The party of the elite?


I don't know how many times I've heard that the Republican party is the party of a snobbish, elitist minority who think condescendingly of everyone else. This article is one piece of evidence among many demonstrating that elitism among liberals, at the very least, is no better. This guy just can't fathom that so many people would like President Bush without being quite stupid. It's really a testament to the division in this country. I'd love to know the numbers on how many Democrats who hate Bush don't even listen to people who like him and how many Republicans who love him don't even listen to people who hate him. It's amazing how many very intelligent people I know (even professors and graduate students of philosophy) hate him for reasons that I think are absolutely stupid, and they just seem like fools when they say some of the things they say. I don't, however, chalk it up to stupidity, as this guy is doing.

I'm certainly against anti-intellectualism, but that doesn't mean I should call everyone I disagree with stupid simply because I don't agree with them. It doesn't mean I should ignore the likelihood that people who don't think a lot about why they believe things might well believe the right things anyway but just without the careful reasoning. Those who aren't careful thinkers are nearly equally likely to be in either party, as far as I can tell. Most people are more affected by rhetoric and emotionalism than they are by argument, but it goes back to their deeper values and which policies they see as tied to those values, not to stupidity

For example, pro-life and pro-choice people both start with the same fundamental values. It's not as if pro-choice people don't appreciate the right to life, and it's not as if pro-life people don't appreciate freedom of choice. It's just that pro-life people generally have a view, that a fetus is a person and deserves the same treatment as a newborn infant, and pro-choice people generally have a view, that the fetus isn't a person and doesn't have such rights or that when there's a conflict of rights between two people the rights of the one who is more morally developed trumps the rights of the other. The same values are at work, and which view people have (if they're not basing it on arguments) generally comes from what others around them think. That's not stupidity. They have the ability to reason about such things, as I can see every time I teach the issue in an introductory class. They just hadn't thought about the careful arguments for either view, but that doesn't mean stupidity is why they held their view.

To summarize: Most people who hold views without having carefully evaluated the arguments still have an explanation for why they hold them, and that explanation is not simply because they're stupid. I really do get the sense from my colleagues that they think stupidity is the only reason most Republicans hold their views. That's not just insensitivity to the psychological issues involved with how people arrive at their beliefs. It's elitism, it's condescending, and it's flat-footed moral and political snobbery.


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