On his radio show last week, Mike Gallagher posed a question to his audience. In his personal experience he’s seen more examples of conservatives willing to reach out in friendship to liberals than vice versa. Is this the general trend? Is the Right – or, more accurately, the non-Left (taking varying stripes of libertarians into account) – really more tolerant than the Left?
I am reminded of something that happened back in the 80s. Jerry Falwell bargained with Ted Kennedy for each to deliver a speech at each other’s home turf – Kennedy at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA, and Falwell at Harvard. Kennedy got a polite reception, while Falwell was inundated with heckling.
Falwell’s treatment is quite typical of that of conservative campus speakers over the past two decades. One is pained to find an example of such heckling of leftist speakers; the rare ones who do usually have to resort to talking uncivilly about politics when they’re being paid to do something else in order to elicit such a response.
The general perception of liberals is clouded by the fact that liberals in prominence do not represent a cross-section of liberals in general. Celebrities, academics, student activists, and the like skew toward the more intolerant radical fringe. Non-liberals in prominence represent a wider range of thought and are generally more willing to have rational discussions across the ideological divides.
Why? I think the difference lies not in what separates left and right but what defines radicalism. All radicals, whether they be Marxists or Klansmen, view the world in terms of class warfare. Entire classes are inherently at war with each other in the eyes of the radical; the only solution is for one set of classes to triumph completely over the other. There is no room for all classes to advance. Non-radicals, to the contrary, believe that everybody can be pleased to some degree.
Radicals are also heavily dependent on the State to socialize children and adults individuals in order to remake society. Hate speech laws in Canada, England, continental Europe, and Western academia serve as one of the most insidious examples. School curricula distort history and proffer all sorts of Lysenkoist treatment of sexuality, “tolerance,” and “diversity” – all for the cause of making children into citizens who adopt the class consciousness and the party platform.
Non-radicals do not view government as a vehicle for making men and women righteous. Politics, while having moral implications, is a bit player in basic human civility. Most of what people require for good relations with their neighbors has nothing to do with legislation, so political differences are not an inherent impediment. Not so with the radicals. They must tear down the old society – and all the classes and individuals associated with it – and build a new one in its place.