9.10.2008

We Can Both Live Under My System

TheGameIAm cites a Meagan McArdle article as proof positive to his point that we coastal liberal don't even realize that we look down on central state conservatives.

First, this is really an urban/rural argument. Major cities in the middle of America tend to vote and look and act more liberal, just like their coastal counterparts. Doesn't that mean that elites come from Rice and OSU as much as they do from Dartmouth and Yale?

Second, I think liberals know very well that they look down on rural conservatives. They see Obama losing primaries because people have "had enough of Husseins" and are worried about "secret Muslims" and the like and they think, "My god. Don't you people bother to look critically at anything?" The proliferation of glib assessments of serious and complex issues that popped up all over the Republican convention, "Drill! Baby, Drill!" and "Surge to Victory" don't help. So liberals know what they are doing.

Second, where is the moral equivalence? The rural conservatives have heaped the same negative stereotypes on liberals for years (see the swift boat campaign and the fact that they have turned liberal into a curse word). If you pick on liberals for this and not conservatives, you are buying in to precisely the stereotype you are fighting: "Hey liberals. Stop looking down your noses at these people or you will sink to their level." We think we are better than them, and they us. The blame lies equally.

Third, and this is why I am a Democrat: under Democratic values, the rural conservatives can continue to be conservative. They can believe what they want about life, guns, gays, and god without interruption and can practice their values at home and in their communities while liberal practice their values in theirs. Under the conservative ideology, the same rights are not extended to liberals. There is no gay marriage, there is no reproductive choice, and so on. Conservatives want to clamp down on these things as a matter of policy.

Now I understand that TheGameIam is a libertarian, so I am not calling him out on this issue. But his point is that liberals dislike rural-conservatives. I am just offering a reason why: it's because they perceive that those conservatives (and their "values" agenda) seek to impose on- and perhaps limit liberals' own values and way of life.

3 comments:

elanit said...

Amen, brother.

David said...

First, a clarification: I'm more of a Federalist than a libertarian, but take a pragmatic approach to both of those political approaches.

I'll refute in order.

1) No, the liberals/Democrats who live in Omaha or Memphis tend to not be nearly as obnoxious about it compared to the ones in the NE and California. Yes, they are liberal, but they are more likely to have conservative friends and neighbors, so they tend not to fall into the "I've never met anyone who voted for Bush" business, and they are more used to the idea that their beliefs aren't actually self-evident: they need to argue them convincingly. There is a reason why Democrats from the middle of the country do a lot better nationally than Democrats from the NE.

On your First Second, yeah, I can see why the chants are a turnoff. Personally, I find conventions a turnoff, but hey, each to their own. There are lots of glib assessments on both sides, and frankly, conventions are where such things belong. It's good to know oneself, but knowledge of one's dismissal of alternative viewpoints doesn't make that dismissal any better or more acceptable.

On the second second, you're missing the point. Loudly saying "we're tolerant, and not judgemental like those country hicks are!" is self-parodying. Any time you can't imagine how someone can believe something, it's worth re-looking at your own prejudices.

Third, you've got to be kidding. Now, if you embraced Federalism, you could make that argument, but I have yet to hear any liberals advocate for local rather than federal control over issues. On each of the issues you mention, ask yourself whether the position of (for instance) the Democratic party is actually "live and let live." Would you be okay with the idea of (for instance) North Dakota having prayers at commencements? Restricting access to elective abortions? Codifying the traditional definition of marriage? Consider the outrage at VMI and the Citadel back when they were all-male: do you see similar right-wing outrage directed at the all-female colleges?

I'd be pretty surprised if your answer to any of the above is "yes" - so it'd be worth it to reexamine whether you are really interested in tolerating these views with which you disagree so strongly.

If anything, I've found that the current left-wing folks are much more disturbed by the idea that "someone, somewhere, disagrees with me." Most of the right wing folks don't much care about that, from a policy point of view - you will get some religious folks who believe that if you disagree with them, you're going to hell, so they're doing you a favor by evangelizing to you - but that's not policy.

Maxim said...

Alright, Mr. Small Thoughts, the last couple thoughts of yours in this post were truly Small, so I couldn't resist responding.

Since you are a fairly level-headed individual, I'm quite astonished that your claim, with a straight face I presume, that "Democrats don't try to force their ideas on everyone else like conservatives do" (in so many words). david's refutation in the paragraph starting "Third, you've got to be kidding..." is spot-on, so I won't repeat it.

I will simply add the near-truism that in politics, the conservative and liberal sides are often both guilty of trying to force their ideas on everyone else, just as both sides have their share of hypocrites, liars, naked power-grabbing, etc. etc. A fair-minded observer should find it impossible to pick which side is consistently better or worse. In a way you said it yourself -- "We think we're better than them, and they us. The blame lies equally." So you pretty much agree.

But then you go right on to the next paragraph and ignore this -- claiming that you choose to be a Democrat because liberals are more "tolerant" of coexisting with people who disagree with them. I call bull$%*#. You're a Democrat because you're a Democrat - trying to apply a post-facto poseudo-reason to your choice is a rationalization that rings hollow. And the implication that flows from it is that your choice to be a Democrat is somehow more rational/valid/tolerant than others' choice to be {insert non-Democrat affiliation}. Likewise bull$%*# exactly because of what you'd just said: "we think we're better than them, and they us." To use your own exact formulation, I am just offering a reason why rural-conservatives dislike urban-liberals: it's because they perceive those liberals to be arrogant, patronizing, and aiming to impose their agenda because they know "what's good for me" better than I do ("universal healthcare" anyone?).

Clearly each side's perception of the other is simplistic and partisan, but please - conservatives don't have the monopoly on intolerant or coercive policy preferences, nor is "your system" (the Democratic party) the only one under which "we both can live".

[Incidentally, as a bit of an aside, I think casting the liberal/conservative dichotomy as an urban-rural argument has some validity, but that description is both as accurate and as problematic as the over- vs. under-educated stereotype. I always find myself in an interesting position, demographically fitting squarely into the urban-liberal-east-coast-overeducated-Jew group, but agreeing with a much more politically conservative philosophy. I have an idea what its origins are, but regardless, I interestingly often find myself on the opposite side of political issues as pretty much all of my friends and peers, whose lives are very much like mine, and defending the side on said issues of the rural-flyover-state-undereducated-conservative crowd. It's weird, and forces me to regularly re-examine my positions and understand them. It took me my college years and longer to get anywhere near being comfortable with this. I recommend it to everyone.]

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