Avedon Carol provides an illustration of why liberals are so bad at politics:
It's lost in the mists of time for me, but does anyone remember who came up with (and who promoted) the idea that liberal ideology is hard to defend and explain because it's all so "nuanced"?
She calls this "the flattering lie" - I'm not sure why it's supposed to be flattering - and says liberal ideology is easy to understand.
One implication of this argument is that anyone who claims not to understand liberal ideology is arguing in bad faith. Commenters reinforce this:
It's not hard to understand, unless you're dead set against understanding. I call it being aggressively stupid. Other people have a more polite term.
Another is that liberals suck:
It's not a question of liberalism being complex, it's a question of so many liberals not really believing in equality, justice, etc. , that the actual substance of liberalism is worth the effort of fighting for and risking any real personal sacrifice for. That's how liberalism has died.
Talk about "the flattering lie". If there is one, it's that things would be going great if everyone else were as principled and morally good as you.
The problem with Carol's argument is that she's talking about rhetoric, not politics. Rhetoric is essential but not sufficient for effective politics. Rhetoric is about getting people to think what you want them to think. Politics is about getting people to do what you want them to do. We've seen time and again that people who agree with many liberal ideas and policies in general still vote for conservative politicians. That's because conservatives can make their politics simple, while liberals can't.
Consider the following:
- Free-market capitalism is the source of all wealth. Anything that interferes with the free market reduces wealth and therefore all regulation of business:
- should be carefully crafted to avoid undue interference with the market.
- should be designed to avoid market failures by promoting dissemination of information, reducing barriers to entry, and countering anti-competitive practices.
- is evil and should be repealed.
Contrast that with:
- The concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny minority of people creates a bias in the political system which caters to the interests of those people and undermines the principles of liberty and equality on which the country was founded. Therefore, as a nation we should:
- promote institutions that counter the creation or persistence of such bias including campaign finance laws, whistleblower statutes, strong independent oversight, and aggressive investigative reporting.
- create laws and policies to mitigate the concentration of wealth by placing the greatest share of the cost of government on the wealthy using progressive taxation.
- kill the rich, take their money, and distribute it to the poor.
I think the point is self-evident: Almost no liberals answering the second question would choose the third answer or vote for politicians who took that position. A majority of conservatives answering the first question would do both. Conservative politics are simple and liberal politics are not.
Liberals value fairness, conservatives value power. A message of power is always easier to sell than fairness. As someone wrote:
World's run by fear, you see. Can't sell pipe dreams, can't rule with charity, no good at all. Not in the real world. Promise to build a chap a house, he won't believe you. Threaten to burn his place down, he'll do what you tell him. Fact of life.
Conservatives have built a narrative of virtuous strength versus degenerative weakness that is cohesive and, again, simple, and marketed it relentlessly. Liberals could not concoct and peddle such a simplistic story. Again, we value fairness while the other side does not. We refuse to sell what we wouldn't buy; conservative leaders do it every day. A liberal will never be able to appeal to a voter's baser instincts and remain a liberal; a conservative will never be able to appeal to a voter's better instincts and remain a conservative. But it's easier to appeal to the baser instincts, and that's not flattery or a lie.