June 4, 2013

Conservatives Resent ‘Other’ People, Liberals Resent Bygone Policy

If there is a fundamental reason to attack false equivalence, it would be the difference between what fuels conservatives and what fuels liberals. There are no shortage of personal attacks lobbed from both sides, but there is one key difference — conservatives resent “other” people; liberals resent bygone policy (usually supported by conservatives).

I’m not saying everything a conservative says, does, or supports is a direct result of resentment (particularly of so-called New York or Washington “elites”), but resentment of the “other” is a big motivating factor in conservative politics. As for liberals, while they may show plenty of vitriol for conservatives, their policy motivation is injustice in the world; injustice that conservatives perpetuate with archaic and outmoded ideas.

Many conservatives, especially older and whiter conservatives, would like to see the hands on the clock stop, or even turn back, to an imaginary better time. Maybe in their lives, a better time was in the past, but for many minorities in America, the past was a bit more inauspicious. Conservatives fear social change, because from their perspective, it moves them further away from that special time in the past they so cherish. — Even if that time never actually existed, altered by pop culture revisionism, resulting in something less than 20/20 hindsight. — It doesn’t matter if conservative policies — that attempt to roll back the clock — are harmful to the rights and freedoms of minority groups, so long as these discriminatory policies appease the paranoid conservative mind, providing convincing evidence that the established order of (white) authority is still soundly in place.

To give you an example of what I’m talking about, read Josh Barro’s response to an attack by conservative pundit Erick Erickson:

Conservative pundit Erick Erickson doesn’t like me. This morning he wrote 900 words about why.

But the main thing his post reveals is what’s wrong with Erickson – and with a Republican party that is built to appeal to people like Erickson.

He starts by noting that I am “a late twenty-something gay male.” I’m not sure why my sexual orientation is mentioned right at the top of his hit piece on me, following only my age. (Just kidding; I know exactly why Erickson mentioned this so early.) But at least this statement, unlike some that follow it, has the virtue of being correct.

But the bulk of the piece isn’t even really about me; it’s about Erickson’s resentment of New York- and Washington-based “elites.” He says our location makes it harder to “connect to the real world,” as though New York and Washington were not real places populated by real people.

And for two decades, the Republican party’s strategy to overcome its disadvantage on economic issues has been a cultural appeal to people like Erickson: non-urban whites who feel threatened by social change. That is, the kind of people who think it’s an alarming trend that women are financially independent, or who think the most salient fact about a writer they dislike might be his sexual orientation.

Erick Erickson - photo by Gage Skidmore

If you read Erickson’s piece, you see he is fueled by resentment of the unworthy or the “other.” To contrast that with how I operate; I’m not concerned with liberal reform, or getting my liberal messaging inline with an ideological movement. I’m driven by what’s right and what’s wrong. When I see a lot of what the modern Republican Party supports (or doesn’t support) I see a lot of things that are simply wrong. I don’t despise Republicans, I despise their obsolete and discriminatory policy.

Erik Erickson — The real conservative reformers have to fight it out in the already crowded space for reform with the poseurs. But once we get to them, we are presented with the original problem mentioned above. They are in New York and Washington.

And I don’t believe there is a “real” America somewhere. There is no place in the United States that is more American than another place. And this kind of talk is an example of conservatives who are driven by resentment.

So yes, we liberals do throw rhetorical bombs at conservatives, but we liberals are not trying to shape legislative policy based on resentment of the “other.”

photo by Gage Skidmore

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