Don Draper, ad man, once said “If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation. The liberals in the US Congress have spent two years upset with what the conservatives have been saying but have not been able to change the conversation. In the wake of the results last November which changed the Democrats from the majority to the minority in the House, there are signs that they may be trying to change the conversation. In his State of the Union speech last week, President Obama started to try and change the conversation. The biggest problem, however, is the arrogance of the liberals which may make changing the conversation impossible.
We liberals are convinced that if we could just have a calm, honest discussion about issues then people would be convinced of our viewpoint. We think of ourselves as being about facts and that the other side is about emotion. After the violence in Arizona, one of many incidents of gun violence in Arizona in January but the only one which featured a member of Congress, there was talk about increasing civility in political discourse. This appeals to the Democrats because they are tired of losing the debate, which they feel has been argued with emotions and not facts. If only they could calmly explain to the American people how their ideas are the correct ones then public opinion would change.
The problem is that for some reason people don’t like to be condescended to. In my own experience, I’ve tried to calmly explain to my conservative parents exactly what is right about my ideas and wrong about their’s and the result is always annoyance and anger, on both sides. My parents have accused me of condescension for over twenty years and I’ve not been able to sway them on any issues. Maybe if I could wrap myself in the flag and accuse them of being un-American in their beliefs then there would be some movement.
I think this may be the way for the Democrats to go also. I know that they are loathe to stoop to the tactics of their opponents, convinced as they are in their own superiority. The problem is that this attitude is a turn-off for people outside of the urban areas of the United States. It’s all well and good to live in New York secure in our superiority and certain that we know what’s good for all those rubes in the red states. The problem is that all these rubes can vote and the evidence indicates that they don’t like being called rubes. My parents are solidly working class and I’m pretty certain that they have never voted for a Democratic candidate for President. Aligning themselves with the liberal elite is unthinkable.
So the liberals should change the conversation. We may believe that we really know what’s better for everyone but even if all of our ideas are better, no wants to hear us talk about them. We are all so busy congratulating ourselves on how clever we are that we haven’t noticed that there are a lot of people that are sick of us. Matt Taibbi warned that by labeling the Tea Party supporters as lunatics and crazy people that the Democrats were underestimating the power of their ideas. The proof was delivered in the ballots. Sometimes its not enough just to be right. The liberals should change the conversation now if we want to have the opportunity to prove that we’re right.