The Corner

Three Observations About the Left and Civility

Even as I chuckled at Ian’s post about Democratic hysterics over the farm bill, I realized that the leftist response is no laughing matter. I have three thoughts:

First, excepting an exceedingly cynical minority, leftists use this rhetoric because they really, truly believe it. They truly believe we don’t care about kids. They truly believe we conservatives want people — especially minorities — to live in poverty if it means preserving our perceived wealth and privilege. In part they believe this because they tend to live in more concentrated monocultures than conservatives, and are more used to talking about us than talking to us.  

Second, as intensely as they believe we are evil, they believe in their own ideological virtue. Thus, they often take a critique of their ideas in the same way that others take personal insults — as direct frontal assaults on their character. This makes civil disagreement difficult and causes dialogue to degenerate quickly to an exercise in public shaming.

Third, conservatives are sick to death of this nonsense. It’s tearing our nation apart — one tweet and Facebook post at a time. At the dawn of the modern era of political correctness, my conservative friends (especially my conservative Christian friends) tended to respond with shock and consternation when facing accusations of racisim, sexism, homophobia, etc. “No, no, I’m really a nice guy!” Now, the response is either derisive or — more likely for the less political among us — sullen, seething silence. This is not how great constitutional democracies are nurtured and maintained.

I don’t mean to say that conservatives are immune from these failings — and I’ve certainly seen an unhealthy amount of the same tactics from some on the right — but there is simply no comparison between conservatives and liberals in the level of tolerance for dissent or in the assumption of the worst of motives for disagreements. Depending on the issue, from the Supreme Court to the academy to a disagreement between “friends” on social media, the unshakeable assumption is that a person who isn’t in favor of our bloated, poverty-perpetuating welfare state or isn’t an enthusiastic participatant in the sexual revolution is merely a cruel, vicious, greedy, self-seeking bigot.

And that brings to mind this golden oldie from Jon Stewart . . . enjoy:


David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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