Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hey! Who You Callin’ an Ideologue!

The other day I came across a post by a right-wing blogger in which he referred to me as “a liberal ideologue”. Whoa! That really gave me pause because I've always considered the term to be disparaging … meaning someone who is locked into a particular philosophy and pretty much unable or unwilling to find any merit in another point of view.

I readily admit to holding strong opinions, but part of what defines a liberal is the ability to consider and even adopt new ideas. Conservatives, on the other hand, are instinctively – or, if you will – ideologically resistant to change.

And therein lies the problem: we liberals have a much harder sell than do our conservative counterparts. Change is scary; sticking to the status quo is a lot safer and requires a lot less thought.

Take transit, for example. Yes, it’s a generalization, but for the most part liberals tend to support transit projects while conservatives are far more likely to oppose them.

In stating our case, liberals must start by acknowledging that a transit system is going to cost every taxpayer a few more dollars, whether they will ever ride the system or not. (In Honolulu that has meant an extra ½ percent added to the General Excise Tax). After that, we have to convince people that transit will keep automobile traffic at bearable levels, will reduce pollution, will help to contain urban sprawl, and will yield other societal benefits.

On the other hand, all the anti-transit people have to do is raise the decibel level and say “It’s too expensive” or “Nobody will ride it” or “It’s just another government boondoggle.” And that offers an easy way out for people already busy and stressed in their daily lives. They just hop on that bandwagon. No critical thinking required.

There are a lot of big problems out there. Choosing the right course for any of them takes work which leads to knowledge which leads to understanding … and sometimes that means changing one's mind.

Whatever the issue – transit or the debt or unemployment – we could do with a lot less ideology.

Come, let us reason together.


Mary said...

Hey Jim, Your post reminded me of this recent article that presents scientific evidence of a liberal/conservative cognitive divide:

Charles said...

This sort of works as a theory. But I know many liberals who think that wearing the issue they feel strongly about on their sleeve is enough. Because it is right and makes them feel good. When it comes to digging in and dealing with the guts of the problem, they become idealogical and permit the ideal that is in their heads to impede progressive, albeit imperfect, steps. Broad ideal yes, but very narrow view of how to move forward and a tendency to castigate those who are solution oriented. Chuck Freedman, practical liberal