The trouble with liberals…

Billboard photographed and depicted on the blog The Other McCain (click on image to link)

… is that they really do believe they can locate enough reasonable people on the other side to negotiate, if they just try hard enough.

That’s the notion that, I think, animated the first months of the Obama administration, until the healthcare debate began to teach them otherwise. And it’s reflected in this thoughtful op-ed by Steve Almond, in which this passage is included:

The most insidious effect of our addiction to right-wing misanthropy has been the erosion of our more generous instincts. At least for me. I’ve come to regard all conservatives as extremists, a mob of useful idiots plied by profiteers, rather than a diverse spectrum of citizens, many of whom share my values, anxieties and goals. When I hear the crowd at a Republican presidential debate cheer for capital punishment, I write them off as sadists, rather than accepting them as citizens seeking a means of keeping themselves safe. Slagging conservatism has become my one acceptable form of bigotry.

I’m not trying to soft-pedal the very real pathologies of the modern conservative movement. The rich and powerful have clearly found in the Republican Party a willing collaborator. They’ve spent billions peddling Americans a failed theology of deregulation and lower taxes that is designed to foster and protect obscene wealth, not to serve the vast majority of our citizens. Thanks to the Supreme Court, the coming election will mark an unprecedented infusion of corporate propaganda into the political bloodstream.

It’s for this exact reason that the left can no longer afford to squander time and energy engaging the childish arguments of paid provocateurs. We have to seek out those on the right willing to engage in genuine dialogue and ignore the rest.

It’s true that the peddlers of right wing entertainment, like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, are given undue oxygen by progressive attention. But it’s also true that what Rush and more importantly, the people who fund and develop the building blocks of right wing ideology: billionaires like the Koch brothers, who fund the institutes and think tanks that they hope will one day exempt their businesses from regulation and themselves from any semblance of a social contract; and the big corporations who have purchased politicians and frankly, the four conservatives of the Supreme Court, in a naked bid to restore a 19th century, Gilded Age America, have already succeeded in building a cadre of broke people who believe hook, line and sinker in the ideology that the super-rich want them to believe in. (Just as the left has already succeeded in winning the so-called “culture wars.”) That’s why you get comments like this under Almond’s essay:

George,
San Diego, Ca.

Check the Tea Party Roster and you will find Middle Americans realizing that this socialism is going to kill the country…Left united???…all you have to do is unite with Bill Maher and the philosophy of spend and tax. Most liberals that are my friends will not take the time to research the facts that they are being fed by the Dems. So if you want to have someone else do your thinking, you get what you get…The most liberal amateur on the planet…Not a clue on how to get the economy going, and stubborn to the end…Hey, just read Kennedy in the early 60′s…Just follow another plan that has worked before…Clinton’s plan I would take, but no…I am a genius and my way is the only way while millions go unemployed and everyone is cutting back to the point of misery…Now where is his next vacation going to be…that is his most pressing concern…Now who said the private sector is doing fine…If that does not tell you how out of it this Pres. is, nothing will do it..

People like George aren’t going away. They aren’t interested in a “dialogue” with the left. They think liberals are brain dead socialists and Marxists who want to destroy America and they believe that the rich will be benevolent to them if the government would just get out of the way and give the wealthy and corporations what they want (or to put it in starker terms, if the government would stop robbing and bullying, poor, beleaguered rich people.)

If they often sound alike in their commentary, it’s because their verbiage is acquired directly from the conservative entertainment peddlers Almond would like to ignore. And because their beliefs are fueled by a carefully honed sense of fear, victimization and grievance, they are able to repeat those words verbatim, fluidly, and with passion. Deregulation and the withdrawal of the wealthy from the system of taxation, along with the end of unionization, even at the peril of their own incomes, is what they have been taught is the essence of true freedom, and guess what? They believe it.

They don’t want to talk to you, liberals. They want to end you. Go ahead and try to understand them if you want. That’s valuable. But don’t bother trying to negotiate. You really do have two choices: buckle down and win elections with the demographic advantages you clearly have, by convincing your base to vote in every election, or continue to psychoanalyze, ignore, or attempt to win over the opposition and lose.

UPDATE: hear-hear, Ryan Cooper.

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