OPINION: Liberals Must Reflect on Failure with Humility

Created: 23 June, 2017
Updated: 17 October, 2022
4 min read

Liberals in America have been dealt some heavy blows in the past few decades. The impeachment of Bill Clinton, losing the 2000 election by a Supreme Court verdict, the Tea Party, partisan gerrymandering, and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Largely, liberals have maintained a quiet humility. In the words of Michelle Obama, it has been an "if they go low, you go high" strategy.

Perhaps the election of Donald Trump, over liberal darling Hillary Clinton, was the last straw. Simmering 'liberal' aggressiveness built up over decades is taking center stage in the us vs. them -- human vs. human conflict, plaguing our country.

Indivisible, a new 'liberal' movement with a chapter in almost every congressional district, has literally taken a page from the Tea Party:

"The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party...We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism— and they won.

"We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda — but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness.


"To this end, the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success."

Never mind that the Tea Party's grassroots organizing was likely a direct response to Obama's superior ground-game in 2008. Perhaps Indivisible had better guides for political power than than Tea Party? Or maybe they are just angry, and want to fight fire with fire.

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It is not clear that the liberal 'left' are resisting on a platform of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness. Cracks in the highroad have been forming for sometime.

Fareed Zakaria, national news anchor for CNN, gave a scathing speech at Bucknell University, chiding 'liberals' for their intolerance of conservatives. He recaps in his What in the World segment:

"There is also an anti-intellectualism on the left. An attitude of self-righteousness that says, 'We are so pure, we are so morally superior, we cannot bear to hear an idea with which we disagree.' Liberals think they are tolerant, but often they are not." - Fareed Zakaria

Let's not forget the 2012 academic study that labeled conservatives as more psychotic. That study rattled around in academia for 3 years, was cited by 45 other papers, and was used by both liberals and conservatives to demonize the other side, before Penn State and Virginia Commonwealth University researchers, Verhulst, Eaves & Hatemi, issued an erratum:

"Specifically, in the original manuscript, the de-scriptive analyses report that those higher in Eysenck’s psychoticism are more conservative, but they are actually more liberal; and where the original manuscript reports those higher in neuroticism and social desirability are more liberal, they are, in fact, more conservative."

Never mind that no matter how the data is coded for liberals and conservatives, this paper, and other academic studies find that one's personality traits don't cause a person to align with one political ideology or another.


No party has a corner on corruption, either. In Philadelphia's District 197, a special election in March 2017 to replace Leslie Acosta's seat ended up in a lawsuit.

Democrat Leslie Acosta, resigned in December 2016 after it was discovered that she had been stealing money from a local health clinic.

Emilio Vasquez, the Democratic replacement, won the special election, but is now facing a lawsuit from Greens and Republicans. Democrats are being accused of aggressive election interference and voter intimidation.

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No one seems to be taking the high road.

My message to liberals: Don't abandon the high road in the eleventh hour. Do not turn conservatives into scapegoats.

Blaming the ills of our society -- from racism, to incivility, to crony capitalism -- on conservatives is not fair, it is not inclusive, and it is not tolerant. If liberals want to help lead us out of our cultural mire, and toward a better future, they must look at their own failings. Fess up, stand up, and correct course.

A 'liberal' Sanders supporter opened fire on the Republican congressional baseball team last week. The shooter specifically targeted Republicans. He checked to make sure that it was the Republican team practicing that day.

Afterwards, conservatives echoed Clinton's campaign slogan of "Stronger Together." Republican Speaker Paul Ryan said, "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us." He proclaimed that Congress is one big family.

Our political relationships are certainly as complicated as a family's, and it matters how we treat one another. It matters that we respect others' intrinsic value -- knowledge, ideas, lifestyles, and experiences that inform worldviews.

It matters more, perhaps, how we treat those not like us. Blaming, demonizing, and scapegoating conservatives is not a recipe for progress -- it is a recipe for disaster.

'Liberals' might reflect with humility on where they mirror the very characters they demonize in conservatives, and change their own behaviors. They might also look for the good points in opposing ideas and criticisms.

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Liberals cannot lead us out of this cultural pit, if they can't get themselves out of their own mires.

However, if liberals can reflect with humility on their own behaviors and failings, and figure out how to come out on top of the struggles that we are all facing, they can lead by example -- even from behind, on the high road.

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