Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Smug Style of Liberalism

From the left leaning Vox, a perceptive essay about “The smug style in American liberalism.” The author (one Emmett Rensin) seems to be not so much a conservative but an old labor leftist, with a large dollop of populism.

Some choice quotes:
There is a smug style in American liberalism. It has been growing these past decades. It is a way of conducting politics, predicated on the belief that American life is not divided by moral difference or policy divergence — not really — but by the failure of half the country to know what’s good for them.

In 2016, the smug style has found expression in media and in policy, in the attitudes of liberals both visible and private, providing a foundational set of assumptions above which a great number of liberals comport their understanding of the world.

It has led an American ideology hitherto responsible for a great share of the good accomplished over the past century of our political life to a posture of reaction and disrespect: a condescending, defensive sneer toward any person or movement outside of its consensus, dressed up as a monopoly on reason.

The smug style is a psychological reaction to a profound shift in American political demography.

Beginning in the middle of the 20th century, the working class, once the core of the coalition, began abandoning the Democratic Party. In 1948, in the immediate wake of Franklin Roosevelt, 66 percent of manual laborers voted for Democrats, along with 60 percent of farmers. In 1964, it was 55 percent of working-class voters. By 1980, it was 35 percent.

The white working class in particular saw even sharper declines. Despite historic advantages with both poor and middle-class white voters, by 2012 Democrats possessed only a 2-point advantage among poor white voters. Among white voters making between $30,000 and $75,000 per year, the GOP has taken a 17-point lead.

Finding comfort in the notion that their former allies were disdainful, hapless rubes, smug liberals created a culture animated by that contempt The consequence was a shift in liberalism’s intellectual center of gravity. A movement once fleshed out in union halls and little magazines shifted into universities and major press, from the center of the country to its cities and elite enclaves. Minority voters remained, but bereft of the material and social capital required to dominate elite decision-making, they were largely excluded from an agenda driven by the new Democratic core: the educated, the coastal, and the professional.

It is not that these forces captured the party so much as it fell to them. When the laborer left, they remained.
And later:
Nothing is more confounding to the smug style than the fact that the average Republican is better educated and has a higher IQ than the average Democrat. That for every overpowered study finding superior liberal open-mindedness and intellect and knowledge, there is one to suggest that Republicans have the better of these qualities.

Most damning, perhaps, to the fancy liberal self-conception: Republicans score higher in susceptibility to persuasion. They are willing to change their minds more often.

The Republican coalition tends toward the center: educated enough, smart enough, informed enough.

The Democratic coalition in the 21st century is bifurcated: It has the postgraduates, but it has the disenfranchised urban poor as well, a group better defined by race and immigration status than by class. There are more Americans without high school diplomas than in possession of doctoral degrees. The math proceeds from there.
Why does smugness to dominate the liberal culture?

As we have suggested, liberals are better able to cocoon themselves among like-minded people. They likely had liberal high school teachers, but most certainly had overwhelmingly liberal college professors. They self-select into professions defined by strongly (often monolithically) liberal or left politics (academia, journalism, the government regulatory and welfare state). They segregate themselves into ghettos (like Milwaukee’s East Side) and mostly interact with people like themselves. They get their news from liberal outlets.

While conservatives can isolate themselves to a degree, they cannot avoid the liberal indoctrination in college, nor exposure to the liberal media (whether it be the New York Times or the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel). They are more likely to work in settings where politics is a bit peripheral and there is some diversity of opinion.

Thus liberal smugness is not justified by superior knowledge, or superior reasoning ability, or superior open-mindedness. It is simply the result of an intense tribal mentality.

Thus liberals richly deserve to have lost the support of the white working class. But this working class populism can play out in different ways: voting for Reagan or voting for Trump, for example. Not all ways of opposing liberal smugness are equal.

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Blogger CS said...

[liberals] self-select into professions defined by strongly (often monolithically) liberal or left politics (academia, journalism, the government regulatory and welfare state).

The liberal-leftism of the professions you mention is not just the result of self-selection by those engaged therein. It is chiefly the result of top-down control. University presidents, for example, and their subordinate ranks of vice-presidents, deans, vice-deans, and their entourage of administrative bureaucrats, don't select themselves. They are selected to do a job, which is to impose the "liberal" agenda. To this end they have salaries out of all proportion to their contribution to scholarship, plus all the disciplinary means to insure conformity with the dictates of political correctness. Toe the line on gender equity (i.e., female hiring quotas), climate change, or the PC view of gay marriage, etc., or else. The same financial/political elite takeover is evident in the dominance of politically correct thinking of great learned societies such the Royal Society of London, and as is evident in the non-technical pages of Science magazine, the leading journal of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Hence, as you say: "conservatives ... cannot avoid the liberal indoctrination in college ..."

The transformation of the academy from a place of independent learning and education to a center for corporate-directed research and the indoctrination of youth is the result of the transformation of the university from a self-governing community of scholars (remember how in 1687, it was Isaac Newton and other scholars who appeared before "Hanging" Judge Jeffreys in the Alban Francis case, faced the bastard down, and had the case settled in their favor) to a highly bureaucratic agency in the service of government and corporate interests.

What we are seeing as enforced political correctness spreads through the educational system, into the government bureaucracy, the military and corporate worlds is the transformation of liberal democracy into a thought-controlled tyranny under the watchful eye of Homeland Security, equipped for any emergency with six hollow-point bullets for every citizen plus heavy armored vehicles.

2:23 PM  

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