The great US columnist Charles Krauthammer once noted this truth about contemporary political life in America: ‘To understand the workings of American politics you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.’ Now of course Krauthammer was using ‘Liberal’ in its US sense, meaning a lefty, progressive type which as recently as the John Howard days differed from the more old-fashioned, classical Australian sense of the word – though these days ‘lefty, progressive’ probably covers half the Liberal MPs in Canberra (and all of the Black Hand gang, most State Lib MPs, the PM and Foreign Minister and a fair few others in Cabinet).
But leaving terminology to one side, as well as whether Turnbull’s shrinking of the political spectrum is good for the Libs (my answer is an emphatic ‘no’), Krauthammer’s general point is certainly true in Australia too. Those on the left largely believe they are superior moral beings. Sure, they may not openly admit to thinking they have some sort of pipeline to God on key social policy issues or that their moral and political antennae happen to vibrate at just the right frequency. But so many of them act as though they do, as though after four billion years of evolved life on this planet they (your Julian Burnsides, say, or Gillian Triggses, or pick anyone at all in the Greens Party or working on air for the ABC or running an Australian university) are the pinnacle of moral evolution on earth. And they show it regularly too. Just recall their holier-than-thou, smug, sanctimonious tweets, Facebook posts, supposed comedy routines, group love-in ‘human rights’ awards or literary festivals, and such similar evidence of puffed-up self-regard that stretches on out to the horizon. Or think about the sky-high levels of moral self-regard and sanctimony that must exist in those who shout down and riot in front of conservative and non-lefty speakers whose views they happen to disagree with. You can’t do that unless you think your moral and political views are not just better than others’, but pretty close to timelessly, eternally right and hence you have no need to listen to any contrary views at all, ever, full stop. I could go on. Think stopping the boats. Think questioning Aboriginal policy. Etcetera. Etcetera.
But on the right side of politics you just don’t see even a small fraction of that sort of ‘I’m a better moral being than you are’ attitude. What you do see, as Krauthammer pointed out, is the view that progressive lefties are often just stupid. They’re not very bright. If they were bright they’d look to history and have a pretty good idea of what would happen in Venezuela, or with a mooted government monopoly NBN, or with government spending getting out of control. And if lefty progressives were smart they’d be able to provide some sort of answer to the basic question: ‘Why are we signing up to Paris and doing all this incredibly expensive anti-carbon stuff that’s giving us the democratic world’s highest energy prices if it won’t reduce what the world’s temperature would otherwise be in the year 2100 by more than zero point zero zero something or other?’ Isn’t that, well, stupid? And wouldn’t a person of basic intelligence, someone not fired by a sense of moral preening, want to be given an answer to that before embarking on impoverishing himself or herself (sorry other pronoun self-identifiers)? Is it that we, as a shining moral beacon, are going to influence the rest of the world to ruin their energy markets too in the name of this newfound religion? If not that, because Trump and the US are clearly not on that same revivalist page, then what is it? Maybe Josh Frydenberg might like to give us an answer to that someday, though don’t hold your breath on that.
Where was I? Oh yes, we righties tend to see lefties as stupid, as advancing schemes and plans that have been tried and failed in the past or that disavow the (hard-wired into us by hundreds of millions of years of evolution) human nature or that really are just about making those proposing them feel good about themselves (take a bow lots of you top corporate types who’ve made your money and so now with your own pockets stuffed feel you can preen and preach to the rest of us with the best of the progressive lefties).
All of this explains to a significant degree the sheer hatred the Left feels for Donald Trump and his attraction to people fed up with the pusillanimous political class. So the Left trots out some ex-lover of Trump’s and expects what exactly? That people who voted for him or thought him preferable to Hillary would be outraged? How stupid is that expectation? Trump has had more ex-wives than the previous 44 US Presidents put together, and then doubled. Is there anyone on the planet who voted for him because of his personal moral behaviour and stature? Of course not. So telling us Trump-supporters what we already knew is, well, stupid and worthless – leave aside the hypocrisy of moral preeners on the left who go to the wall defending the moral credentials of your Bill Clintons, Roman Polanskis, Ted Kennedys, LBJs (all clearly worse than Trump’s, let me say) and seem never to care about personal sexual conduct unless it’s by a righty. Trump is also, and by a long way, the most socially liberal Republican President ever. He never pretended to be anything else. So attacks that might hurt a Romney or a George W. are just water off Donald’s back.
No, why the Left hate Trump is because he calls them out on their own moral vacuity and self-regard. He points to the massively one-sided bias of the New York Times and of the media and journalists generally. They don’t like that. He refuses to bend the knee before supposed lefty verities. His sympathies lie clearly and outspokenly with middle America and the red states not with the coastal elites whose moral pretensions he mocks.
Was Trump an ideal candidate? Of course not. The man is massively flawed. But he sure looked like a least-bad option when the alternative was Hillary and when the rest of the Republican establishment refused to fight and never called out the hypocritical progressive Left. You see, when the other side thinks you’re evil, a good dose of ramming the Donald down their throats is called for.
In fact, I’m sure a fair few of us here in Australia, with a choice between Shorten and Turnbull staring us in the face, wish Trump were an option here too.
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