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Are conservatives mean, greedy, and stupid? A response to Lakoff

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In a recent article The "New Centrism" and Its Discontents, George Lakoff wrote

Progressives have to get over the idea that conservatives are either stupid, or mean, or greedy -- or all three. Conservatives are mostly people who have a different moral system from progressives.

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That statement irked me, because it seems to me that there are plenty of powerful, mean, and greedy conservatives, and plenty of uninformed and gullible -- if not stupid -- voters.


Evil by Wikimedia Commons

For example, how about the infamous Koch brothers? Aren't they greedy? And how about wealthy Senators pushing for tax cuts for the rich? (See this page.) Plenty of rich corporations and individuals (e.g., insurance company executives and even doctors) donate handsomely to conservative causes partly in hope of keeping taxes and regulations low. Surely, that's based largely on greed. Military contractors who support (neo)conservative policies are another example.

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For example, how about the infamous Koch brothers? Aren't they greedy? And how about wealthy Senators pushing for tax cuts for the rich? (See this page.) Plenty of rich corporations and individuals (e.g., insurance company executives and even doctors) donate handsomely to conservative causes partly in hope of keeping taxes and regulations low. Surely, that's based largely on greed. Military contractors who support (neo)conservative policies are another example.

Whether these people are mean is harder to say. I'm sure many conservatives are loving parents. George Bush is probably a likable fellow in person. And the vast majority of middle and lower class conservatives are good people too, I'm sure.

But, damn, it sure seems that sending young men to fight and die for lies is mean. Actively deceiving the populace and the Congress about the evidence for going to war is about as mean as you can get. Same with supporting torture. (See Defenders of Torture Unite.) Cutting taxes for the super-rich when millions of people are struggling to survive and the country is in debt sure seems mean. Conservative corruption, privatization, and indifference to corporate malfeasance (e.g., toxic pollution) are also mean. Perhaps the meanness is impersonal and bureaucratic -- banal, in Hannah Arendt's verbiage. But it's still mean.

So, it's a gross simplification to say that conservatives aren't greedy and mean, in my opinion.

Perhaps some conservatives actually think they're doing the right thing for the nation and the world. No excuse. They're still mean.

As for the whether conservatives are stupid, I admit: rich conservatives aren't usually stupid. They're smart enough to protect their own interests. Karl Rove wasn't stupid.

The conservatives who appear to be stupid are the middle and lower class people who vote against their own (economic) self-interest by supporting candidates who will ship their jobs overseas, send their sons off to immoral wars, slash government services, defund their pensions (including Social Security), and cut taxes and regulations on the rich.

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It's unwise and elitist to call such voters "stupid". (In fact, calling people whose support we need "stupid" is pretty darn stupid.) But the point remains, why are people voting against their own self-interest? Are they dupes?

Perhaps some of them sincerely value the wedge issues (guns, gays, abortion, and religion) more than they value their economic well-being. In that case, they're not stupid, they just have different values, right?

Perhaps.

But perhaps some of these people need to be trained to have the right values and beliefs. (Yeah, call me elitist.) Like valuing peace and empathy and non-violence. And believing in more science and less superstition.

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http://waliberals.org
DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See http://WALiberals.org and http://TruthSite.org for my writing, my (more...)
 

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