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.