- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

One reason I can say with utmost confidence that liberal Democrats will be out in the cold for a very long time involves a sociological observation.

Almost no liberal Democrat knows a conservative Republican of whom he is not contemptuous.

To be sure, liberals in their think tanks, their universities, their corporate offices or government bureaucracies encounter the occasional conservative. Doubtless at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, many of the resident liberals knew that amiable moderate conservative, Wyoming’s former Sen. Al Simpson. Many probably even liked him. Mr. Simpson is a not easy to dislike. But did they respect his political values? For a liberal, that would be impossible.

In fact, did the Kennedy School liberals even recognize the amiable old senator’s political values? As I say, Al is a “moderate conservative.” If memory serves, he was pro-choice. He was not a ferocious tax-cutter or very vigilant proponent of limited government. Yet, loosely-defined, the Al Simpson I knew was conservative, which means the liberals who knew him probably suspected him to be down deep a bigot and stupid.

Liberals believe even the most amiable conservative is predisposed toward old-fashioned prejudice against all their approved minorities: homosexuals, blacks, poor people, feminists, the disabled.

Moreover, American liberals have been convinced for generations John Stuart Mill was right on the money when he adjudged conservatives to be members of “the stupid party,” notwithstanding that Mill was talking about a different country and a different kind of conservative.

To American liberals, almost all conservatives are a little stupid, even conservative presidents. The only exception to this rule is a conservative who is obviously intelligent, for instance Richard Nixon or Henry Kissinger. These rare conservatives of intellect, every liberal knows, are immoral and usually in the pay of evil powers — for instance, the corporations.

The liberal Democrats’ contempt for those who just won the Nov. 2 elections explains their amazing anger. Couple their contempt with their ignorance — often studied ignorance — of the people who just beat them, and you will understand why I say liberals are, politically speaking, finished.

In all the soul-searching I have read since the election, only one Democrat has demonstrated the insight to move on with rebuilding his party. That is Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, who told a New York Times reporter: “We need to be a party that stands for more than the sum of our resentments. In the heartland, where I am from, there are doubts. Too often, we’re caricatured as a bicoastal cultural elite that is condescending at best and contemptuous at worst to the values that Americans hold in their daily lives.”

Yes, the good senator said “condescending” and “contemptuous.” He also talks as though the citizenry in the heartland has legitimate values. Those are basically the values of moral accountability, hard work, personal freedom, limited government, equality before the law, and then you can throw in many of the so-called liberal values: tolerance, compassion, some sort of egalitarianism. Those values are not unique to liberals, though liberals think they are.

It is when one gets off into same-sex “marriage,” affirmative action, the campaign against religion and in favor of whatever it is liberals now say they want to do with the United Nations, that liberals lose touch with the American people. Of liberalism, it can be said that when it takes up a good principle or fine value it eventually takes it to an extreme that is at first preposterous then repellent.

What must Mr. Bayh and his more sensible Democrats do to make the Democratic Party competitive with the Republicans? First, they will have to recognize the Republicans’ legitimacy. They will have to identify the legitimacy of the Republican values. Then the Democrats will have to adopt those values with their own twist, be it populist or statist or whatever.

But first I suggest the well-intentioned Democrat take a Republican to dinner. Try to comprehend that your dinner companion is neither a bigot nor a dolt.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His recent book is “Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.”

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