Recently I chatted with three white liberal women, all members of teachers unions -- the Democrat base. I asked them who they were voting for in the primary. Without hesitation they all said "Hillary." None of them was at all impressed by Obama. One of them laughed and said she is not one of those people who do whatever Oprah tells them to do. I don't know if we can conclude anything about the upcoming primaries from this anecdotal evidence.
One of the women asked me why Republicans hate Hillary Clinton so.
"Well," I said, "to begin with, she is a statist."
She asked me to repeat the word. She had never heard the word statist before. She reads the Los Angeles Times and watches news on PBS and CNN. In her world statism is merely the way things ought to be; it doesn't need a name, it's just life. She has never known anything but the welfare state and has never questioned it. As a pragmatist and an empiricist, she regards all theoretical talk of political theory as a nice thing intellectuals do, but not connected to our day to day reality.
Hillary Clinton makes sense to her. Republicans mystify her, disgust her and make her afraid. She doesn't understand them and has no curiosity about their ideas, although she is curious about their emotional hostility toward Clinton. It is enough for her to dismiss them as bad people, or at least blind and unenlightened.
I noted that Hillary Clinton worked for a communist lawyer in her radical youth. The liberal's response? "It was the '60s. Everyone was way out back then." She sees no connection between Clinton's radical past and her policies of today. Any talk of Clinton's radical past strikes her as hysterical smears from the VRWC.
I believe her way of thinking is common among Democrats. Although liberals dominate intellectual professions such as academia and teaching, there is something something anti-intellectual about them. They can be articulate, well read and even brilliant, but intellectual matters are compartmentalized: there's theory and then there's life.
I really think a lot of their lack of intellectual curiosity comes down to lack of motivation. Government intervention in the economy is the reality we live in and questioning it is beyond the liberal imagination. So what is the point in reading Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand or Bureaucracy by Ludwig von Mises? It seems to them like a tedious intellectual exercise that has no practical value.
Perhaps we are seeing here the fruits of pragmatism -- a philosophy that was influential in American universities a century ago. Liberal thinking is shaped by the ivory tower theorizing they respect (and dominate professionally); but they do not understand its practical consequences.
UPDATE: Minor edits. Sometimes I can relate to Oscar Wilde, who once claimed to have spent all morning putting in a comma, and all afternoon taking it out. Now if I only had Wilde's wit...