Most People Are Not Like You

Almost no matter who you are, the above is almost certainly true. Yet it’s a fact that few people seem to readily grasp.

I was struck by this as I continued to read the exchange between Ross Douthat and Will Wilkinson over whether secular libertarian intellectuals should all pack up and join the Democrats. Will predicts:

…I think intellectual capital flight from the right really does threaten the GOPs future success. If Republicans keep bleeding young intellectual talent because increasingly socially liberal twenty-somethings simply can’t stand hanging around a bunch of superstitious fag-bashers, then the GOP powers-that-be might start to panic and realize that, once the last cohort of John Birchers die, they’ve got no choice but to move libertarian on social issues. Maybe. I like to imagine.

This reads like it comes from some alternate universe, to me,

because all the young and smart people I know who’ve headed into politics and public policy are orthodox Catholics with some amount of a traditional/conservative intellectual bent. Clearly, all of Wilkinson’s friends are secular libertarians or secular liberals. And in combination, those experiences mean… not very much. He knows people like him and I know people like me. But neither means that all young intellectuals are like us.

One of the great temptations of party politics is to assume that all people within one’s political faction are like you and your friends. Both actual parties are, however, rather broad coalitions made up of people who disagree on many things while agreeing on others. And the majority of people who actually vote (and thus determine which party is in charge at a given time) are so woefully uninformed that making intellectual statements about parties as a whole is nearly impossible.

In regards to Wilkinson’s own particular hobby horse: I have enough confidence in the attractiveness of being the intellectual drivers of a political movement to be pretty confident that the niche of “GOP coalition intellectuals” will never go unfilled. And frankly, I’d rather see it filled with intellectuals who have an appreciation for natural law, traditional religion, and a number of other topics which Wilkinson apparently scorns. So if he think that duty of secular libertarians is to join the Obama parade and try to convince the Democrats to follow more free market policies (which to be honest they generally do anyway once they actually get elected — as opposed to their protectionist primary rhetoric) I can only wish him good luck and a fair wind.

19 Responses to Most People Are Not Like You

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    People like Wilkinson have been crying out since 1976 that the GOP needs to go liberal on the social issues. That was John Anderson’s theme in the 1980 Republican primaries and fueled his third party run in the general election. It is all rot. Most republicans are fiscal and social conservatives and believe in a strong defense. A political party does not achieve success by alienating its base.

  • Gabriel Austin says:

    “And the majority of people who actually vote (and thus determine which party is in charge at a given time) are so woefully uninformed that making intellectual statements about parties as a whole is nearly impossible”.

    Does anyone else find this woefully superior?

  • Does anyone else find this woefully superior?

    Well, it’s true that I’d feel pretty comfortable saying that simply by having the interest to read that much about politics, regular readers of this blog are probably in the top 10-20% of voters as far as being informed. So yes, I suppose I am rather elitist in that sense. Though for what it’s worth, I’d also be ready to say that being informed about politics is not necessarily indicative of much of anything in regards to one’s worth as a person or overall intelligence.

    Perhaps I’m overestimating based on the sort of “man on the street” interviews which those on either side of the political spectrum are often able to use to point to how idiotic the other sides voters are (recall the YouTube that was going around where a local radio station got a bunch of Obama voters to voice their support for Obama’s opposition to Roe v. Wade, and even his choice of Palin as a running mate), but I do tend to think that the average voter has a very, very simplistic understanding of politics and economics (and the stands that the candidates have taken on them.)

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    Winston Churchill said that the best argument against democracy was a five minute talk with the average voter. I have noticed that when I discuss budgetary woes of the government with people who do not follow these issues very closely, invariably they will say that there would be plently of money if we didn’t give so much to foreigners. When I point out that foreign aid is a miniscule portion of our budget they will often refuse to believe me. I have never been interested in professional sports and my knowledge of that subject is small. I am afraid that a substantial percentage of the voters have the same attitude towards politics and the functioning of the government. I do not think it is elitist to point this out, but merely factual. Needless to say, this does not cause me to think that intellectual elites in our society make better political judgments. I agree with Buckley that I would rather be governed by people chosen at random from a phone book than the faculty of an elite academic institution. Well educated people are just as likely as ill-informed people to make their political judgments on the basis of myths, prejudices and passions, perhaps more so since so much of higher education has been politicized.

  • Donna V. says:

    Remember the much-maligned “values voters” of 2004? Well, gee, what happened to them all? Did they all take up recreational drugs and wife-swapping during the past 4 years and thus social conservatism is now on its last legs?

    I don’t think this past election had much to do with social conservatism at all. It was decided by the economy, above all, and by the fact that Obama ran a very good campaign (and had the MSM in his back pocket) and McCain ran a very poor one. (Other factors: the GOP learned nothing from the kicking it got in 2006 and so was seen as Dem-lite and the media successfully demonized Bush – who certainly made his mistakes.)

    One thing I do believe is that the conservatives made a great error in ceding the culture to the Left. As a result, we have kids who are indoctrinated in public schools, exposed to all sorts of garbage in the media, and have reached maturity thinking the party of “freedom” is the one which wants to expand government into every reach of life and the GOP is the party of white guys who yearn to oppress everybody. How the heck you reverse that at this stage in the game is beyond me. The only thing I can hope for this that once these Obama-smitten young folk actually get out of college and are paying taxes, the burning issues of gay marriage and pot legalization will recede in importance. It’s struck me before that that “political correctness” came to the fore in prosperous times. And it took hold most strongly in those parts of the country with high percentages of well-to-do upper middle class people with the luxury to worry about sexist language, recycling, “a woman’s right to choose” etc, etc. Real estate ain’t cheap in Berkeley on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

    P.J. O’Rourke was a Maoist in college. Then he got his first job and took a look at what was withheld and lo, a conservative was born. And the GOP didn’t have to jettison its pro-life plank or become “cooler than thou” to bring him around.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “P.J. O’Rourke was a Maoist in college.”

    When he told his rock-ribbed Republican grandmother that he was a Maoist she said “Just as long as you aren’t a Democrat dear”. Looking back on this time O’Rourke said: “I like to think of my behavior in the sixties as a “learning experience.” Then again, I like to think of anything stupid I’ve done as a “learning experience.” It makes me feel less stupid.”

  • Donna V. says:

    Well educated people are just as likely as ill-informed people to make their political judgments on the basis of myths, prejudices and passions, perhaps more so since so much of higher education has been politicized

    Very true, and what is wearisome is that these people think they’re rational and expremely knowledgable when all they’re doing is expressing the fashionable prejudices of the day. Mac down at the truck stop might have some ignorant prejudices, but Mac usually don’t think he knows everything about everything. Whereas I’ve had the most frustrating conversations on and off-line with college-educated people who “know” belief in God is idiotic, the Pope is a Nazi, the Founding Fathers were contemptible racists, Republicans hate poor people, animals should have the same rights as people do – who said there is no belief so foolish an intellectual has not held it?

  • Donna V. says:

    “expremely”??? Was I trying to type extremely or supremely? Actually, I rather like “expremely.”

    (I really need to break down and get me some reading glasses. I’m at that age,…,)

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “who said there is no belief so foolish an intellectual has not held it?”

    True Donna. My late mother and father never attended college although they made certain that my brother and I did. I never met a professor at college or law school with as much common sense as my parents displayed to me every day. The education I received at college and law school was mere icing on the cake for the more important lessons I learned from my factory worker parents. I just wish they had been alive to help their lawyer son and his librarian wife raise their own kids. I don’t think we have done badly, but input from them would have been invaluable.

  • Agreed, Donna. One of the reasons I’m suspicious of the technocrat culture which so many on the left seem enamored of (Europe envy, I guess) is that I think the elites generally know rather less about a situation than they think.

    Doesn’t stop me from being something of an elitist, but at least I’m an elitist who doesn’t think that knowing a great deal about a topic means that I should make everyone’s decisions for them.

    To know much is to know you don’t know everything.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    Ha! Donna if Iowahawk isn’t making a mint from his brilliance in the “real world” there is no justice. The man is consistently the funniest writer on the net. The Archbishop is a prime example of the worthlessness of education without an ounce of common sense.

  • John Henry says:

    He knows people like him and I know people like me. But neither means that all young intellectuals are like us.

    While I agree with your broader point about the nature of political coalitions, I think there are solid grounds for believing Will’s intellectual and educational formation is more typical of young intellectuals than yours (or mine).

  • Donna V. says:

    Tito: I confess – I have no idea how to post a picture here. There – now you all know there is no way I can be a member of the techocratic elite:-)

    DarwinCatholic: Good point. I would add that we live in a time when verbal glibness is frequently mistaken for wisdom. It isn’t just the honest but gulliable townfolk who get taken in by the snake oil peddlers.

    Donald: I had the good fortune to meet Dave Burge (Iowahawk) at an informal get-together of conservative bloggers and blog readers held in Chicago in 2004. He looks like a pretty hip fellow, a guy who would have been playing the bongos in a bebop jazz band 50 years ago (the goatee gives him a Maynard G. Krebs vibe); but he said that the tension between the small town Iowa values he was raised with and the Chicagoland liberals he is now surrounded by inspires much of his writing. I didn’t talk to him for long, but we found we both have a weakness for cheesy low-budget 1950′s sci-fi flicks. A very affable, pleasant man. I don’t think he was making a lot of money from his writing then; I hope that has changed.

  • Gerard E. says:

    Above post is yet another echo of longtime New Yorker Moon Pitcha critic Pauline Kael. Who remarked that she was surprised that Tricky Dick swamped Goo Goo George in 1972 presidential election because nobody she knew voted for Trickster. Above essayist apparently polled limited number of people or own self for conclusions. Lies damned lies and statistics I say. I could say that Current Apostle for Hope and Change is worst thing to happen to Democratic party. Looks about true. Even though House Speaker La Pelosi is real President and allows Hope/Change Apostle to do her bidding as she sees fit. But- proof of my own. Many of y’all know that last Friday night, Phila. Police Officer John Pawlowski murdered- fifth officer killed in a year. Within 12 hours, Facebook group page set up to memorialize him. More than 11000 members as I write including own self. And my darling brilliant goddaughter Regina. And many many other young folks who admire and respect our fine law enforcement pros and mourn Officer Pawlowski- Mass of Christian Burial on Friday noon at Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. Thus I have confidence in this nation’s future.

  • Foxfier says:

    I know that most of the folks I know with any sense don’t talk to folks who look like they’re doing “man on the street” interviews– and that’s both for the liberal and conservative folks.

  • Gabriel Austin says:

    “DarwinCatholic: Good point. I would add that we live in a time when verbal glibness is frequently mistaken for wisdom. It isn’t just the honest but gulliable townfolk who get taken in by the snake oil peddlers”.

    I believe the subject was exhaustively discussed by Socrates in THE SOPHIST.

    [Note; The Sophists were the lawyers of their day. They could argue both sides of a case with equal conviction].

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