Perverted, God-Hating Frenchies vs. Inbred, Sex-Obsessed Yokels

Why can't liberals and conservatives get along? Because they fundamentally misunderstand each other.

BY: Steven Waldman

I was waiting to go on a conservative talk radio show and heard the host say that John Kerry and his supporters "have no God" because they don't stand up to evil. He went on to claim that "even the mention of God terrifies them." As for religious people who go to church regularly but vote Democratic, he said, "I see them as sort of phonies."

Then I came on, and his question to me was, "Why do secular people think we're all a bunch of intolerant people?"

I've heard similarly clueless statements from liberals who simultaneously talk about the need for fairness then compare the Bush administration to the Taliban or the Nazis.

I'm not going to attempt to bring peace to the land right now but thought it might be worthwhile to sketch the top ways that liberals misunderstand well-meaning religious conservatives, and vice versa.

They're Just As Moral As Conservatives

We've seen a wave of commentary suggesting that George W. Bush's re-election was a victory of people who cared about morality over those who didn't. "As a class, liberals no longer are merely the vigorous opponents of the Right; they are spiteful enemies of civilization's core decency and traditions," writes Mike Thompson, in Human Events Online. Columnist Ben Giles spelled out liberal depravity with greater specificity. "I'm sure the Kerry cabal has a lot to say regarding...conducting an orgy, the preeminent natural herb for curbing the side effects of herpes, how to pick out the right stripper and midget for a ménage à trois, how to redistribute someone else's wealth to pimps, whores and welfare brats, how to rid one's nation of Judeo-Christian ethics..."

The idea that this was a victory for people who care about morality over those who don't is galling to liberals because, for many of them, the number one issue in this election was Iraq -- and their opposition to the incumbent administration was almost entirely grounded in moral concerns. It's not like liberals objected because their own family members were dying. Rather, they believe that launching any war unless absolutely justified is profoundly immoral, a position also articulated by the Pope. One can disagree, but I would love the opportunity to watch Anne Coulter tell the Pope his opposition to the war isn't based on morality. Liberals also believe that a morally indefensible policy was sold dishonestly - a gross moral breach compounded by another.

Conservatives ask why the opposition to Bush seems hateful. The answer: liberals believe that what Bush did is worse than what other presidents, Democratic or Republican, have done because it involves the unnecessary and therefore immoral shedding of human blood.

They're Just As Smart As Liberals

Liberals tend to view people who take the Bible very seriously as yokels opposed to science, knowledge and thinking. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd said the Bush administration is about "replacing science with religion, and facts with faith. We're entering another dark age, more creationist than cutting edge." Novelist Jane Smiley declared the election a triumph for the forces of "ignorance." Privately, liberals friends have told me that Bush voters are "morons," "idiots" and "peanut heads." The idea that red state voters chose Bush because they're ignorant or uneducated is bigoted, not to mention inaccurate. The least educated voters, people with no high school diploma favored Kerry 50%-49%.

Conversely, most people who are highly educated are quite religious too: 72% percent of people with post-graduate degrees believed in miracles and 78% percent believe in the survival of the soul after death. Liberals can't mock religious people as dumb when they disagree with them but hail their wisdom when they're liberals like Jimmy Carter. This intellectual snobbery is a major reason why religious conservatives distrust liberal elites.

Most Are Religious

A conventional wisdom has developed that almost all religious people voted for Bush and most people who voted for Kerry were secular or anti-Christian. The Republican Party sent out brochures in West Virginia and Kentucky saying liberals wanted to ban the Bible, Dr. James Dobson recently called a liberal senator a "Gods' people hater" and Republican convention keynoter Zell Miller's said of columnist Maureen Dowd, "You can see horns just sprouting up through that Technicolor hair."

However, not only are liberals not, by and large, Satanic or anti-Bible, they're mostly quite religious. Voters who went to church monthly split 50%-49% for Bush and Kerry. Those who go to church "occasionally" went for Kerry 53%-47%, while people who attend church weekly went for Bush 58%-41%. More important, 61% of Democrats pray daily, 59% are "certain" there's life after death, and most believe in God. The spiritual lives of Democrats are, statistically speaking, somewhat less based in houses of worship than those of Republicans but they are believers nonetheless.

When Democrats hear conservatives accuse them of being anti-religion it sounds like what they're really saying is that Democrats don't practice the right kind of religion -- that they are, as my talk radio friend put it, "a bunch of phonies." This is a direct attack on the nature of liberals' relationship with God or spirituality.

They Don't Want a Religious Dictatorship

Liberal columnist E.R. Shipp said conservatives wanted a "Christian Jihad." The Village Voice declared Bush had a "mandate for theocracy." Others have compared the current administration to the Taliban. This is profoundly insulting to most conservative Republicans in the same way it is insulting to liberals when they are called Communists or defenders of terrorism. Yes, religious conservatives want a greater role in public life -- perhaps more than liberals want or the Constitution allows -- but President Bush's faith based initiative is highly pluralistic and he has spoken out for religious tolerance. Equating him or his supporters with regimes that execute dissidents or blow up buildings is heinous.

They Believe History Is On the Side of Tolerance

Conservatives contend that liberals believe in moral relativism, and, to be sure, there is a tendency for liberals to avoid accusing people of moral wrongdoing. Conservatives say this proves liberals are immoral or amoral. In fact, what's happened is that liberals have elevated "tolerance" as the value that trumps many others, an essential and ethical way of coping with life in an increasingly diverse nation. Most liberals who support gay partnership rights are not themselves homosexual but believe in the right of people to determine their own lives. Conservatives appropriately argue that it's OK to be intolerant of some things -- even liberals wouldn't tolerate, say, murder. But that means the debate is really over how to weigh one value (tolerance) over another value (traditional family) -- not over whether one side cares about values and the other doesn't.

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