Photo from the New York Times' Polling Place Photo Project.
I’m so tired of liberals who think they’re smarter or better than conservatives and/or Republicans. I am a dyed in the wool liberal-pinko-commie but I do, shockingly, respect many people on the other side of the proverbial isle. This isn’t to say that I’m apologizing for the behavior of Bill O’Reily or am going to run out and buy a copy of whatever Ann Coulter is spewing out these days, but it is to say that if liberals really want to improve the overall tone of the political process they’d do well to start treating everyone (left, center, or right) with some respect and maybe they ought to just get over themselves.
Two articles recently got me all hot and bothered about the holier-than-though (maybe not holier, maybe just smarter) attitude that many on “my side” seem to exhibit.
First, this weekend the Washington Post put up a piece called “5 Myths About those Civic Minded, Deeply Informed Voters.” Most of it was just depressing, many people don’t know we have three branches of government? Seriously? But some of it does make you stop. For example, the average viewer of Jon Stewart is less informed than Rush Limbaugh’s listeners. There are probably a variety of reasons for that statistic but what is important to me is that the Left has got to realize that maybe walking around like you’re the smartest person in the room is not only annoying, but a poor way to run a political movement.
Second, today’s New York Times contained an Op-Ed piece by Bob Herbert. He argues, essentially, that Liberals aren’t nearly as bad as the right makes them (us) out to be and that they (we) need to get over it. My knee-jerk reaction was to agree with him. Yes, liberalism motivated thousands of people to join the civil rights movement, the feminist revolution, and to champion medicaid and medicare. However, the more I thought about Herbert’s piece the more uncomfortable I became.
I think that part of the problem with American politics is that there is absolutely no way to really be a centrist. Nowhere in Herbert’s piece does he talk about the incredible contributions of politicians on both sides of the isle– racial integration wasn’t always a partisan issue but was often tied up in regional concerns. The Republican party, like the Democratic party, has had incredible men and women in its ranks too. Plus, I might be just liberal enough to actually believe that cliche about how “we’re all in this together.”
I may not particularly care for the individuals running for president or congress, but I don’t think I’m any “better” than my conservative counterparts. Sure, I’m more educated (less than 10% of the U.S. has a master’s degree) and I feel pretty strongly about some social issues, but in general I believe that it is worth it to respect, or at least hear out, the opinions of people around you. As long as s/he’s thought about their position, what more can you really ask?
Like I said, I’m worried that this will come off as some kind of apology for the behavior of a few on the right who have said truly offensive things and who seem to have very little sympathy for the poorest among us. Really though, all I’m asking for is that the tone of the debate (again, on both sides) to change from “we’re better than them” to “our ideas are better.” In my mind these are different and if we want to go into a post-partisan world, and don’t we all, we have got to get better at separating policy from personal worth.