Politics & Policy

They Don’t Know Us

Liberals don’t bother to understand conservative thought.

Apparently, many liberals were disappointed in the administration’s defense of Obamacare before the Supreme Court. They felt that the government’s lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, did not respond effectively to the challenges of some of the conservative justices.

The editor of Commentary, John Podhoretz, offered an explanation on his magazine’s blog. “American liberals,” he wrote, “know their own language but they don’t know the language of their ideological and partisan opposite numbers. . . . Conservatives speak liberal, but for liberals in the United States, conservatism might as well be Esperanto.”

I have argued this point for many years. In my book to be published later this month (Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph), I argue that the Left is a victim of its own brainwashing. How could they not be? All they hear, see, and read from childhood on, from elementary school through graduate school, on TV and in the movies, are leftist ideas.

Yet this is not true for conservatives. One would have to grow up in a silent monastery not to be regularly exposed to liberal and leftist ideas.

For 30 years I have had leading left-wing thinkers on my radio show, and I continue to be shocked at their lack of awareness of conservative arguments. About two years ago, for example, I asked one of the most powerful Democratic members of Congress — a major force behind every tax increase — what tax rate he thought might be too high. He replied that he had not given it thought. I asked a leading liberal writer who maintained that all American wars since World War II had been imperialist, if he thought the Korean War was also imperialistic. He replied that he didn’t know enough about that war to respond.

After interviewing leftists, liberal listeners frequently ask me why I don’t invite the best liberals on to my show.

The answer is that I have had some of the best liberals on my show. They just don’t tend to do well when challenged by thoughtful conservatives.

That may be why the majority of influential liberals refuse to go on conservative talk radio or to debate conservatives.

I bumped into New York Times columnist Tom Friedman at Dulles Airport a few months ago and asked him if he would ever come on talk radio. He said he doesn’t do such shows. Yet, shortly thereafter he went on NPR. What he meant to say was that he doesn’t go on conservative shows.

Why don’t liberals read us or listen to us or debate us?

Because the Left has convinced itself that the Right is unworthy of such attention.

They are certain that conservatives are sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, and bigoted, not to mention anti-intellectual and anti-science.

The Left has a mutually reinforcing dynamic at work here. Because liberals believe conservatives are all these terrible things, they do not bother acquainting themselves with conservative arguments. And because they do not acquaint themselves with conservative arguments, they are able to go on believing that conservatives are all these terrible things.

Take race-based affirmative action. There is overwhelming evidence that it has hurt black college students. Nevertheless, liberals dismiss conservative opposition to affirmative action as racist. Therefore they do not read any of the empirically based studies and arguments against affirmative action. Why read racist hate?

I wonder what it would take to persuade Cornel West to debate Walter Williams or Thomas Sowell on the issue of race-based affirmative action.

One other example: Some of the most eminent climate scientists and physicists have questioned man-made global-warming computer models. Nevertheless, no liberal I am aware of has ever responded to what MIT meteorologist Richard Lindzen or Princeton physicist William Happer has written. After all, if every scientist who challenges global-warming orthodoxy is anti-science, why read their literature?

I wonder what it would take to persuade Al Gore to debate Richard Lindzen on whether man-made carbon-dioxide emissions are leading to a worldwide environmental catastrophe.

So, it is rather rare to see a liberal actually forced to debate conservative intellectuals. And after last week in the Supreme Court, it may become even rarer.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio-talk-show host and columnist. He may be contacted through his website, dennisprager.com.

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