By Jerry Shenk / September 5, 2014 / American Thinker
Americans are constantly barraged with liberal viewpoints by media and entertainment sources, public and higher education and even professional sports. Attentive conservatives are very familiar with liberal orthodoxy, and they understand the language of the left.
But, exposed primarily to like-minded people and information and entertainment outlets, indoctrinated left-wingers become highly-invested in shared assumptions. Convinced that no reasonable person could possibly disagree with them, liberals can be unsettled by conservative “apostasy.”
Few liberals understand conservative language and thought, ignorance that sometimes produces frustration and fear.
It’s human nature to fear or distrust unknown or poorly understood things. In my experience, smart conservatives confidently oppose liberal positions based on familiarity with and understanding of them, but, because of their unfamiliarity with conservative views, many liberals instinctively fear them – fears manifested in anger and contempt.
But, there’s nothing to fear.
The first principles of American conservative thought reside in our founding documents, but America’s Founders had historical antecedents in Confucius (551–479 BC), Cato the Elder (234–149 BC) and John Locke (1632–1704).
In the mid-20th Century, Russell Kirk described conservatism as the “negation of ideology,” an openness to reality “in all its complexities.” In an ideological age, Kirk said, conservatism resists ideology.
William F. Buckley Jr. and Ronald Reagan popularized the interrelated principles of fiscal and social responsibility and national security. If any leg goes missing, three-legged stools cannot stand.
Even the theories of the left’s favorite economist, J.M. Keynes (1883–1946), are only remembered for their “spending” and “debt” components, never for Keynes’ admonition to “pay-down” debt.
In 2012, NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, with collaborators, published a paper detailing how liberals and conservatives view each other. Haidt, et al, wrote:
Across the political spectrum, moral stereotypes about “typical” liberals and conservatives correctly reflected the direction of actual differences in foundation endorsement but exaggerated the magnitude of these differences. Contrary to common theories of stereotyping, the moral stereotypes were not simple underestimations of the political outgroup’s morality. Both liberals and conservatives exaggerated the ideological extremity of moral concerns for the ingroup as well as the outgroup. Liberals were least accurate about both groups.
Briefly, Haidt found that liberals are more likely than conservatives to exaggerate their differences.
Haidt’s work inspired Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum to muse about why liberals’ self-conceptions don’t match reality. Drum’s fourth and, arguably, most accurate explanation was that, although they imagine themselves to be “open-minded,” liberals generally have far less exposure to conservatives than conservatives do to liberals. Accordingly, liberal “understandings” of conservatives are caricatures. Liberals reflexively disagree with conservatives, but have little practical experience accurately describing with “what” they disagree or expressing “why.”
For some afflicted left-wingers, “SHUT UP!” is the fullest expression of persuasive polemics.
But curious, receptive, genuinely open-minded liberals can overcome their innocence. Simply approach conservatism like foreign travel: Research it first.
If you won’t read their work, read a bit about Burke, Kirk and de Tocqueville. Then read about economists Friedrich August Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman. Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” is condensed online. Friedman is preserved on YouTube.com.
Then, immerse yourself. Approach informed conservatives. Most speak at least rudimentary “liberal” – many are fluent – so ask questions. But alert them to your language deficiency so that, initially, they speak slowly, clearly and use simple words.
Hand gestures can be useful, but suppress instinctive xenophobic urges. Aside from expressing the number “one,” palm forward, avoid displaying single digits.
If you are already on or contemplating a journey from left to right, don’t allow fear of an unfamiliar language to discourage you. Many other liberals have made the trip.
“But if we are to be prepared for it, we must first shed our fear of it.” – Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, The Matrix Reloaded, 2003
“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie