Over the last several decades, an interesting cultural phenomenon has been developing in America. People are not only separating themselves based on political and social issues, they are also beginning to see those who disagree with their positions as being morally suspect.
With a certain amount of irony, this has become especially true for liberals. If you are brave enough to disagree on their key issues, you will be labelled as morally deficient. And being morally deficient, you do not become a poor soul in need of redemption, but an evil blight to be eliminated.
Say or write the wrong things about race, gender, gay marriage, guns, global warming, or any of the pantheon of current liberal triggers, and you will be labelled as a person who should not only be silenced, but also punished.
Why this extreme reaction?
There are a number of fundamental differences between modern liberalism and the majority of Americans. Most of us are unfamiliar with them, and so find ourselves confused and sometimes astonished.
Since the media and schools are staffed by people who overwhelmingly classify themselves as liberals, it comes as a surprise to find that liberals are a relatively small minority of less than one-fourth of the population. However, most of the communications in our society either have origins with liberal organizations or are propagated by liberal mouthpieces. Ironically, this near monopoly has led to a certain amount of cultural isolation for the American Left. They, as the rest of us, see movies, books, education, and even reported scientific research filtered through a liberal lens. The rest of us struggle to escape the resonance of this “echo chamber,” but it is relatively easy for liberals to begin to assume that these reverberations are reality.
It becomes convenient for them to ignore anything outside and to create what has been called a “cultural bubble,” a closed space in which only their view of the world is accepted and propagated. Hillary Clinton’s gaffe about the “deplorables” was easy to make, because she would have had to think twice, and then in terms of political consequences, to imagine anyone not agreeing with her.
This cultural isolation has had a powerful impact on modern liberalism, and has allowed the Left to normalize several distinctions between them and others.
Combine cultural isolation with the following differences:
1. Liberals are more intelligent and moral than those who disagree with them. It is difficult to understand modern liberalism without understanding how fundamental this conceit is.
2. Everything is political. Conservatives find this idea to be abhorrent and other Americans are simply blindsided by it.
3. The ends justify the means. If feeding children is a moral end, then the means of obtaining the food is justified and moral. If the world needs to be saved from global warming, then the means to accomplish that are justified.
Put these together and you get what appears to outsiders to be illogical political theater.
For example, a student wrote that she, “…will never shoot a gun… it’s against my morals.” One would assume that she would also never pick up an ax. Since more students are killed, maimed, and sexually assaulted by people misusing alcohol, could we assume that it should be banned? Since millions of children have been killed in late-term abortions, what about modifying a “woman’s freedom of choice?”
This student considers herself to be a free moral agent, and does not realize she is a bit actor in a political drama.
Everything has a political goal. The means to achieve those goals are justified. Since they are justified by those who are smarter and more moral, and the community is sealed from outsiders, to disagree with that goal is to display a lack of intelligence and morality.
Dennis Clayson is a business professor at the University of Northern Iowa. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect those of the University of Northern Iowa.