Why liberals should be condescending

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 13:55


A Sunday Washington Post editorial asks why liberals are so damn condescending.  Seriously:

Why are liberals so condescending?

By Gerard Alexander
Sunday, February 7, 2010

Every political community includes some members who insist that their side has all the answers and that their adversaries are idiots. But American liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological and unworthy of serious consideration.

Yet more persecuted conservative syndrome, not to mention more misuse of the word "ideological."

But really, why shouldn't liberals should be condescending, and committed to the proposition that their views are based in fact and reason?  The people most committed to basing their views on facts and reason, and whose efforts have achieved a standard of living that finally broke humanity out of millennia with an average life expectancy of 30 and the constant threat of starvation, are liberals.  In this case, I am referring to scientists:


Less than 10% of scientists consider themselves Republicans or conservatives.  Why shouldn't liberals consider their positions to be based on fact and reason, and see conservative views as largely illegitimate?

And the public largely praises the efforts of scientists, too.  Only 6% of Americans think science has had a negative effect on society.

Science is both the most popular, and the least conservative, institution in America.  What the public doesn't know is that a very small percentage of scientists consider themselves to be conservatives.  But, it is something that should be pointed out whenever conservatives whine about how condescending and "fact-based" liberal positions are.  Without liberals, and their emphasis on science, reason and facts, conservatives couldn't even use things like the internet, or even television, to continue their whining.  They would still be stuck in the frakking middle ages, which is maybe what they wanted all along.

Chris Bowers :: Why liberals should be condescending

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And Conservatives Who Claim That God Is One Of Them AREN'T Condescending? (4.00 / 5)
Who knew?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

No (4.00 / 1)
Condescension is not part of the creed. They all worship a god of peace, so benevolence is more likely the claim.

Reality, facts and mass graves aside, of course.  

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
Bob Dylan (4.00 / 2)
Bob Dylan wrote a song ("With God on Our Side") which contained the words, "For they don't count the dead/ With God on our side."  This is very much a god of thunder, justice (sort of) and revenge.  Benevolence?  Ever hear a winger talk about Chavez in Venezuela?

Frankly, I can't read Paul's comment without hearing the music.  I don't know if that's more of a tribute to Bob Dylan or to Paul successfully capturing musical memories.

Liberals problem is not that they are condescending, it is that they are afraid of offending their enemies.  I've gotten past that.  It is conservatives who have trouble with the legitimacy of any elected Democratic President (see Tom Tancredo's recent comment that Obama was elected by illiterates).  


[ Parent ]
I had a different reaction to this (4.00 / 7)
But American liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological and unworthy of serious consideration.

How true. If there is one constant of contemporary American politics, it is how liberal positions are regarded as legitimate, non-ideological and worthy of consideration by conservatives and so called moderates alike.  

It must be difficult for the marginalized conservative movement not to experience to live life on the political margins. I find it difficult to imagine what that would be like.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


So Cut Off & Ignored, They Have To Content Themselves With Superbowl Commercials (4.00 / 2)
Oh, the indignity!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Could it be because we have 30 years of (4.00 / 2)
history and a pot of piss poor results to base it on?  Yah, it was 30 years of doing what we said that screwed this country over.  


OTOH, (0.00 / 0)
The public has an inkling of this, but only an inkling.  From the Pew Survey you cited yesterday:

Q.54 Just your impression: Do you think of scientists as...[RANDOMIZE ORDER OF:] a politically liberal group, a politically conservative group [THEN] or as neither in particular?
                                    Trend for comparison
                                    Scientists Survey
                                       May 2009
20 Politically liberal group              56
 9 Politically conservative group          2
64 Neither in particular                  42
 8 Don't know/Refused/No answer (VOL.)     1


"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

Ha (4.00 / 4)
I wish liberals believed their views were correct. If only.


I have a very hard time believing anything (0.00 / 0)
that's why I'm a scientist. Its one vocation in which doubt can be useful, prized and a strength. Some folks have a talent for doubt.



"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
Precisely (0.00 / 0)
That said, I am confident that my political views represent a quicker path towards my societal objectives than the null hypothesis (i.e. doing nothing) given the currently available data.  Alas, social science data tends towards the unreliable; there aren't nearly enough well-designed randomized controlled trials.  Now, funding some of those... that's a policy I could get behind.  

This might be why I almost always support funding more science.  It's not only self-interest, it's that any other way of planning is groping in the dark.


[ Parent ]
Yep. My scientist dad is precisely the same way. (0.00 / 0)
As Paul Rosenberg has pointed out, scientists are, in the apolitical sense of the word, quite conservative. Although I have to say I am somewhat skeptical of the notion that scientists, by virtue of being data oriented, are therefore oriented more towards Truth than the rest of us (yes, I've read my postmodernist theory and taken it to heart.) But I certainly am convinced that you're straight dead on to suggest that doubt is at the heart of the scientific mindset, both by nature and instructional nurture. And that what's demanded by such a doubt-oriented mindset does bear a direct connection to liberalism. It's not so much liberalism that reveals a data oriented Truth so much as conservatism reveals the converse, repeated failure.

[ Parent ]
For me its the testable part that makes science (0.00 / 0)
a good way to confront reality. Even so, it has blind spots, no doubt. Not sure what "truth" is in the most general sense, but applied science - engineering - confirms that the underlying science is true enough to provide a means to restructure reality,convert raw materials into buildings, for example.

Scientists are "radical" in the original sense of the word, meaning "getting to the root" of things, so tend to associate with more liberal strains of thought. In the practical world, scientists and the scientific process have been under attack for decades - from the right and the left. Today, mostly from the right, and this has many scientists PO'd. Big time.



"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
I just wish (4.00 / 1)
Obama and Ben Nelson thought liberal views were correct.

[ Parent ]
While I agree with the substance of what you said (4.00 / 1)
Avoiding condescension is always a good thing.  I think we can all agree on that as well.

Thanks for the interesting stats (0.00 / 0)
Though I figured that Scientists were somewhat left-leaning, the stats show them much more lefty than I suspected.  Good data.

It's somewhat interesting that industrial scientists are the more conservative (a 10% vs. 47% split, still very Democrat leaning) relative to Govt. / Academic / Non-Profit scientists.  Makes some sense.

That said, as a moderate scientist, I do find some liberals annoying and condescending.  But I live in the SF Bay Area, where there are just tons of liberals, so of course some will have that effect.  I suspect that if I lived, say, in Houston, I'd find a lot of condescending conservatives.  :-)


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