You didn’t see that one coming, did you? Here’s Professor Susan J. Douglas:
I hate Republicans. I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal “personhood.”
This loathing is a relatively recent phenomenon. Back in the 1970s, I worked for a Republican, Fred Lippitt, the senate minority leader in Rhode Island, and I loved him. He was a brand of Republican now extinct—a “moderate” who was fiscally conservative but progressive about women’s rights, racial justice and environmental preservation. Had he been closer to my age, I could have contemplated marrying someone like Fred. Today, marrying a Republican is unimaginable to me. And I’m not alone. Back in 1960, only 5 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of Democrats said they’d be “displeased” if their child married someone from the opposite party. Today? Forty-nine percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats would be pissed.
According to a recent study by Stanford professor Shanto Iyengar and Princeton researcher Sean Westwood, such polarization has increased dramatically in recent years. What’s noteworthy is how entrenched this mutual animus is. It’s fine for me to use the word “hate” when referring to Republicans and for them to use the same word about me, but you would never use the word “hate” when referring to people of color, or women, or gays and lesbians.
It’s funny: I don’t hate Democrats. For one thing, I am married to one. But I also deal with Democrats on a day-to-day basis. If I “hated” all these people, my life would be pretty miserable. Instead, I disagree with their views, pretty much keep my disagreements to myself (unless discussion is invited and welcome), and simply enjoy them as people.
Douglas is “a professor of communications at the University of Michigan.” Does she teach classes? Are any of her students Republicans? Does she “hate” them? How do they feel about a professor who holds power over their grades and (to that extent) their futures, who “hates” them because of the party she identifies with?
Does she have colleagues? Are any of them Republicans? If so, do any of them dare talk about their political affiliation in front of her? I doubt it. And what does it say about the leftist academic bubble, that someone like Douglas can declare that they “hate” a party that pulls about half the vote in the entire country, and apparently feel confident that they will suffer no social repercussions whatsoever from this pronouncement?
A series of studies has found that political conservatives tend toward certain psychological characteristics. What are they? Dogmatism, rigidity and intolerance of ambiguity; a need to avoid uncertainty; support for authoritarianism; a heightened sense of threat from others; and a personal need for structure. How do these qualities influence political thinking?
According to researchers, the two core dimensions of conservative thought are resistance to change and support for inequality. These, in turn, are core elements of social intolerance. The need for certainty, the need to manage fear of social change, lead to black-and-white thinking and an embrace of stereotypes. Which could certainly lead to a desire to deride those not like you—whether people of color, LGBT people or Democrats. And, especially since the early 1990s, Republican politicians and pundits have been feeding these needs with a single-minded, uncomplicated, good-vs.-evil worldview that vilifies Democrats.
So now we hate them back. And for good reason. Which is too bad. I miss the Fred Lippitts of yore and the civilized discourse and political accomplishments they made possible. And so do millions of totally fed-up Americans.
It’s possible to confront a “single-minded, uncomplicated, good-vs.-evil worldview” and respond with something besides hate. That, in fact, is what I am doing in this very post — and it’s something Republicans (and Democrats less hateful than Ms. Douglas) do all the time in this country.
I have not read the “studies” Douglas cites, but it’s clear that the qualities she describes are derisive terms for a world view that Thomas Sowell describes as “constrained.” “Dogmatism, rigidity and intolerance of ambiguity” as well as “a need to avoid uncertainty” represent a philosophy that recognizes the importance of incentives, and favors order even if it potentially raises the chances of individual instances of injustice. (Of course, “dogmatism” is a loaded term, as are many of Douglas’s terms.) “Resistance to change” represents a support for traditions that reflect common wisdom over ages. “Support for inequality” is a nasty and unfair slur against a philosophy that prizes equality of opportunity over equality of result — and recognizes that efforts to equalize results often result in government creating power imbalances among groups, and in unintended consequences that decrease the quality of life for everyone, including the least fortunate.
In short, Ms. Douglas, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. While I don’t hate you, and I try not to hate even your ugly thoughts — because hate is a negative emotion that corrodes the soul — I certainly reject your hatred. I feel sorry for those who have to deal with someone so hateful. I feel sorry for your students, for your colleagues, for your neighbors, and everyone else who crosses your path and feels the sting of your nasty worldview.
And ultimately, I feel sorry for you — because you’re clearly proud of your hatred, which means you are unlikely to change. Which means you’re trapped — you have trapped yourself, that is — in a situation I don’t envy: a life driven by negative emotions and ugliness.
Thanks to Simon Jester.
UPDATE: Added to the post the sentence: (Of course, “dogmatism” is a loaded term, as are many of Douglas’s terms.)