Below we have two sets of bloggers, Liberal vs conservative, arguing some point or another. It isn’t terribly important what they happen to be arguing about, but rather how they argue. Watch their dynamics. From Ann Althouse.
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Without getting into the substance of the debate here (or Ann Althouse’s over zealousness), notice how the young female Obama defender claims she’s “bored” with the conversation. What she probably means is she finds the debate tiresome and exasperating. Similarly, Matthew Yglesias’s heart isn’t really in it either as he falls back on the lazy tactic of personalizing the debate. The merits, he believes, are hardly worth his effort.
Back in my Lib days, we never would have considered standing up for our views as “boring.” On the contrary, we were eager to do battle. Far from being exasperated by debate, we were hungry for it. If our opponent didn’t have a leg to stand on, we pounced on that. That was the whole point of the debate! We didn’t pretend we were “bored” by it. We lived for the merits!
I don’t see that hunger in Liberals today. They’ve lost that edge. Show up at a typical Liberal blog these days, and try posting a comment. Chances are it goes straight to their pending approval box. If it’s a particularly devastating one, it’s likely never to see the light of day. The pending approval option speaks volumes about a blogger as far as I’m concerned. It shows a lack of confidence in their worldview, or at the very least their ability to defend it. They aren’t ready for all comers. I get this vibe from Lib friends and family too. They’re at a loss for words by the conservative push back. They’re on the defensive, and it’s a role they aren’t used to. It’s new to them.
Vexation, frustration, feigned “boredom”, etc., is how a comfortable status quo generally reacts to challengers. It’s a pose assumed by those above the fray. It’s how the “silent majority” received the 60s counter culture– with that same exasperated eye roll we get these days from our Lib betters.
Today, the Liberal Establishment– safely ensconced behind the high walls of their institutions– doesn’t feel they should have to entertain any challenges to their ruling paradigm. They fought long and hard to get where they are, don’t they get some time to kick back and enjoy the spoils? Why should they dignify the mob with an intellectually rigorous response? A candidate up in the polls, for example, doesn’t need to debate his lesser challenger. He’s got nothing to gain, and everything to lose by it. Spirited debates are for outsiders and wannabes. That’s the vibe modern Liberalism exudes in this post-Christian, post-American, post-Western age– an Establishment vibe.
Conservatives, on the other hand, relish the field of intellectual combat because we are on the outside looking in. We are the new insurgents, hungry and primed for battle. We are the new counter culture. We’ve got a long ways to go, but being a conservative today feels like it did being a Liberal 30-40 years ago– hungry. And that’s the counter culture vibe.