A politician’s name comes up in conversation. The setting is a coffee klatch with random tidbits of talk bouncing around the table. Silence, awkward silence. Something about the weather and the random buzz resumes as if the political intrusion never happened.
Excluding politics from “polite conversation” was probably started by a politician since scrutiny generally doesn’t advance their careers. But since 2016, we don’t even know how to talk to each other about current events, and the silence has gone from awkward to hostile.
So, who’s the “Them” and “Us” in this ruckus? Traditionally, it has been Democrats vs. Republicans with a whole bunch of people in between bouncing from one side to the other at election time. They are also called liberals on the Democrat side, and conservatives are the opposition.
Conservatives are the fuddy duddy sticks in the mud who think the country has been going steadily downhill since 1789; liberals’ philosophy is modified by every poll and their attitude toward government is the bigger the better. Since there is only one government for the two of them, why do they have so much trouble talking to each other?
“The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt seeks to analyze this dilemma. In his book, he constructs a moral matrix for liberals and conservatives made up of the following components:
According to Haidt’s thesis, liberals are most heavily influenced by the Care/Harm potential of a question. Slightly less about Liberty/Oppression and to a lesser extent about Fairness/Cheating. The remaining three don’t enter into their consideration.
Conservatives care equally strong about all six component sets.
It is not necessary to analyze these categories to see that liberals and conservatives differ organically when they set about to consider political questions. That begs the question: Since we have been reasoning together amicably for over 200 years and respecting each others’ differences, where has all the recent animosity come from?
Enter the Liberal Elite
Except for those whose profession was politics, the wealthy have remained aloof from politics publicly. The concepts of elitism and democracy aren’t especially compatible, but today’s noveau riche have accumulated their fortunes at younger ages than in the past due, in part, to the explosion in electronic communications. Consequently, when making money is no longer a challenge, they look to its aphrodisiac twin, power, to form the next challenge essential in their lives. Since they have been “in charge” through most of their career, the only worthy challenge left is political power.
Ironically, even though their wealth accumulation was made possible by the choices available in a free enterprise economy, political power hemmed in by checks and balances is less attractive than authoritarianism offered by liberal big government. Besides, as evidenced by their wealth, they have knowledge and talent that few people possess so why should they not be entitled to tell the rest of us how to live? Are these not the elite of our society?
And so Liberal Elites write the rules followed by their flock who are known as liberals. Those rules include
- Government is the supreme power.
- Rich people deserve to be taxed just because they are rich.
- Regulations are an essential protection for the poor and middle class.
- Budget deficits don’t matter.
- A pliant and obsequious foreign policy will keep the peace. Military spending is a huge waste.
- GDP growth cannot ever again exceed two percent because of demographics brought on by an aging population.
There is a lot more, but that is the general idea. No deviation is allowed.
The conservative view is far more concise: Government is good which governs the least. Change is bad.
Then Came 2016
Eight years of doctrinaire liberalism under Barack Obama caused enough people to ask the question: Does life really need to be this dismal? They put a non-politician in the White House in the person of Donald Trump. Most campaign rhetoric is just that, designed to gather votes from the fickle middle in sufficient quantity to carry the electoral college. After that, it’s business as usual, whether Democrat or Republican.
Trump, a businessman, set about to keep his campaign promises and, in a year and a half in office, has proven most of the liberal rules cited above are invalid. For example, the GDP growth limit of two percent was blown away by a four-plus percent number in the most recent quarter.
In short, liberals don’t have an intellectual leg to stand on anymore.
How do Liberals Respond?
Manufactured outrage is the short answer.
- Get rid of all immigration control and enforcement.
- Any action which goes against their self-interest is racist.
- Immigrant parent/child separation.
- Tax cut was for the benefit of the rich with only crumbs for the middle class.
- Our President is a liar. No examples ever given.
- Russia, Russia, Russia.
Ignored are economic and diplomatic achievements by the current administration.
It is entirely appropriate that voters will have the final say over the next two election cycles. In the meantime, I leave you with a few applicable words from William Shakespeare: This life, which had been the tomb of his virtue and of his honour, is but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.