Monday, December 10, 2007

Talking to Liberals

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...

5 comments:

Rick "Doc" MacDonald said...

Well said! My experiences have been nearly the same. It's as if thinking beyond the surface is too demanding and that they have this belief that when something sounds nice, one shouldn't look for dirt that could damage the initial shine.

madmax said...

"They can be articulate, well read and even brilliant, but intellectual matters are compartmentalized: there's theory and then there's life."

My mother is a retired public school teacher and all her friends were public school teachers. So your comments resonate with me more than you could know. The funny thing is that many of them were in fact extremely intelligent and well read. But all there knowledge was passed through their liberal filters (which I guess are the near universal post-Kantian ones). As a result they were all welfare statists; actually they were all socialists. And to them there was no other system possible. If you tried to explain to them (as I did) how capitalism works their eyes would glaze over. I was a teenager at the time so they would just respond "he'll grow up in time", but if I were older they would have demonized me as a heartless Republican. If 'We The Living' had been written in a mixed economy setting, these teachers would have been perfect characters for depictions of the mental conformity of brainwashed leftists.

Mike N said...

Myrhaf:
Good post. I've had the same experiences with liberals.

I've often wondered how many people in 1930s Germany had read Hitler's Mein Kampf and, unable to think in terms of principles, dismissed his writings as mere theory or ideology, and paid the price for it in his ovens and firing squads. Similiar conditions exist here in America now and it's scary.

johnnycwest said...

A teacher never having come across the word "statist"? Not surprising - I would guess most fish have never heard of "water" either. At least fish don't demand that we all have to live in the water. I agree that this is the consequence of pragmatism - most Americans laugh at the ivory tower intellectuals who they consider to be powerless with quaint ideas that don't apply to the real world. Sad. Good post. Thank you.

Now - who would you vote for - Clinton or Huckabee? CNN reports Giuliani and Huckabee neck and neck - shudder.

Myrhaf said...

I would vote for Clinton against Huckabee, Romney or McCain. Gridlock with a Dem Prez would be preferable to the presidency of any of those Republicans.