Conservative and Liberal Lies About Each Other

Rich Uncle Pennybags: Not Real AmericaYesterday, Paul Krugman wrote about why it is that conservatives so hate Acela Express. Of course, it is all about culture. Geoff Nunberg gets it exactly right in the subtitle of his excellent book, Talking Right, “How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show.” As he discusses in the book, it turns out that conservatives drink more lattes, drive more Volvos, and eat more sushi.

How can the stereotype be so wrong? It’s simple. As I’ve been saying for a long time, while there are many rich people who are liberals, in general, the rich are conservative. It is true that conservatism is more associated with rural areas, but it is still the rich in those areas who dominate the political landscape. It is not the rural poor who make places like Mississippi the political hellscapes they are. But it wouldn’t be fun for Ann Coulter to write a book mocking the rural the poor. So the target is always the urban rich, who interestingly mostly agree with Coulter and her ilk regarding economic issues.

The Real America Myth

Krugman pushes back on this whole business of the Red States being the True America:

Except they (we) are, in fact, the real America—a lot realer than the small-town, all-white America such people have in their minds. As I’ve pointed out before, the average American lives in a census tract with a population density of more than 5,000 per square mile. That’s not Mayberry—it’s dense, even quasi-urban suburbia. It is, as it happens, the population-weighted density of greater Baltimore.

It’s interesting that he mentioned Mayberry. The typical conservative view of “real America” doesn’t come from American history. It comes from early 1960s TV series like The Andy Griffith Show and Leave It to Beaver. They somehow whisk away all the discord that America ever was. They’re more than interested in lionizing Thomas Paine, as Glenn Beck has done, without engaging with his ideas or recognizing what a hated figure the man was at his death. Their view of what America has always been is as cartoonish as their views of what liberals are.

We Are All Real America

The same goes for us liberals. We too often portray conservatives as know-nothing red necks. And I understand that this kind of thing can be fun. But in the long run, these people will be our allies. They are workers, after all. They need a living a wage. They can be the basis for new age of unionization. And we have much in common with them if we can just talk to them. Our true adversaries are the bankers. There is no talking to them except when they are on the verge of ruin and they need a bailout from us. Otherwise, they will fight us with everything they have (and that’s a lot) for every extra marginal dollar of profit. It isn’t that they are evil; it is just their nature:

Move Ahead — Together

People who must work for a living need to bind together. It is the only way forward.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Conservative and Liberal Lies About Each Other

  1. Story time . . .

    One of the most haunting, memorable events in my life came when I was a student at the U of Oregon (in Eugene, as you know, which is a pretty liberal town, as you know.)

    Several friends (I’m not friends with any of them anymore) were planning a raucous night of drinking, music, and conversation. I was invited. Their chosen venue was a VFW hall in Springfield, across the river from Eugene, a not-liberal, decaying logging town.

    We went, and a good time was had by most. I saw poor people with holes in their throats and missing limbs. My friends saw ignorant racist, sexist, homophobic fools to be mocked. Why the locals didn’t just descend en masse to our group and beat the living shit out of us for being so rude I don’t know (probably too classy for such a move), but I was offended beyond the telling and walked home.

    This sort of thing was quite common back in 1993. Liberals had basically abandoned economic issues for social ones, and the more privileged among them didn’t hope for a future of social justice . . . they hoped to get cool jobs at places full of lifestyle liberals like themselves, where they could all laugh at the squares together. Myself, I became a gun nut (briefly; guns are fun to shoot old appliances with but gun culture is spooky) and went to military school (briefly; military schools are diseased.)

    Well, times change. Most of those cool liberal jobs have disappeared, and the people so pleased with themselves for having them are currently facing harsher realities. But that snobbish, liberal, blue state stereotype did exist . . . 20 years ago. Rush Limbaugh and his ilk wouldn’t have succeeded in characterizing liberals that way if there wasn’t some truth behind it. (Of course, at the time, economic liberals were fighting the worthwhile fights they always do to rectify local problems, but that wasn’t the face of liberalism then and it certainly wasn’t what most college liberals aspired to do.)

    These days, it’s different. The young liberals I meet are equally interested in social justice and economic justice. I’d say "that’s ‘cuz Minnesota is so great" but the Occupy movement proved that young people all over the place have the same feelings. They (we) are happy to mock conservative politicians (good-bye, Ruby Bachmann, who can hang a name on you), but less likely to insult conservative voters. As you observe, poor conservatives, in the end, are our allies.

    Today’s social liberal/economically self-centered young person goes into finance, or works for Apple/a smartphone company. Politically, they tend to be the dreaded "centrists." Supporters of economic liberalism are NOT rich elitists (as Thomas Frank observed, liberals tend to be cranky urban poor people with money problems.)

    I have no idea where all this is going. I think Bill Clinton’s abandonment of liberalism turned young people away from idealism into look-out-for-yourself-and-support-identity-politics. (Of course, if Clinton hadn’t abandoned liberalism, he might not have been elected.) Obama’s abandonment of liberalism is having a different effect; young people are becoming more radical. (Stupidly, capitalism isn’t offering them the comfy jobs it used to.) What does this mean, what will happen? No friggin’ clue.

    We shall see, we shall see.

  2. @JMF – Good story. I remember a lot of meeting of the minds between loggers and environmentalists when I was up in Oregon. The rich are so good at dividing us, though.

    And I am writing a book on exactly this issue. It wasn’t just Clinton who abandoned liberalism, but he is the iconic figure. Unfortunately, the book is making me read very long books about Carter and Reagan and Bush and… Also: studying lots and lots of electoral data. But it’s the first big project in years that I feel I’m getting some traction on.

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