Political Pollutants: America’s Smug Problem

Jonah Goldberg is the author of the book “Liberal Fascism” which traces the history of progressivism in America, showing its roots undeniably intertwined with Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin, and nourished by American progressive forefathers like Woodrow Wilson and FDR. From that, you might be able to guess where he falls along the political spectrum, but he is not beyond reproaching his own brand for real follies. In an article appearing on Real Clear Politics, Goldberg points to smugness among both liberals and conservatives as the main factor behind increasing polarization in politics. Without arguing for or against any particular political point, Goldberg offers some advice for those on either side of the aisle who truly want to make America a better place that doesn’t feel so much like a reality TV show.

For liberals, maybe you should try to accept the fact that you’re not the non-conformists you think you are. And for conservatives, perhaps you should consider that you’re not necessarily the irrefutable voice of “normal” Americans.

The thought occurred to me while reading “The Liberal Illusion of Uniqueness” in the journal Psychological Science. Apparently it’s a well-established finding that liberals tend to think their views are more rebellious than they are. They feel a “need for uniqueness.” And that need can stand in the way of seeking commonality with other Americans.

Conservatives don’t crave uniqueness. In fact, they are more likely to overestimate the extent to which there is a consensus around their beliefs. In other words, liberals bristle at the notion that they’re conventional thinkers, while conservatives are too quick to assume everyone thinks like them.

I think he’s onto something. I’ll admit that I often find myself thinking that most everyone agrees with libertarian principles, but are too deceived by politicians and the media in order to properly follow those ideas to real solutions. That is why I try to find ways on this blog to explain things which come easy for me to understand, in order to reduce the cloud of confusion around good libertarian ideas for making the economy boom, and empowering individuals. But I need to remember that many liberals and centrists do indeed know what they are advocating for, and just make different assessments of the most important issues, or the most expedient way to stop the corruption.

Liberals are not necessarily cheating to win all their elections, like many conservatives believe. And even though I live in Massachusetts, I cannot necessarily attribute the fact that many people I talk politics with have a libertarian slant to the fact that the vast majority of Americans actually agree with me. The fact is my circle of friends and cohorts is not a representative sample of Americans, so I cannot tell from my daily interactions if my views are truly that of the silent majority, or if middle class white suburbanites from Massachusetts tend to share many values.

And from an outsiders’ perspective liberals certainly seem to crave uniqueness as the “voice of the minority” despite the fact that their minorities often combine to form a majority. For instance, Jonah Goldberg says he often tries to point out when speaking to college students that they are conformists in politics since their professors, administrators, the media, music and TV industries are all overwhelmingly liberal. This is also why you hear the left repeating that the center of politics has moved to the right, in order to depict themselves as warriors of sorts up against tremendous odds in their fight for the greater good. Elites who have mastered academia are treated as gods to direct society better than individuals ever could, and the only thing standing in the way of these unique few are the backward masses fooled by Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, and controlled by corporate interests.

Conservatives have become far too insular, too often rejecting the need to persuade those who don’t already agree with them, arguing instead that ever bloodier doses of red meat will grow the coalition. Liberals have become far too content with the myth of their uniqueness and the pretense that they are brave polymath iconoclasts who know what’s best for you better than you do.

As a libertarian I want to make it my 2014 New Year’s resolution to engage more with those who are not already in my camp, so to speak. I think that people with similar views as my own would do well to explain our positions, instead of getting angry and accusing liberals of hating America. And I think liberals would do well to ask themselves if they are really a unique voice, or if they are taking the bait from the media. Personally I think a gay libertarian or a black conservative is more unique than a status quo liberal who swallows all the establishment feeds them. And likewise a liberal that actually is educated about their movement and stands by their statist viewpoints (instead of ignorantly arguing that their views are not in fact socialist or fascist) is more intellectually adept than a conservative who makes sure he only talks to conservatives.

This article is not to change anyone’s views, it is to persuade each side to open an arena where views have the possibility of permeating the “other side’s” fortress of ideas. That’s what I intend this blog to be, a forum for discussion. Obviously I have my views, most of which are libertarian, but I want people to know why I have these views, not just agree with me and high five. If you disagree with me tell me why in the comments; I never block opposing views in the comments, and always engage with civility when confronted with civility. If you agree with me or like a post, share it so that it’s not just libertarians hearing the same message they already agree with. If you see a compelling liberal argument, look into it in order to counter it, or be informed by it. If you hold a libertarian view but can’t explain why, do some research so that you have the tools to persuade those you run into. You don’t always have to be a warrior for your viewpoints, sometimes it is appropriate to be an ambassador.

3 thoughts on “Political Pollutants: America’s Smug Problem

  1. Joe, good article! However I find my liberal friends are the angry ones who are mean spirited and can actually be hateful. You try to have a Civil conversation and they get ballistic and won’t conduct further civil discussion. That is only my experience.

    • Unfortunately I do see that happen often. When I started my blog there was one person in particular who would always comment disagreeing, but not with any substance, just insults and sarcasm. I would respond with my argument, and he would accuse me of being ignorant and sheltered, but eventually he just stopped reading and commenting. I think it can happen on both sides which is why I try to remain civil in discussions. But you’re right, sometimes you encounter people who just won’t hear anything that didn’t come out of their mouth, and they may be considered a lost cause. I just try to remember that there are usually other people looking on and listening in, and even if they remain silent, they may be positively influenced by your civility and substantive argument.

      • You are right about listening in and hopefully they get something positive out of the conversation.keep up the good work!

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