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An Essay With Something For Everyone to Dislike

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We begin with a handful of quotes on the subject of conservatives and conservatism:

  • Alexis de Toqueville: "I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social
    Alexis de Tocqueville
    advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all."
  • Mark Twain: "Conservatism is the blind and fear-filled worship of dead radicals. "
  • Woodrow Wilson: "A conservative is someone who makes no changes and consults his grandmother when in doubt."
  • William F. Buckley, Jr.: " A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling "Stop!'."
  • William E. Gladstone: "Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear."
  • Barry Goldwater: "Today's so-called "conservatives' don't even know what the word means. They think I've turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That's a decision that's up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right. It's not a conservative issue at all."
  • P.J. O'Rourke: "The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then get elected and prove it."

Now that we've got the conservative diastolic on the rise, let's move on to a handful of quotes about liberals and liberalism:

  • Thomas Sowell: "Liberalism is totalitarianism with a human face."
  • Robert Frost: "A liberal is a man too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel."
  • E.J. Dionne, Jr.: "Liberals and conservatives disagree over what are the most important sins. For conservatives, the sins that matter are personal irresponsibility, the flight from family life, sexual permissiveness, the failure of individuals to work hard. For liberals, the gravest sins are intolerance, a lack of generosity toward the needy, narrow-mindedness toward social and racial minorities.
  • Charles Krauthammer: To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.
  • Ann Coulter: "Liberals become indignant when you question their patriotism, but simultaneously work overtime to give terrorists a cushion for the next attack and laugh at dumb Americans who love their country and hate the enemy."
  • Yevgeny Yevtushenko : " Why is it that right-wing bastards always stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, while liberals fall out among themselves?"
  • Lenny Bruce: "The liberals can understand everything but people who don't understand them. "

The above should raise the liberal systolic by a few points.

Now on to a statement that should get both sides riled:

If, God forbid, America ever becomes a second-rate nation, it will undoubtedly be because the cupidinous morons on the right have been aided and abetted by the weak-kneed cowards on the left. You read me correctly: the conservatives are morons; the liberals are cowards. The former is scientifically verifiable; the latter, anecdotally conjectural.

Last month, Gordon Hodson, a widely respected Professor of Psychology at Brock University in Ontario (Canada) published a long-awaited study in the journal Psychological Science. Entitled Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes, Professor Hodson's controversial study compared childhood intelligence with political views in adulthood across more than 15,000 people. Hodson and his colleagues came to the conclusion that " . . . lower general intelligence in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and [that] this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology." In other words, as summarized by the Daily Mail's Rob Waugh, "Right-wingers tend to be less intelligent than left-wingers, and people with low childhood intelligence tend to grow up to have racist and anti-gay views . . . . Conservative politics work almost as a 'gateway' into prejudice against others . . . . People with low intelligence gravitate towards right-wing views because they make them feel safe."

This by no means is meant to suggest that all conservatives are stupid. Goodness knows, it certainly takes clever people to convince a fearful segment of the American public of such patent inanities as:

  • Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
  • Those who claim that climate change discuss man-made are elitist members of an eco-fascist-communist-anarchist conspiracy.
  • A tax break for the 1% is the only hope for the 99%.
  • Any regulation that claims to prevent big banks and corporations from exploiting us is in reality, an assault on working man and woman.
  • The federal deficit results largely from the greed of the poor.
  • The President of the United States is waging a war on religion.

Writing about the new conservatives in the online journal Truthout, former longtime GOP congressional staffer Mike Longren noted, To be sure, the [Republican] party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots . . . . But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman . . . Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy."

Not to be outdone, former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum (who coined the phrase "Axis of Evil") wrote in a recent New York article:

Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority. Outside the system, President Obama, whatever his policy errors, is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he's a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action phony doomed to inevitable defeat. Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) the only place in the world where it doesn't matter who your parents were or where you came from.

Creating and selling (if not fully believing) this right-wing reality takes a lot of craftiness, if not downright intelligence; it also takes a trainload of cash and a cadre of folks who have no problem taking advantage of millions upon millions of what Lofgren calls "low-information voters." What the likes of the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Foster Friese and the other right-wing billionaires (among those possessing the trainloads of cash) have discovered is that there is no pool too shallow in which millions cannot and will not drown.

But beyond the creating, the funding and the selling of this "alternate knowledge," there is the cowardice and downright complaisance of America's liberals and progressives. As Thomas Frank notes in his latest book, Pity the Billionaire much of the blame rests with liberals and progressives, who suffer from what he calls "terminal niceness." As the Guardian's George Monbiot describes it, the Democrats, ". . . fail to produce a coherent analysis of what has gone wrong and why, or . . . make an uncluttered case for social justice [and] regulation." Instead, he argues, they "triangulate and accommodate, hesitate and prevaricate."

Indeed, the conceptual stupidities of conservatism are more than matched by the strategic stupidities of liberalism. If ever the American political system is to right itself, the Right will have to stop feeding caustic misinformation to a haunted, fearful, low-information public, and the Left will have to overcome its reticence and shout STOP!

Enough of this even-handedness! Let us end with one last quote . . . from John Stewart Mill:

"Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative."

-2012 Kurt F. Stone

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Kurt Stone is a rabbi, writer, lecturer, political activist, professor, actor, and medical ethicist. A true "Hollywood brat" (born and raised in the film industry), Kurt was educated at the University of California, the Eagleton Institute of (more...)
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