A Legitimate Role for Liberals? | Letters | Chicago Reader

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A Legitimate Role for Liberals?

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Your article on this new Trib columnist [Hot Type, January 26] quotes "MikeMcKing" as saying "Liberals prefer to attack conservatives with smug and often unspoken assertions about their own moral superiority. Liberals "care' about the environment, the poor, the children, etc etc etc, and by implication, conservatives don't. Liberals are simply better people; conservatives are selfish and greedy. That is an "attack' equally as broad and contemptuous, just not as in-your-face sneering."

I am fascinated by his logic, which I run into pretty often among conservatives. By stating that we "care" about various good things, we are "implying" that our opponents don't; even if our "assertions" about our moral superiority are "unspoken," we don't deserve any credit for not speaking them--we're still "smug." What the conservatives mean, of course, is that we have the nerve to take a position opposite to theirs, and to believe (and occasionally even state) that we are right.

Well, shooooot! If we didn't believe we were right, why would we bother taking any position at all? Especially these days, when all we get out of proclaiming ourselves to be liberals is the scorn of Rush and the ditto-heads. If we didn't think that caring about the things we care about was a good thing to do, and perhaps even made us better people, why would we bother?

Is there some conservative out there who can tell me exactly what conservatives would consider a legitimate argument for a liberal position? In fact, is there a conservative out there who can tell me what conservatives believe is the legitimate role of liberals in our political culture? Because, from what I have seen of recent conservative discourse, I am led to suspect strongly that the conservatives really want a one-party system and believe that the opposition has no legitimate role whatever. Some of the hard-line GOP ideologues in Congress are talking about "de-funding the Left." There is no credible Left in the American political process, and has not been one since Henry Wallace got the tar beat out of him in 1948; what they are talking about "de-funding" is the center. Guess what that leaves?

However, in deference to "Mike McKing" and colleagues, let me try to make a liberal argument without committing the sins of which he accuses us. "Uh, I'm probably wrong, of course--in fact, I'm usually wrong--but aren't there some people out there who really can't find jobs and who still maybe need to eat? I don't really care about them of course--or if I do, it's because one of them is a relative of mine and I'd rather the government took care of him than me--but I still get uncomfortable when I hear about hunger. That doesn't mean I'm a good person, of course. Probably just that I'm a weak-kneed wimp. You conservatives are undoubtedly much better than me, even if the guys you worship in Congress are mostly divorced and never go to church or give to charity. (Oops, sorry, I didn't mean that, really I didn't. But if I didn't say it, it would just be an "unspoken assertion' anyway, and that's just as bad. I can't help thinking that stuff.) But, gee, isn't there something we can do?" This is really hard to do. Also it makes for lousy discourse. I wonder what that tells us.

Marian Neudel

S. Kimbark

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