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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Understanding Liberals

I knew that casting flip-flops and profanities at the endless parade of sneering and unctuous liberal talking heads and spinmeisters on TV simply had to stop. I realized I had to take control of my reactions to them or run the risk of either ruining a perfectly good TV set or subjecting myself to a costly regimen of antidepressants.

Long annoyed and distressed by liberal hypocrisy, mendacity, arrogance, recklessly muddled thinking, and, for me, their barely concealed contempt for the proverbial unwashed masses for whom they profess empathy and solidarity, I decided to at least somewhat mitigate my irritation by better understanding what liberals were REALLY all about. By better understanding why they behave as they do, I figured I’d be better able to more objectively deal with them and to moderate my reactions to them. Regaining my composure and keeping my blood pressure in check were my goals.

By attempting to psychologically define the stereotypical liberal I felt I would no longer be unduly stressed by their grossly sophomoric view of reality, intolerable smugness, reckless irresponsibility, their authoritarian proclivities, childish rants and scurrilous ad hominems. Thus, this quest for answers ensued.

Much to my surprise and relief, a respectable amount of thoughtful research on this very question has been compiled by many fine writers, historians and psychologists, many names of whom I have simply forgotten. But, among them are luminaries like Eric Hoffer, whom I had always considered the working man’s philosopher and whose brilliant and penetrating books about mass movements and ideologies I so thoroughly enjoyed both in my high school and college years.

I also relied on the insights of Dr. Lyle Rossiter, author of “The Liberal Mind”, Eric Alan Beltt, writer for Frontiers of Freedom, John Ray, contributor to Front Page Magazine and my most illuminating resource, as well as a number of other thoughtful writers, professionals and thinkers to gain a better understanding of this thing called "liberal".

First, a brief definition of liberalism:

“Classical Liberalism” generally refers to the liberalism which existed before the 20th century which emphasizes rational self-interest, limited republican government, individual moral and social responsibility, equal opportunity, free markets and the inherent rights of individuals to pursue life, liberty and property. (Think America’s founders.)

Classical Liberalism shouldn’t be confused with modern “welfare liberalism” which de-emphasizes the individual by advocating the predominant role of the state via collective class and group action.

Classic liberals espouse the concept of “negative rights” meaning an individual’s freedom from the coercive actions of government and other people. Conversely, modern liberals adhere to the concept of “positive rights”, meaning that individuals have the right to be provided benefits and services from government and others.

Very importantly, modern liberals are more inclined to violate the rules of natural law and of human nature by attempting to impose behavioral/attitudinal norms and intellectual standards by way of paternalistic state-directed collectivism. So, in a real sense, classical liberalism more closely resembles conservatism and libertarianism while modern liberalism embodies socialist and collectivist principles.

That said, Alan Beltt posits in one of his essays that “liberalism isn’t a political ideology; it’s a psychology – the psychology of self-satisfaction to be precise.” This fundamental assertion is worth remembering as we move forward.

According to Beltt, a liberal ideologue’s thinking is driven by an aversion to being ostracized and by a corresponding desire “to feel intelligent, moral, noble, or unique, as well as a desire for peer acceptance and reverence”, but Belt cautions that this characterization of a liberal ideologue is quite apart from the non-activist self-identified liberal who may, from time to time, agree with liberal ideologues owing to parochial self-interest or simply ignorance, e.g. an otherwise politically conservative member of a teacher’s union.

Belt states that the liberal ideologues' common bond is “their straight-forward simplicity” which shuns “real solutions to real problems.” (Like the gov’t takeover of healthcare to expand healthcare services and reduce costs without affecting the quality of healthcare.)

Further, he reasons that the causes for which a liberal fights is “relevant only insofar as different causes stroke different needs [like] moral superiority, intellectual superiority, group acceptance, aversion to emotional trauma, etc.” (Wow! Sounds eerily akin to an adolescent’s emotional and psychological profile, huh?)

Beltt goes on to assert that because liberals are so concerned about their egos that they tend to gravitate to academia, news and entertainment, and the legal professions; that since “liberals want to be society’s elite and powerful” being a part of an elite social circle is extremely important to them; that because they want to feel good about themselves they’re wholly dependent upon how others feel about them. Thus, what better way to earn others’ respect and awe than by being a successful academician, entertainer or lawyer, etc (Therefore, cannot it be safely said that emotional immaturity and a child-like need for peer acceptance are dominant liberal indicators?)

To feel a sense of superiority, liberals unquestionably regard the poor, the uneducated, southerners, conservatives, religious people, and minorities as inferior. (Remember Obama’s “clinging to their guns and religion” screed?) By feeding the poor and downtrodden, liberals seek expressions of gratitude and praise, and, in turn, an affirmation of their superiority, which is, of course, their overarching goal. Wow! It's finally coming together.

Liberals also continually regard international acceptance and popularity as a must. (Does Obama’s “apology tour” come to mind?) Why? Because one can’t feel morally and intellectually superior if others don’t look up to you. To the liberal, then, personal affirmation, personal consequences and avoiding unpopularity invariably take precedence over national security. This fits nicely with the modern liberal’s opposition to “unilateral action” since negative consequences of such actions would fall squarely upon them rendering them morally accountable to their international elitist peers.

Conversely, any negative consequences of “multilateralism” can be shared with their liberal allies around the world. (Thus, their unstinting support of the UN and other international/globalist organizations.) So, in short, it’s really all about ego. (Thus, it seems that some of us simply never outgrow our adolescent insecurities.)

Beltt nicely illustrates the egotism of liberals by describing the manner in which they argue and debate. As he succinctly observes, “to conservatives, debate is about issues…but to liberals it is about them.” (Ah! Now I get it. Like debating with a self-centered teenager.)

In a debate, the liberal “either wants to prove his superiority or the other person’s inferiority, or both”, and rather than lose the debate, the liberal invariably relies on ad hominems, wild-eyed claims of bigotry, and evasion—the psychological defense mechanisms of the insecure and the narcissist.

Obviously, this can be very infuriating to the unwary classical liberal, conservative or libertarian who seeks substantive dialogue and fact based solutions. For liberals, however, the purpose of politics is to stoke their egos, and political power is the ultimate affirmation of that superiority. So, in a very real sense, political power is the means to personal gratification. (Thus, it’s likely distressingly true that genuinely selfless service is very much an alien motivator for most liberals, but, I’m sure, for some other politicians of different political stripes as well.)

Gee! I’m feeling better already. Knowledge really is power. So, in effect, what I (and you) have been dealing with are neurotic me-first kids in adult bodies. Nothing more, nothing less.

Finally, Beltt suggests that liberals tend to be “intellectually lazy”. Their fixation with “shades of gray” and moral relativism is stereotypically liberal which inevitably leads to ethereal and feel-good answers that merely “sound right” (like affirmative action, gun control, socialized healthcare, anti-war movements, aversion to tax cuts) but which are, if more carefully weighed, simply illogical or intellectually indefensible. Relying upon rational thought clearly means abandoning their pursuit of vainglorious personal affirmation, a frightening risk the liberal would surely avoid like the plague. And since deeply delving into an opponent’s argument could factually disprove a liberal’s position and thus diminish his sense of intellectual superiority, such an intellectual exercise would, of course, be routinely avoided. (And since “it is much easier [for a liberal] to just assume someone has different values than it is to try to understand why they believe what they believe,” I have to wonder if a typical liberal would as objectively examine the conservative mind as non-liberals have examined the liberal mind. Very doubtful, as this would require some uncomfortable level of self-examination and self-discovery as well. Oops. Can’t have that.)

Moving on, John Ray posits that “Rightists [as opposed to Leftists] have no need either for change or its opposite and may oppose change if they see it as destructive or favor change if they see it as constructive.” To liberals, however, their motive for changing society is to “draw attention to themselves…as being wise, innovative, caring, etc.”

In a somewhat less tempered manner, Mr. Ray discusses a variety of liberal positions which, for him, illustrate the liberal phenomenon:

1. Human Nature: Leftists reject the immutability of human nature and heredity. To the liberal, virtually all human behavior can be molded and shaped, and acquired characteristics can be genetically passed on. (Among other things, this might well explain their attachment to high-minded “restorative justice”, social engineering and their single-minded attempt to dominate public education.)

2. The Church: Leftists are generally antagonistic toward ecclesiastical authorities which “enforce conventional morality” for the purpose of ensuring societal and familial order. Having infiltrated many churches, secular Leftists hope to further erode Christian power and influence while expanding their own. (For example, the accommodation of same-sex marriage on the part of some churches today is illustrative of this infiltration.) Leftists generally favor abortion, contraception, those more primitive religions which are less threatening, oppose religious schooling and financial support for parochial schools. To Ray, Liberals attempt “to exploit Judeo-Christian teachings of love and compassion [in order to] promote the usual Leftist goals of enforced equality.”

3. Anti-Racist Hypocrisy: liberals camouflage their own anti-Semitism and racism by viciously and unrelentingly attacking others who disagree with them for harboring those feelings. (Classic Psych 101 “transference”.) Marx, Hitler and Stalin, among other Leftists, were notoriously anti-Semitic and racist and always justified their actions in the name of “the people”. It’s worth noting that all the mass murders of the 20th century were perpetrated by Leftists and “virulent racism” can and does, in fact, exist on the Left. Spiro Agnew described Leftists as “limousine liberals” who seldom opt to actually live in neighborhoods with a sizeable number of minority residents. Also to Ray, the profusion of documentaries about Hitler in the liberal dominated media and the relative paucity of documentaries about Stalin attest to the Left’s barely disguised “obsession” with Nazism. This is not to say that modern liberals are Nazis, only that they are cut from the same psychological cloth.

4. Racism: liberals “tend to characterize as racist almost anyone who is honest about his or her perfectly normal feelings of group identity.” Why? To earn personal acclaim for their compassion and adherence to “equality” and, of course, to weaken intergroup cohesiveness. (Race-baiting is a means to divide and conquer.) With respect to Americans and capitalism, Ray sees an uncomfortable commonality of disenchantment among liberals, Muslim fanatics, and “Green” extremists. He also examines the Left’s hypocritical level of intensity when it comes to strongly condemning European or Western “atrocities” (like the “infamous” Abu Graib, Guantanamo, America’s treatment of illegal aliens) while seldom excoriating Pol Pot’s “killing fields”, Stalin’s “gulag”, Japan’s raping and pillaging of China, Kim Il Sung’s death camps, and a whole host of “mini-holocausts” perpetrated in Africa and other developing areas of the world.)

5. Equality & Moral Equivalence: “In the name of bringing about equality, Leftists get an excuse to tear down the whole of existing structure of society—something that they need to do to give themselves any chance of fulfilling their dream of taking over all power for themselves. It is the fact that they are not in charge of everything that the leftist most of all wants to change.” (The so-called “dumbing down” of America’s educational system and the accent on promoting self-esteem over healthy competition and achievement is an excellent example of liberalism’s enforced equality. Exempted, of course, are the liberal elites themselves who foist defective public education standards on the general public while dispatching their children to private schools. You’ll notice that school vouchers are robustly opposed by the left.) This pursuit of “equality” invariably leads to their advocacy of redistribution of income, progressive taxation, inheritance and death taxes, generous foreign aid, feminism, gay rights, and socialized medicine. Further, Leftists express their amoral belief in “moral equivalence” by, for example, asserting the moral equivalence--or equivalent blameworthiness or praiseworthiness--of Islamic terrorists and Christian fundamentalists. Mr. Ray describes their amorality as “the mark of a psychopath--the moral imbecile” which simply can’t tell the difference between right and wrong and, therefore, cannot be held accountable for any brutality and unpleasantness which might result from such simplistic and coldhearted shallowness. (Sounds eerily akin to the way our justice system views underaged criminals, huh? So, it shouldn’t surprise us that KSM and his terrorist buddies are being accorded due-process protections and trial by a civilian court in NYC.)

6. Political Correctness: leftists attempt to change our views of other groups by arbitrarily altering the words we use to describe them, e.g. undocumented immigrant vs illegal alien, but also by ensuring the inability of airport security to more carefully examine those who are more likely than other racial groups to pose a terrorist threat, and by willfully ignoring the militant Islamism and anti-Americanism of the infamous Maj. Hassan all in the name of empty-headed “diversity”, etc. So, while they talk a good game about breaking down barriers, providing a “big tent” and encouraging an open discussion of racial and cultural differences, the Leftist’s real game is to quash honest dialogue, knowledge and debate in order to divide and dominate.

7. The Leftist Appeal: “liberals are attracted to absurd offers of something for nothing; their sense of equality is motivated more by their goal of bringing those in power down than to raising everyone up. As for the elitist power structure itself, its real goal is to be more equal than others.” A good example of this is the Communist Party in the USSR to whose members special privileges, goods and services were accorded to the exclusion of other Soviet citizens.

8. Guilt v Compassion: expressions or demonstrations of liberal compassion are dictated by “a desire for self-righteousness, praise, power and excitement” and not by any genuine sense of guilt. Selfishly motivated, the typical liberal expects government—not themselves--to finance liberal expressions of compassion. Thus, their overarching goal is power and influence, not the betterment of mankind.

9. Religion: now more than ever, Mr. Ray clearly believes that Leftism has in many ways evolved into a secular religion. In universities, “Marxism is often treated as a theology” whose every wisdom is so carefully examined by professorial keepers of the faith. Through this brainwashing, the goal of liberals is to eclipse the power and influence of the church. Generally, liberals want churches to serve their agenda so that liberalism’s political domination can be more readily achieved. Like in spiritual based religions, Leftists too need to believe in things which sound good even if they cannot be proven.

10. Other Causes of Liberalism: especially to impressionable youth seeking peer acceptance, “heroic” advocacy of human rights and the needs of the downtrodden is “cool”; the fraudulent appeal of easy or simple solutions to complex problems and the need for instant self-gratification; the need for acceptance by non-conformists, misfits, pacifists, social pariahs, idealists, malcontents, fanatics, the ambitious, the bored and “the weird”. (Eric Hoffer figured this out long ago.)

11. Leftists in Academe: since the humanities and social science schools of US colleges and universities are “monopolized” by liberals, these schools “are intolerant of diversity, opposed to free speech, and discriminatory in their hiring practices.” (In others words, conservatives need not apply.) However, Mr. Ray reassuringly notes that given that most intelligent graduates go into the business world (real world) rather than the teaching field (theoretical world), and that there are now many alternative sources of information (broadcasting) currently dominating the American scene, liberalism’s impact on most graduates is, fortunately, fleeting. (But, keep your eye on the FCC which, in the hands of Progressives, will always attempt to curtail or altogether eliminate divergent viewpoints on the airwaves.)

12. Egotism: thinking well of oneself is, in general, healthy; however, excessive self-satisfaction or self-esteem is abnormal and can lead to criminal behavior, a misplaced entitlement mentality, an irrational sense of superiority, elitism, a cavalier attitude toward others, a simplistic and unrealistic understanding of the forces at play in our lives, a neurotic need for constant affirmation, maladaptive denial of inconvenient or dispiriting truths and realities, and other psychopathological problems. Egotism afflicts the liberal mind.

Mr. Ray soberly concludes one of his recent papers on liberalism by cautioning that though liberals deceive us by their noisy advocacy of democratic principles, “Leftism IS intrinsically authoritarian and power-loving and will always therefore tend in the direction of government domination” and will succeed only if not impeded by other forces and influences. And given the opportunity which comes from political power, Leftists, true to form, will quickly expand their power by fashioning oppressive bureaucracies to facilitate their socialist and collectivist goals. (And, yes, folks, that expansion is already taking place at breakneck speed. Do the Dept. of Education, EPA and other suffocating regulatory bodies come to mind?) He also imputes that to Leftists constitutional constraints are but inconvenient hurdles to be either circumvented or overwhelmed. (Strict Constitutional constructionists and originalists they surely aren't.)

“Giving any power to Leftists is a most dangerous thing to do,” Ray warns, “and working to prevent that happening is a matter of no small importance.”

Finally, when recently speaking with two professional acquaintances, one a Volunteer Coordinator and the other a military retiree, I was at once mystified and distressed by what clearly appeared to be their unwavering view that since most Americans had already irretrievably morphed into permissive and dependent automatons that there was really nothing more that could done, or, indeed, should be done to resist America’s socialist transformation. In fact, any commitment to action on their part to restore and defend American exceptionalism seemed to be altogether absent or, at best, tentative. I couldn’t help but think that these otherwise regular folks, had simply given up hope and resigned themselves to quietly and willingly succumb to the new Progressive order, much like the sleeping human victims of the alien pods in “Invaders from Space” were transformed.

Thus, while their words seemed to express their disappointment over the country’s direction, they seemed strangely resigned to a fate over which they felt they could not—or worse—did not want to exercise any meaningful level of control. I remained bewildered by their almost unyielding resistance to remedy the situation by their own political engagement and activism. Very disturbing, indeed. I can only hope and pray that these folks are not typical of most Americans, for if they are America is surely doomed. And I guess this is why I’m a stalwart Conservative, aka Classical Liberal: I want to protect my individual rights and liberties from an overreaching authority no matter what form that authority may take. And as a grassroots activist, I am completely unwilling to resign myself to a socialist or statist fate.

Finally, what this research has taught me is that yielding to, compromising with or in any way accommodating modern Liberalism merely to achieve some semblance of transitory peace is foolhardy, suicidal and simply not a rational option. Tough love, pushing back deliberately and firmly, refusing to back off, and not simply emotionally reacting to their adolescent and self-destructive behavior is the tried and true course to follow. Thus, it appears that patriots and parents really do have much in common.

So let’s roll, America! And don't for a moment allow them to get the best of us, or, more importantly, our Republic