In this oft-cited piece written in 2002, Charles Krauthammer famously professed the following:
… Liberals are stupid.
Liberals tend to be nice, and they believe — here is where they go stupid — that most everybody else is nice too. Sure, you’ve got your multiple felon and your occasional war criminal, but they’re undoubtedly depraved ’cause they’re deprived. If only we could get social conditions right — eliminate poverty, teach anger management, restore the ozone… everyone would be holding hands smiley-faced.
Liberals believe that human nature is fundamentally good. The fact that this is contradicted by, oh, 4,000 years of human history simply tells them how urgent is the need for their next seven-point program for the social reform of everything.
Liberals suffer incurably from naivete, the stupidity of the good heart. Who else but that oracle of American liberalism, The New York Times, could run the puzzled headline: “Crime Keeps On Falling, but Prisons Keep On Filling.” But? How about this wild theory: If you lock up the criminals, crime declines.
Accordingly, the conservative attitude toward liberals is one of compassionate condescension. Liberals are not quite as reciprocally charitable. It is natural. They think conservatives are mean. How can conservatives believe in the things they do — self-reliance, self-discipline, competition, military power — without being soulless? How to understand conservative desire to abolish welfare, if it is not to punish the poor?
This may have been Krauthammer’s take when he initially wrote the piece. And it may have been true thatthe majority of Liberals back then just thought of Conservatives as too harsh — or just plain “mean-spirited”.
But a few days ago, Mr. Krauthammer put forth a more nuanced (or if you prefer, definitive) position regarding the Great Chasm — and why compromise is impossible. I don’t have the quote in front of me… but if memory serves it went something like this: The fundamental difference is that Conservatives think Liberals are naive and emotional… while Liberals believe Conservatives are evil.
Either his initial estimation of the Liberal opinion of Conservatives was in error or something has changed. Either he was wrong or has had an epiphany OR Liberals themselves have become less-charitable as it relates to those who disagree with them.
Whatever the case may be, I think Krauthammer’s statement on Fox News is even more significant than the piece he wrote in 2002.
Liberals do in fact believe conservatives are in fact evil. But what does that really mean? In practical terms it explains a good amount.
Initially I thought to enumerate the hypocrisies of the left if it is the case that Conservatives are Evil. Fun to do, but tedious.
But what is of more interest to me is how Krauthammer’s insight into the liberal mindset – specifically, how liberals think about conservatives – explains a great deal about their behavior in the political realm.
First, it explains why Liberals often come across as pompous and condescending.
It explains their absolute intolerance of diversity of thought.
It explains their violent reaction when they don’t get their way.
It explains their hostility toward any who dare to challenge their Worldview.
It explains their knee-jerk demagoguery and intransigence.
I guess that list is also without limit. But you get the point.
Beyond helping us understand Liberal behavior in the political sphere — beyond having utility as to how Liberals “feel” (think) — there is a larger lesson here. A lesson I think Conservatives need to learn. A harsh lesson that we need to take to heart. A sad lesson that we must own.
When Conservatives say liberals are just naive, we are being too charitable. Many of them have given their positions much thought over many years and have arrived to conclusions that they cling to as strenuously as many of us do. They believe their truths to be self-evident. In the end analysis, an old Liberal may not have a brain, but in his mind his opinions have been vetted, challenged, verified, martyred, and hard-earned. That is, justified.
When conservatives say they are well-intentioned, we are in denial. They are not on the whole well-intentioned. Sure, there are many hippy-dippy, pot smoking liberals who believe in live and let live. But this is an unfortunate caricature. One that tends to make conservatives underestimate our foes. The most dangerous liberals are incredibly pragmatic. They are incredibly deliberate. They have objectives and formulate strategies to achieve them.
It is often said that “everyone is entitled to his opinion”. But this means something radically different to a liberal than to a conservative. The same words spoken in the same sequence mean very much different things.
My point is that when we call Liberals naive, we are being naive. When we say that perhaps “they love too much” we are throwing pearls before the swine. Think Machiavelli and you’ll be closer to the truth.
When Krauthammer called liberals stupid, he was wrong. By and large, they are not. They are wrong. But they are not stupid. Their conclusions are wrong. But they are not stupid. Their policies are often irrational and counter to human nature. But Liberals are not stupid.
By and large, they know exactly — precisely — what they are doing. And they are shrewd. They are conniving. They are cunning.
I guess what I am saying is in the same manner we chastise the president for his inability to call a spade a spade as it relates to actual Evil, we should be chastised for being unwilling… unable… to accuse Liberals of being precisely what they are. Instead we make excuses for them. For their words. For their behavior. For their policies.
This is perhaps what Krauthammer meant when he wrote that “the conservative attitude toward liberals is one of compassionate condescension”. But I am not sure that is what he meant. I think he meant it more like how a conservative parent might excuse a misbehaving child.
I think Krauthammer should re-write his piece from 2002. I think he should force himself to revamp it. Because I believe his premise was all wrong. I believe we conservatives have largely gotten it wrong. Stunningly wrong. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, we continue to hope against hope that liberals really are just well-intentioned dopes who view the world with rose-colored glasses. We do ourselves a grave disservice – nay, we purposefully project our firm hopes about our fellow Man – when we presume they are just misled children. Oddly, I believe it is conservatives who see Man as more inherently good than liberals do.
Finally, whereas on first reading I could not have agreed more… the more I read the the aforementioned article, the more I think Krauthammer was considerably off the mark when he wrote it. It is a tactical mistake to underestimate the Liberal Borg. Make no mistake, if we are evil… we deserve all the contempt they dish out. And, if we are evil… the ends really do justify the means.
Obviously, Krauthammer’s opinion of how Liberals view Conservatives has changed. I’d be fascinated to know why. But maybe, more importantly, it’s time for Conservatives to employ reason rather than project something on Liberals that only undermines our ability to combat them in the “marketplace of ideas”.
Dismissing Liberals as stupid is stupid. And very, very dangerous. Saying they are well-intentioned is intentional self-delusion. Saying they are naive is naive. They may be hypocrites… but we needn’t be.
UPDATE — CROSS-POSTED FROM UNRR’s Well-Considered Take at The Unreligious Right –
… It also explains why they hold their many false assumptions with the fervor of religious belief, and react with outrage when those assumptions are challenged, as if you were an evil heretic. But here’s where my opinions of liberals diverge from Root’s.
When Conservatives say liberals are just naive, we are being too charitable. … When conservatives say they are well-intentioned, we are in denial. They are not on the whole well-intentioned. Sure, there are many hippy-dippy, pot smoking liberals who believe in live and let live. But this is an unfortunate caricature. One that tends to make conservatives underestimate our foes. The most dangerous liberals are incredibly pragmatic. They are incredibly deliberate. They have objectives and formulate strategies to achieve them. … My point is that when we call Liberals naive, we are being naive. When we say that perhaps “they love too much” we are throwing pearls before the swine. Think Machiavelli and you’ll be closer to the truth.
He goes on in this vein. In my opinion this is dangerously close to conspiracy-theory thinking, viewing liberals as evil-minded plotters determined to inflict their monstrous designs upon us.
… I’m firmly in the camp that sees much of the left as naive fools, because the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that most should be regarded as fools, rather than as deliberately malevolent. There’s nothing naive about regarding the left as naive. Obviously fools are often dangerous. But that doesn’t mean we need to act like the left and assume evil motives on the part of our political opponents.
Editor: Read the whole thing.