The article of the day is Jon Chait's piece in New York addressing the question of Hollywood's liberalism. To simplify it a bit, Chait argues that conservatives are basically right in their belief that Hollywood liberals are warping our minds with left-wing propaganda, though they seem to have all but stopped bothering to complain about it. I find it hard to disagree with the first part of Chait's premise: Hollywood is, indeed, dominated by liberals. There are a few high-profile conservatives there (Bruce Willis, Tom Selleck, Clint Eastwood), but they're a small minority. It's not hard to figure out why. Any industry that is made up of creative people is going to be dominated by liberals. Most novelists are liberals too. I'm sure most graphic artists are liberals. There's a whole lot of psychological research demonstrating that liberals tend to be more tolerant of ambiguity, open to experience, and interested in change than conservatives, while conservatives tend to be more conscientious and drawn to hierarchy and order (Prospect alum Chris Mooney details all this in his book The Republican Brain; there's a short version here). In other words, artists are going to be more liberal. Conservatives may not like it, but that's how it is and how it's probably always going to be.
The next question is what values are communicated by the products those liberals produce, and whether we have a problem with them...
Remember that Anne-Marie Slaughter article in The Atlantic about a month and a half ago, whose title—"Why Women Still Can't Have It All"—drove feminists bonkers, while the substance nevertheless rang true for roughly 70 gazillion working parents in this country who are doing the impossible every single day? Rebecca Traister proposed forever retiring the phrase "having it all" here, and I chastised the magazine for the framing. But the article's core idea was right, as I wrote at the time:
The most recent episode of the Prospect podcast is a conversation with my colleague Abby Rapoport on voter identification laws.
One thing that we begin to talk about, but don’t spend enough time on, is the normative argument against voter identification. So far, liberals have devoted their time to showing the rarity of in-person voter fraud—the kind ostensibly prevented by voter-ID—and the low likelihood that it would affect the outcome of an election. Tactically, this makes a lot of sense. The push for voter ID usually comes with stories of massive voter fraud, that play on public distrust toward government. If you can counter those stories with facts, you can make voters think twice about implementing an additional burden for voting.
Contraception is once again up for serious public debate in the United States. How much fun is that?
Yes, fun. For years, feminists have been warning that, underneath all the attacks on women’s reproductive rights—the multiplying restrictions on abortion, the attempts to defund Planned Parenthood’s health
services, the “conscience clauses” that let pharmacists choose which pills they’ll dispense—lies a determined opposition to contraception and to women’s independence generally. The mainstream media rolled their eyes at feminist paranoia and moved on.
In the last few weeks, many obituaries have praised the revolutionary poet and feminist theorist Adrienne Rich. While these homages are well deserved, what has been largely ignored in considering the legacy of Rich is her history of transphobia. With the exception of a small group of critics, Rich’s ideas about trans identity—and trans women in particular—have gone unscrutinized. It’s indicative of the larger inability within the feminist movement to recognize trans voices.
In our November issue, John Powers compiled a glossary of terms conservatives use in ways that don’t match standard dictionary definitions (“The Right Word”). Reader Riley Simpson wrote, “I think this glossary should become a website (perhaps Wackipedia) that could be added to and edited by whoever has a new observation of ConSpeak to offer up.” He may be onto something, because an appeal to readers to help expand the list garnered a huge response. Here are some of the suggested additions. You can contribute yours at BelowtheBattle@gmail.com.
AMERICAN DREAM: A fantasyland in which the unprivileged are entitled to a home, education, and health care. —Beverly Weiss
Chris Mooney -- Prospect alum, science journalist, known smart person -- is unsettled when liberals say conservatives are dumb:
Over the weekend, Maureen Dowd penned the column that somebody—some liberal—was bound to pen eventually. Basically, it was about, uh, why conservatives have embraced being "stupid," or at least anti-intellectual.
We sure are talking about Rick Perry a lot. But why stop now -- he's not only new, but interesting in ways that some of his opponents aren't. Jonathan Chait brings us this video of Perry seemingly flummoxed when confronted with the fact that his preferred policy of abstinence education doesn't work to stop teen pregnancy:
Marie Diamond flags Iowa Representative Steve King's panic over the possibility that increased access to contraception could lead to the end of America:
They’ve called it preventative medicine. Preventative medicine. Well if you applied that preventative medicine universally what you end up with is you’ve prevented a generation. Preventing babies from being born is not medicine. That’s not— that’s not constructive to our culture and our civilization. If we let our birth rate get down below replacement rate we’re a dying civilization.
I'm finally reading Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, and I laughed out loud when I read this passage about the vulnerability of Jerry Voorhis, the California Democrat who was the first victim of Richard Nixon's red-baiting:
Voohris possessed an added vulnerability: He had once been a member of the Socialist Party. Not a Communist, but for the upright burghers of Southern California's suburbs, to whom property was as sacred as anything in the Bible, the distinction was sufficiently arcane to be moot.
Richard Florida has a post in The Atlantic that sees the number of people who self-identify as conservative state by state as evidence that "America is an increasingly conservative nation, by ideology and by political affiliation." Let's leave aside the obvious point that Americans telling us they are "conservative" is essentially meaningless in terms of sussing out the ideological bent -- if any -- of the country. Florida asks a more interesting question, which is why some states are becoming more conservative, looking at a variety of possible correlating data.
Robert Wright writes about becoming an anti-intellectual intellectual.
I spent much of high school trying not to be interested in ideas. I studied hard and made good grades, but I didn't hang out with the nerds. This was partly because hanging out with nerds wasn't cool and partly because the kind of intellectualism they exuded didn't enthrall me. They talked about Camus and Sartre and Nietzsche -- people I hadn't heard much about in my life as an Army brat and people my mildly anti-intellectual father would have disdained had anyone explained to him who they were.
It's often said that a liberal is someone so reasonable he won't take his own side in an argument. At a time when we hear a lot about "the extremes on both sides," Gallup has some interesting poll results to show (via Jon Chait):
To piggyback on Jamelle's argument that the more bombastic conservative arguments that we're hearing against net neutrality are symptomatic of a reflexive anti-liberalism, it's worth keeping in mind that the historical record of communications debates in particular in this country made it fairly easy to predict that this is how this policy debate would shape up.