As promised in my previous post, some examples of the hundreds of messages I am getting about this article. (I know you only have my word for it, but I promise you these instances are quite representative. And something to bear in mind perhaps if you are sceptical about the writers’ bona fides is that these extracts are, as I say, from emails and not from comments on the blog intended for publication.)
The divorce [between working class Americans and Democrats] started long ago, about the time of George McGovern. His candidacy drove my father, for example, to vote Republican for the first time in his life. As for myself, I strongly oppose most of the policies of the Republicans, but, frankly, being in the same room with liberal Democrats and listening to them talk, alienates me, too. The arrogance and condescension is so thick you could cut it with a knife.
I was a liberal once, serving as general counsel of the Peace Corps…, and it was some years later that the attitude you so aptly describe began to really alienate me from my former allegiance. It wasn’t so much the policies, although I’ve also moved to the center/right over the years, as it was the smugness, the patronizing attitude, and the almost pervasive hypocrisy that made the left intolerable. You give them credit for being well-intentioned, and I think you’re right, but they’re getting awfully mean this year.
One of the ironies is that I’m not really a member of the right either. The left drove me out, but I’m not comfortable with a lot of the conservative positions. The one thing that makes the right fundamentally more acceptable, though, is that for all their faults, the right wing politicians by and large do not think they are smarter than the left or the people of this country. The left is utterly convinced that the only reason others don’t agree with them is that they’re too stupid. Unfortunately for the left, the people are at least smart enough to pick up this attitude.
[Good piece] on Palin. I say this as someone who would like to see Obama win. I’m amazed at how ugly and counterproductive the behavior you describe on the part of of out-of-touch media/lefty blogs etc has been.
I am a Democrat and African-American and I found your article to be dead-on accurate. You could detect the snideness of liberal Democratic reactions a mile away. I find that Democrats from those parts of the US not located on the coasts tend to understand this, too. If you support his campaign you can only hope that it does not fall for this same mindset – something that so far they have avoided doing, hence its appeal in the Midwest and the West.
I want to reflect more carefully on the many emails I’ve received that take issue in a thoughtful and courteous way with my argument (as opposed to merely screaming about my duplicity, stupidity, ethnic origins and intellectual corruption) and I will come back to the subject again. But here is part of an email from a dear and esteemed American friend that I wanted to post and respond to straight away.
You are painting the entire Democratic party with the same brush thereby doing to them exactly what you are accusing them of doing to the Republicans. Being in (and from) small town America, I am constantly amazed at the thoughtful discussions I have had with both Republicans and Democrats on the candidates with no personal attacks or animosity expressed. It has been really interesting – very different than the last few elections. Perhaps the column needs to be more directed to the media.
The second thing that annoyed me is the final paragraph: “It will be hard. They will have to develop some regard for the values that the middle of the country expresses when it votes Republican. Religion. Unembarrassed flag-waving patriotism. Freedom to succeed or fail through one’s own efforts. Refusal to be pitied, bossed around or talked down to. And all those other laughable redneck notions that made the United States what it is.”
Except for the religious reference (I cannot abide mixing politics and religion), I can’t understand why you think that these are primarily Republican traits (I don’t like “values” references either). I think of everyone who told me how they cried during Obama’s speech (me included) because they felt hope and that surge of patriotism that they had been missing. And I know of no one who isn’t proud to succeed or fail on their own, or refuses to be pitied, bossed around or talked down to. I know you are making a point but I think this paragraph took away from the power of the piece.
Well said, Jana. I certainly intended no disrespect to grass-roots Democrats: my complaint is chiefly addressed to the party’s spokesmen–Obama is the exception–and advocates in the media. I believe they are letting the wider liberal movement down. I will say, though, that good-natured discussions between ordinary Democrats and Republicans might be harder to find in Washington DC, New York City and other metropolitan liberal redoubts than they are for you in Idaho.
As for the idea that those values or cultural affinities are widely shared or even universal, this has not been my experience. Obviously I am moving in the wrong circles, but the metropolitan liberal, in my experience, regards overt religious identity as vulgar, and evangelical Christianity as an infallible marker of mental retardation. Flag-waving patriotism is seen as a joke and an embarrassment. My point about refusal to be talked down to, and so on, was not intended to imply that only Republican voters think that way. What I was trying to say is that the liberal elite seems to forget that ordinary Republican-leaning Americans are proud people who want to be treated with some respect, that they are in fact entitled to it, and that their insistence on it is a quintessentially American idea.