The Idea Gap

by John Hawkins | March 22, 2005 10:45 am

Have you noticed the elephant in the living room that the liberals keep trying to ignore even as they lose election after election? It’s the huge “idea gap” between conservatives and liberals. While conservatives are open about what we think and our reasoning, liberals often try to obscure what they believe in or worse yet, publicly run from it. This is why — as USA Today reported[1] — Americans think the Democratic Party is out of gas intellectually:

“A recent poll by Democrats James Carville and Stanley Greenberg found that just 44% — scarcely anyone beyond diehard Democrats — think the party has any ideas for addressing the nation’s problems.”

There are a number of reasons why liberals aren’t as forthright about what they believe as conservatives are. One problem for liberals is that the Democratic Party is much more evenly divided than the GOP. Sure, the libs may run the Party, but if they’re too open and up front about their agenda, they risk alienating significant numbers of moderate Democrats. Of course, given that the leftward drift of the Democratic Party has cost them much of their support in the South, perhaps the Party leadership hasn’t been secretive enough about what they believe.

But the split in the party is just a symptom of a much larger problem: that many liberal ideas have already been considered and soundly rejected by the American people. This is why judges have become so important — because activist judges are the left’s way of getting their policies implemented over the objections of the voters.

There are different ways liberals could deal with this situation. They could try to come up with new ideas, but that’s really very difficult for them to do since many liberal political convictions are almost like religious doctrine. They have their beliefs, they are what they are, and they’re not very amenable to changing them based on new evidence.

On the other hand, the left could do what the right has spent so much time doing: explaining what they believe and trying to convince the public that their ideas are sound. Unfortunately, most — but not all — liberals lack the courage to take this approach. It’s one thing to support large tax increases, reparations, abortion on demand, and the confiscation of firearms from law abiding citizens, but it takes more guts to defend those ideas when they’re under fire the way conservatives stand up for their positions on pro-life issues, the war in Iraq, flattening the tax rate, and free trade.

Knee-jerk opposition to conservative policies, coming up with fantastic theories about “wars for oil,” and trying to muddy up the water about what liberal candidates really believe is always an easier road to travel…in the short term at least.

But the American public, after hearing the same tired shtick from the left year after year & gaining access to more sources of information that don’t always toe the liberal line, has wised up to the tricks & spin.

So if the left wants to make a political comeback in this country — at least to the point where Democratic candidates for President are willing to publicly admit that they’re liberals — then they’re going to have to bridge the idea gap on foreign policy, abortion, Kyoto, gun control, states rights, taxes, socialized medicine, the size and growth of government, and dozens of other issues where what they believe is either incoherent or hidden from the American people.

Until the left does that, they may still be able to win a few battles, but they are doomed to slowly but surely lose the intellectual war with the right…

  1. USA Today reported:

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