Conservatives Tolerate Survival

posted at 2:55 pm on April 18, 2011 by Mitch Berg

I’ll cop to it.  I’ve gotten a little impatient with some of the conservative and Republican folks I meet who spin their wheels and fret about why the GOP in Saint Paul and Washington hasn’t slashed spending and cut taxes and privatized Social Security and Medicare and defunded the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and ended the deficit and…

I remind them: we only control 1/3 of the process for passing bills in DC, and 2/3 in Saint Paul (I live in Minnesota; your state may vary).  You’re only as powerful as your last election.  The Republicans were pitifully weak after 2008; we are doing much better this year.  We owe it to our future to do better still in 2012.

And as I make that response, I wonder – are there people on the left who have the same kind of myopia?

Intellectually, of course, I know it; I see it every day.  The biggest recent example: the Wisconsin Supreme Court election aftermath, where the Democrats called a 200 vote win a “reversal of Scott Walker’s mandate!”, but say the new 7,300 vote win for Prosser is “inconclusive”.

But Sally Kohn freezes that same little snapshot in liberal thought in a Strib editorial: “Are Liberals Suckers?

The list of liberal laments about President Obama keeps getting longer: He extended the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

Health-care reform didn’t include a public option. In the frantic final hours of the budget negotiations, instead of calling the GOP’s bluff, he agreed to historic cuts in progressive programs.

And recently, in response to conservatives’ focus on the deficit, Obama said that we have to “put everything on the table.”

What is the problem here? Is it a lack of leadership from the White House, a failure to out-mobilize the Tea Party or not enough long-term investment from liberal donors?

The real problem isn’t a liberal weakness. It’s something liberals have proudly seen as a strength – our deep-seated dedication to tolerance.

“Liberal tolerance”.

It’s tempting to snort back “the movement that brought us campus speech codes, and rigid academic groupspeak, the movement that Orwell caricatured in Animal Farm and warned us about in 1984?  Too “tolerant?””

And Kohn’s piece gives you little reason to seek a better argument.

In any given fight, tolerance is benevolent, while intolerance gets in the good punches.

Tolerance plays by the rules, while intolerance fights dirty. The result is round after round of knockouts against liberals who think they’re high and mighty for being open-minded but who, politically and ideologically, are simply suckers.

“Chimpy McBushitler”.

“Tom Emmer Hates Gays”.

“The GOP Plan Would Throw Grandma Out In The Street And Shut Down The Schools”.

“We need “Nuremberg Trials” for “Global Warming Denialists!”

The key flaw – well, one of them – in Kohn’s thesis is that liberals are not tolerant.  While tolerance for dissent is a virtue of classical liberalism – think Jefferson and Payne and Locke and Rousseau, not Nancy Pelosi – it’s a simple fact that not only are modern big-l “Liberals” not especially tolerant, but the things they call “intolerance” on the right are, by and large, not.

Indeed, Kohn undercuts her own ideal: one of the keys to social intolerance is the need to give one’s own side a basis for not tolerating “the enemy”; for saying “we don’t have to tolerate them, because we’re better than they are”. And Kohn does exactly that:

Social science research has long dissected the differences between liberals and conservatives.

“Social science” is to “science” as “mock duck” is to “duck”.

Liberals supposedly have better sex, but conservatives are happier.

She’s half right.  Conservatives have  better sex and are happier.

Liberals are more creative; conservatives more trustworthy.

And, since the 1930s, political psychologists have argued that liberals are more tolerant.

And while I’m admittedly dealing in stereotype here, I don’t believe I’m alone in wondering if there is a group on earth who would be more self-serving in saying “liberals are better people!” than a group labelled “political psychologists”.

Specifically, those who hold liberal political views are more likely to be open-minded, flexible and interested in new ideas and experiences, while those who hold conservative political views are more likely to be closed-minded, conformist and resistant to change.

But those same studies showed liberals to be prone to being influenced, wishy-washy and mercurial, while conservatives are more principled, less narcissistic, tougher negotiators (in a broad sense) and – this is important – better at choosing adjectives to describe the results of “political psychologists’ studies”.

Brain-imaging studies have even suggested that conservative brains are hard-wired for fear, while the part of the brain that tolerates uncertainty is bigger in liberal heads.

Which proves saber-toothed tigers ate more liberals, but not much more.

Kohn finally leaves the realm of junk social science to move on to current events:

Dissecting Obama’s negotiation strategy in the budget fight, Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times, “It looks from here as if the president’s idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the G.O.P., leading to further concessions.”

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein has criticized Obama for similarly failing to take a strong position on energy policy. But perhaps the president is only playing out the psychological tendencies of his base.

In the weeks leading up to the budget showdown, the Pew Research Center found that 50 percent of Republicans wanted their elected representatives to “stand by their principles,” even if it meant causing the federal government to shut down.

Among those who identified as Tea Party supporters, that figure was 68 percent. Conversely, 69 percent of Democrats wanted their representatives to avoid a shutdown, even if it meant compromising on principles.

With supporters like that, who needs Rand Paul?

So is Obama losing because he’s “too tolerant”?  Because he didn’t turn his mandate into political results?

I think Kohn, Krugman and Klein would have you forget Obama’s “the election is over, John” jape during  the Obamacare debate.  Or the certitude with which Obama’s majority in Congress jammed down Obamacare.

So is Obama “too tolerant”?  Or has he just turned out to be a weak, wishy-washy leader who squandered an epic mandate?

As Thomas Jefferson put it in his first inaugural address, those who might wish to dissolve the newly established union should be left “undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”

But some errors, by their nature, undermine reason.

Writing in 1945, philosopher Karl Popper called this the “paradox of tolerance” – that unlimited tolerance leads to the disappearance of tolerance altogether.

To put the current political climate in Popper’s terms, if liberals are not willing to defend against the rigid demands of their political opponents, who are emboldened by their own unwavering opinions, their full range of open-minded positions will be destroyed.

Liberals are neutered by their own tolerance.

Liberals, as we saw in Wisconsin over the winter and on campuses every spring, are not “overtolerant”, to be kind.

They are on the political decline.  They lost in 2010; national reapportionment will weaken them more this year, and demographics don’t favor them in ten years either.  Things are touch-and-go for 2012, but there is a decent chance they lose the Senate.

Liberals aren’t weak because they’re “tolerant”; they’re not, but that’s irrelevant.  Liberals are weak because they are selling a bill of goods that fewer people are buying.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
To see the comments on the original post, look here.


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I remind them: we only control 1/3 of the process for passing bills in DC

But our government includes checks and balances, and one of them is that the House, the People’s House it’s sometimes called, controls the purse strings. That’s not an accident.

Our founding fathers included checks and balances for precisely the sort of situation we find ourselves in today.

FloatingRock on April 18, 2011 at 3:00 PM

The list of liberal laments about President Obama keeps getting longer: He extended the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

For a whopping 2 years. WOW! The libs are right, he’s a new Reagan.

angryed on April 18, 2011 at 3:05 PM

Liberals are neutered by their own tolerance.

Of despots, dictators, and fanatics? Sure.

Count to 10 on April 18, 2011 at 3:05 PM

This is why I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the USA. “Liberals” really think they are tolerant. They have a complete break from reality and they can’t see it. Horrifyingly enough, there are a LOT of them. Public ‘education’, academia, and Hollywood have done a bang up job. Why I just read this morning that, according to some university researchers, we evil conservatives are to blame for teens killing themselves. Ugh…

pannw on April 18, 2011 at 3:06 PM

It’s amazing how libs think.
They nationalized health care.
They nationalized banks.
They nationalized the auto industry,
They nationalized student loans.
They destroyed the offshore drilling indusry.
They are about to get their $5 gas and force everyone into driving a Hyundai Accent.

All that in 2 years.

And they’re still unhappy.

angryed on April 18, 2011 at 3:10 PM

FloatingRock on April 18, 2011 at 3:00 PM

And how, short of a shutdown, was the House supposed to assert their control? The Dems would have loved it if they could have forced us into multiple shutdowns, or at least damaged us from the shutdown you wanted to where we can’t use it on things like the 2012 budget.

Sekhmet on April 18, 2011 at 3:16 PM

What is striking to me is that the tolerance of a liberal will extend to their own physical harm, but they are completely intolerant of anything that might shake the foundations of their worldview.

Example: Massive welfare hurts lower-income groups, on average. To say this is treated as a direct attack on the humanity of liberals, so they will do anything not to hear, or believe it.

Example: Even moderate Islam (as opposed to Western Islam) is quite straightforward on it’s view of homosexuality, women, and minorities. But liberals will defend this in a showcase of their tolerance.

Whatevs. Seems like a self-correcting psychosis to me.

Aquateen Hungerforce on April 18, 2011 at 3:16 PM

Liberals constantly push this argument. They only ever lose because conservatives are mean and liberals are too nice.

Just go back to the Giffords shooting wherein the national media (by which I mean liberals) argued for weeks taht mean republican speech caused the shootings. Of course, any mention of all of the nastiness and violence of the left, of which there is much, much more than on the right, is wholly ignored. Hell, how much of the violent protests in Wisconsin were actually shown on national or local news?

Monkeytoe on April 18, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Why I just read this morning that, according to some university researchers, we evil conservatives are to blame for teens killing themselves. Ugh…

pannw on April 18, 2011 at 3:06 PM

It couldn’t *possibly* be because “red” areas are more rural and suburban. Or better yet–can you really prove a dead teenager is gay? What if it is the fact that rural and suburban parents are more likely to worry about Junior’s academics? Naww, so much easier to blame the lack of drag shows in Buzzard Flats for the suicide rate. /

Sekhmet on April 18, 2011 at 3:20 PM

hello….

delusional

liberal tolerance my left foot…

cmsinaz on April 18, 2011 at 3:22 PM

liberal tolerance?

After seeing the goonion thuggery in Madison over the weekend, I have to ask, is it “Opposite Day”, again?

Fallon on April 18, 2011 at 3:34 PM

the part of the brain that tolerates uncertainty is bigger in liberal heads

“Brain that tolerates uncertainty” -does that mean liberals don’t know what the heck they’re doing and their brain is OK with that?

taznar on April 18, 2011 at 3:37 PM

For the longest time, conservatives have seen leftists as opponents to compete against. Leftists, however, see conservatives as an enemy that needs to be destroyed.

Some conservatives, really too few, are starting to wake up and see this reality. It’s way, way past time conservatives start fighting for real, fighting to destroy the left – because we are literally fighting for our freedom, and the freedom of our children.

It just might be too late, but we have to try.

Rebar on April 18, 2011 at 3:45 PM

So is Obama “too tolerant”? Or has he just turned out to be a weak, wishy-washy leader who squandered an epic mandate?

I don’t know why Obama voters are surprised. The man had no track record as anything other than a candidate for office. And even then, to win he had to cripple the opposition (ie, “no fair to ask questions about Obama or you’re a racist.”)

So they deserve what they got. Now, of course, they’re racists too, for complaining.

disa on April 18, 2011 at 3:50 PM

They’re tolerant of everyone except conservatives and Christians, alas.

disa on April 18, 2011 at 3:51 PM

“Brain that tolerates uncertainty” -does that mean liberals don’t know what the heck they’re doing and their brain is OK with that?

taznar on April 18, 2011 at 3:37 PM

I think that’s probably poorly worded. Liberals seem to have almost no tolerance (and even less appreciation of) uncertainty. On the other hand, maybe it’s bigger because they are constantly worrying about things they cannot control?

Count to 10 on April 18, 2011 at 3:53 PM

Very funny post Ed.

I don’t believe I’m alone in wondering if there is a group on earth who would be more self-serving in saying “liberals are better people!” than a group labelled “political psychologists”.

+1

Which proves saber-toothed tigers ate more liberals, but not much more.

+1

I was hearing the Sienfield standup bass slapping during your rant.

shick on April 18, 2011 at 4:08 PM

Sorry, Mitch. Thought that was Ed posting.

shick on April 18, 2011 at 4:11 PM

Liberals are weak because they are selling a bill of goods that fewer people are buying.

Dear Lord Almighty, let this be true.

Freelancer on April 18, 2011 at 4:18 PM

Leftists can tolerate uncertainty because they know everything, and thus are never uncertain about anything.

jodetoad on April 18, 2011 at 4:30 PM

Sekhmet on April 18, 2011 at 3:16 PM

What you choose to call a government shutdown I call checks and balances.

So are you arguing that we should not have a checks and balances, and that if we have them we should use them?

FloatingRock on April 18, 2011 at 4:31 PM

should shouldn’t

FloatingRock on April 18, 2011 at 4:32 PM

Leftist writers like this are not delusional. I know we like to look at writing like this and think it’s simply so far gone from reality that delusion is the only logical option, but the writer isn’t writing this for us. It’s being written for a leftist audience, one that thinks of itself in exactly these terms.

This is being written for the people who already regard anything to the political right of Nancy Pelosi as inherently evil, so bad that it must be destroyed. This is written for people who already know they would never ever vote for a republican under any circumstances because they’ve been told for so long by people they’ve been told are the smartest people in the world that republicans hate them and want them dead. I’m not kidding here.

These people, who are perfectly capable of thinking beyond this sort of propaganda, have been conditioned to not think too much about it (whatever it may be) if it involves a conservative-sounding idea. They’ve been conditioned to automatically show skepticism, and it works.

This kind of article is designed so that such people can reinforce their own view of themselves, no matter how inaccurate that view may be. I would wager that some of these union thugs in Wisconsin actually believe they are being more tolerant of the governor and legislative majorities than the reverse, even as they surrounded such people and banged on their cars, even as they trashed the capitol to the tune of millions of dollars in damages.

They are also conditioned to automatically think of any leftist-perpetrated violence as inherently self-defensive in nature, therefore completely justified, no matter how horrible such violence gets. On the other hand, made-up violence from the TEA party or any other right-of-center group or individual is automatically viewed as boot-on-the-neck fascism.

I state all this from experience, as I used to think in exactly these terms about myself. I was so very tolerant, and yet thought all republicans should be punished because everything they did was bad for me or my friends or my family or my country because that’s what I was told to think by people I was told deserved my utmost respect and deference. I was awakened when I asked a media person why they never pointed out the bad things democrats were clearly doing wrong. That reporter (for a major Los Angeles radio station, KLOS) told me that his bias was necessary so people would continue to support democrats over republicans. He refused to elaborate. Shut up, he explained.

runawayyyy on April 18, 2011 at 5:36 PM

IMPEACH NOW!
Just for the sheer tolerance.

OkieDoc on April 18, 2011 at 6:09 PM

Liberals… call them for what they are…

Khun Joe on April 18, 2011 at 6:43 PM

I like how Dennis Prager puts it……

“Conservatives believe liberals are wrong, whereas liberals believe that conservatives are evil.”

Yep, that tolerance.

pjean on April 18, 2011 at 7:52 PM

Which proves saber-toothed tigers ate more liberals, but not much more.

God where are the saber-tooths when you need them & right now we could use several million of them!

Confederate on April 19, 2011 at 11:54 AM