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Illiberal Liberalism

Brian Anderson

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Liberals used to be the staunchest advocates of reasoned, civil debate.  No more. Now it's argument by name-calling.

It's hard not to notice that political discussion over the last decade has increasingly degenerated into name-calling -- and that the insults most often come from the left: "racist," "homophobe," "sexist," "mean-spirited," "insensitive." It has become a habit of left-liberal political argument to use such invective to dismiss conservative beliefs as if they don't deserve an argument and to redefine mainstream conservative arguments as extremism and bigotry. Close-minded and uncivil, this tendency betrays what's liberal in liberalism.

It undermines two principles crucial to liberal democracy and central to its superiority to other forms of government. Democracy requires a willingness to engage civilly with those you disagree with, recognizing their equality as citizens. Social thinker Michael Novak calls this democratic etiquette the "amity and equanimity proper to a civilized people." To be sure, this noble ideal inevitably takes its knocks in the bruised-knuckle world of real politics; as Frederick Douglass once pointed out, those who look for politics to be unfailingly polite "want rain without thunder and lightning." But calling someone a racist or a bigot says that his ideas have no place in the democratic public square. It's an annihilating gesture, appropriately directed against a David Duke or a Khallid Muhammad, not against the principled beliefs of your conservative fellow citizens.

Read the complete article on the City Times website./p



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