Among the things conservatives most often complain about with respect to the Left is their intolerance of differing opinions.
I have to be honest and say that I don’t like generalizations. Individuals are individuals for a reason. We are all different, with different backgrounds, different likes and dislikes, and different aptitudes for different things. However, experience–growing up in liberal New York City, attending liberal Columbia University, dating liberals to the left of Barack Obama (I know, I’m a masochist), and years of teaching in liberal institutions–has taught me that the vast majority of liberals I have encountered have a problem with dissent. They are uncomfortable with debate that doesn’t yield unanimous agreement, and are threatened by bold; conflicting opinions. They tend to respond with character assassinations, not policy distinctions. They somehow feel betrayed by your opposing view and in turn belittle and berate. They aim to censor. Not all liberals, but like I said–the vast majority of those I have encountered.
Conservatives are right to detest that tendency. True conservatives should welcome individuality and the independent thoughts that come with it. They should invite spirited debate, feel positively challenged by diverse opinions, and never forget that the freedom to hold those differing views is at the core of what we are fighting for.
This week on Fox News, Sarah Palin endorsed Orrin Hatch in the Utah primary. She articulated her reasons why, detailing them in written form on her website. Mark Levin backed up her decision, issuing commentary on his radio show. Michelle Malkin disagreed, conveying her sentiments on her blog. I went about doing what I always do–digging into candidates’ records.
But I’m not going to talk about Hatch. Or Liljenquist. Or the Utah primary. I’m going to talk about the backlash I witnessed on twitter and via email that made me feel like I had been transplanted into the belly of the Left.
Some Palin supporters trashed Malkin as a Palin-hater. Some Tea Party folks trashed Palin as a traitor. It got ugly. It wasn’t the healthy policy debate we conservatives know and love; it was the character assassinations we hold the Left accountable for every day.
It troubles me. Because this isn’t the first time it has happened. And I fear it won’t be the last.
So I’m asking you to think about that. Because it doesn’t make sense to rail against the Left and then mimic their behavior. You can’t hold someone else accountable for wrongdoing and excuse yourself. Well, I guess you can–but what does that say about you?
And if conservatism is on course to mimic liberalism, we are in big trouble.
Healthy debate is a good thing. Backing up endorsements with policy reasons and passionately defending your candidate is what we are all about. Hearty policy discussions are good for the movement. They keep us strong, sharp, and challenge us to think about what we say, who we support, and why. And guess what? We all won’t always agree.
To those who object to Palin’s endorsement, Malkin’s endorsement, or the endorsements of others down the road–myself included–speak your minds. Tell me why you disagree with me. Arm yourself with facts. Challenge me. I welcome it.
But the unnecessary name-calling and character attacks–can’t we just leave that nonsense to the Left?