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The smug style in American liberalism


Idi Admin
The smug style in American liberalism

There is a smug style in American liberalism. It has been growing these past decades. It is a way of conducting politics, predicated on the belief that American life is not divided by moral difference or policy divergence — not really — but by the failure of half the country to know what's good for them.

In 2016, the smug style has found expression in media and in policy, in the attitudes of liberals both visible and private, providing a foundational set of assumptions above which a great number of liberals comport their understanding of the world.

It has led an American ideology hitherto responsible for a great share of the good accomplished over the past century of our political life to a posture of reaction and disrespect: a condescending, defensive sneer toward any person or movement outside of its consensus, dressed up as a monopoly on reason.

The smug style is a psychological reaction to a profound shift in American political demography.

The consequence was a shift in liberalism's intellectual center of gravity. A movement once fleshed out in union halls and little magazines shifted into universities and major press, from the center of the country to its cities and elite enclaves. Minority voters remained, but bereft of the material and social capital required to dominate elite decision-making, they were largely excluded from an agenda driven by the new Democratic core: the educated, the coastal, and the professional.
Suffice it to say, by the 1990s the better part of the working class wanted nothing to do with the word liberal.
The internet only made it worse. Today, a liberal who finds himself troubled by the currents of contemporary political life need look no further than his Facebook newsfeed to find the explanation:


Wrong Thinker Extraordinaire
And yes, it's indisputable. In America anyway. The level of condescension is incredibly palpable. Granted it works both ways with regard to the sneering as RW zealots mock the mockers if you will.

The crux of the issue is the incessant wont of the media placing these condescending pricks on their shows basically saying that people that disagree with their agendas are just to stupid and uneducated to get it. If they were smarter they would agree.

While this started decades ago as a small minority, it has spread like a brush fire and infiltrated all aspects of academia and media. It's when some of them need to step back and remember...

Those that can't do, teach.


Well-known member
The article is an over-reach. Are coastal elites sometimes condecending? Yeah, at times. Often. But this article suggests it's inherent, a "cause" rather than effect. It's almost as if liberals operate in a self-contained bubble, that an Amercian political culture doesn't exist and that their views/actions are independent of conservative views/actions. That doesn't seem credible.

The most interesting reponse to this article was by an African American commentator with Slate. It's worth reading his article, because it clealry lays out that perspective matters. For instance, the Vox article talks of how working class white voters were turned off by the arrogance of coastal elites. But the Slate writer (I'll find the link) views this as a knock on effect, not a cause. At its root, from his perspective, white working class alienation was caused by liberals championing the civil rights movement in the 1960s. And recall, the main players at that time, LBJ, Nixon, Kevin Phillips, etc. knew it would cause a tectonic shift in the politcal culture of the United States.

Look, it's understandable. People don't like the implication, even indirectly, of voting for a party that benefited from a racist reflex 50 years ago. But they persist, and they persist in voting for measures that are fuzzily touching on racial issues (voting rights, war on drugs). And in 2016, there's still a debate about evolution and its place in public education policy. At what point can we assert the religious fanatics are being willfully stupid/unreasonable (not actually stupid) and trying to peddle superstition in public schools wihtout being accused of being "smug". Frankly, it smacks of "political correctness". Musn't upset a man of God. Also, the idea that evidence-based arguments are "smug" is incredibly dangerous. This borders on censorship.

And Habsy kinda shades a certain point... political culture matters. This is American and predicated on American political culture. This phenomenon (which exists, I agree) is largely driven by environment, not intrinsic moral failure. Politcal "smugness" exists everywhere, but it's caused by different things. I could go on about "politcal smugness" in Canada too, but I don't feel like starting a flame war.
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Wrong Thinker Extraordinaire
I think it's too easy to chalk it up to racism. That is an overreach in it's own right.

It has everything to do with varying ideologies.


Well-known member
There has been racist undertones in most of the American politics in history but it is not always the main driving factor.

I feel that political smugness exists everywhere though. Each side always looks very condescendingly at those who have different views.


Wrong Thinker Extraordinaire