There is an extraordinary article in the Washington Post today that posits the question “Why are liberals so condescending?”. Written by Gerard Alexander, the piece explores the historical roots of liberal condescension.
I don’t have time to discuss all the points presented in this piece but it is certainly worth the time to read and consider. Here is a teaser:
Liberals have dismissed conservative thinking for decades, a tendency encapsulated by Lionel Trilling’s 1950 remark that conservatives do not “express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.” During the 1950s and ’60s, liberals trivialized the nascent conservative movement. Prominent studies and journalistic accounts of right-wing politics at the time stressed paranoia, intolerance and insecurity, rendering conservative thought more a psychiatric disorder than a rival. In 1962, Richard Hofstadter referred to “the Manichaean style of thought, the apocalyptic tendencies, the love of mystification, the intolerance of compromise that are observable in the right-wing mind.”
This sense of liberal intellectual superiority dropped off during the economic woes of the 1970s and the Reagan boom of the 1980s. (Jimmy Carter’s presidency, buffeted by economic and national security challenges, generated perhaps the clearest episode of liberal self-doubt.) But these days, liberal confidence and its companion disdain for conservative thinking are back with a vengeance, finding energetic expression in politicians’ speeches, top-selling books, historical works and the blogosphere. This attitude comes in the form of four major narratives about who conservatives are and how they think and function.
Liberal intellectual superiority dropped off (to use the author’s words) in the 1970’s because liberal ideology and cant were both rudely introduced to reality: a more aggressive Soviet menace, a failing economy and a burgeoning public sector that threatened individual liberty. It is at this intersection that liberals almost always fail. We are at the same intersection again today, yet liberals are blind to the reality. Substitute the Soviet menace for asymmetrical warfare (terrorism) and we have the same equation at work today.
Liberals and public sector bureaucrats have enjoyed a long run in the expansion of Federal power in a same period of time that the private sector has subjected itself to gut wrenching changes as the global market has changed. While talk of the recent real estate and financial bubble has consumed popular media during the past two years, there exists one bubble that has yet to be pierced and will represent the biggest rearrangement of power and influence in a century: the Big Government Bubble. Governments, including local, state and federal, have not yet experienced the full force of the restructuring that has rearranged the lives of those in the private sector during the last several decades.
The next big bubble to burst will happen in the public sector. And it will be ugly.