What makes a liberal a liberal? It's a question I've been asking myself lately, perhaps because every liberal I meet nowadays seems to ask me how in the world I could be a conservative. My stock answer is that I'd love to be a liberal because, you know, chicks dig the progressives. But also because I'd love to resolve debates with clever rejoinders like "Halliburton!" or "Fox News!" or "Karl Rove!," and because I'd love to engage in intellectual group hugs rather than confront awkward truths, and because I'd love to show how my heart is in the right place by supporting benevolent-sounding but historically discredited social policies which end up devastating the very communities they're intended to benefit. So, yes, I'd love to be a liberal . . . except these pesky I.Q. points keep getting in the way.Mark Goldblatt is his superb analysis of liberal mind identifies 4 factors that turn some people into liberals.
People who are frustrated by their lot in life are often drawn to liberal ideas because modern liberalism's contempt for the free market jibes with their efforts to rationalize their disappointments.Factor 2: guilt.
But of course the majority of liberals are not abject failures. On the contrary, many have attained a considerable measure of social status and financial clout, which calls to mind another reason liberals become liberals-guilt. Guilt-induced liberalism is most common among the more successful members of historically marginalized and currently struggling groups like blacks and Hispanics, or among members of historically marginalized and currently prospering groups like women and Jews. The trappings of achievement-prestigious job titles, comfortable homes, swollen bank accounts-are a kind of inverse torment for such people, an ongoing crisis of authenticity, a sign of the dissolution of their identity within the marginalized group. They feel compelled, therefore, to demonstrate that their sympathies still reside with the underclass.Factor 3: sin.
Modern liberals deplore moral judgment-except in their collective outrage at conservatives-because they've decided, in their own lives, to abandon the doctrinal elements of Judeo-Christian morality in favor of an ethic whose guiding principle is, in the words of noted Shakespearean dunderhead Polonius, "To thine own self be true." Hence, the liberal mantra, I'm not religious, but I consider myself a spiritual person. Roughly, this translates into: I don't want to give up on an afterlife, but I don't want to be judged by the stuff I'm doing. Liberals, therefore, seethe with resentment towards public displays of traditional faith out of fear such faith carries with it an implicit condemnation of their personal choices.Factor 4: compassion.
Intelligent people are often drawn to dumb ideas because the dumb ideas speak to their hearts rather than to their heads. The roster of world-class intellectuals who failed to recognize the evils of Communism in the last century is a testament to human frailty, not human imbecility. Tyranny, like charity, begins with compassion; this lesson is utterly lost on liberals, for whom compassion is an absolute good. So it's important to remember that the prime justification of liberalism, at least in the minds of liberals, is almost always fairness. They feel unfairness in their bones. It upsets them. That's how they know they're compassionate.So why is it easy to be a liberal? Because liberals don't have to accomplish anything.
It is the misguided pursuit of fairness that, in the final analysis, drives the majority of liberals to liberalism. It's a pursuit at which they cannot fail, since it's never-ending; it's a pursuit that alleviates their guilt, since it re-connects them with their roots; it's a pursuit that cleanses their individual sins, since its goal is the common weal. The pursuit of fairness is itself a kind of therapy.
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