehicles. In keeping with my overall feeling that the real culture war being waged in America is one of intelligence vs. masculinity, each of those terms falls along party lines.

Liberals feel better informed about what's going on the world and have a strong trust of academia, especially when it comes to issues like the environment. They feel smarter about non-American cultures. Smarter about food quality and health. Smarter about urban planning and overconsumption. Smarter about corporate power. Smarter about energy. To them, conservatives are ignorant or just plain dumb. They revere genius and wit... Einstein and Jon Stewart.

Conservatives eschew academia in favor of think tanks and research conducted or sponsored by 501(3)c organizations. But mostly, their positions are about being tough. Tough on crime. Tough on terrorism. Tough on welfare and entitlement programs. Tough on taxes. Tough on the U.N. Tough on panhandlers. Tough on regulation. To them, liberals are overly idealistic are just plain weak. They revere optimism and masculinity... Ronald Reagan and Ted Nugent.

The key to finding any decent debate is locating members of each group who don't appear to be overcompensating.

3 comments:

The Wordman said...

"Liberals feel better informed about what's going on the world and have a strong trust of academia, especially when it comes to issues like the environment. They feel smarter about non-American cultures."

In other words, Liberals belong to the community that accepts a "reality-based" worldview, even though that is nearly as much an artificial construction (authenticated by academia and science) as the "America - tough and proud and in your face" construct the Righties espouse.

I would argue that the Right think that they are intellectually "right" as much as the Left does (vide the NeoConservative moment and its origins in Academia), though they derive their "rightness" from other sources than the established "reality-based" organs, such as a free press, scientists and academic specialists. They also _must be right_, because God and/or their ideology is on their side, whereas (imho) Liberals are more likely to change their opinions/ ideology if new evidence shows they're barking up the wrong tree.

One of the few sage political teachings I got from my mother was her (somewhat innocent) idea that Liberals are open-minded and allow for many opinions, while Conservatives are close-minded and narrow in their worldview. That's a position I hold to this day.

Great post, Marc.

Marc Conklin said...

I completely agree that the Right feels every bit as intellectually right. Even more so. But on the retail level... the average Joe in the party/movement, it's far more important psychologically to use your conservatism/Republicanism to prove your manhood than it is your intellect.

On open-mindedness, I'd have to disagree. Some of the most closed-minded people I know are liberals.

The Wordman said...

I wasn't saying that Liberals are open-minded -- just that my mother taught me that being liberal meant being open-minded: that's the kind of Liberal I am today.

But that's about the only political takeaway I've been able to hang onto -- my parents voted for Reagan in 1980 "because they felt sorry for him." And they loathed Jerry Brown because he drove a compact car instead of riding in a limo, refused to live in the CA Governor's mansion, all in a bid to conserve energy during the energy crisis of the '70s.

I'm not claiming to be a party faithful Liberal, just true to my own running-dog petit bourgeois sensibilities (inspired in part by my parents' whackshit political values, or lack thereof). To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn't trust a political party that would invite me in as a member.