Something we often hear from self-described liberals is that you must be tolerant of people “from all walks of life.” But do they really take their own admonitions to heart? Andrew Cuomo, the current Democrat acting as Governor of New York, had this to say about people he considers “extreme conservatives”:
The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.
With a very generous reading of his statements, I can understand the hatred of anti-gay and pro-life perspectives in terms of being intolerant of intolerance. So let’s just set that aside for now. What I cannot possibly understand is his comment about “pro-assault-weapon” people. So it’s okay to be blatantly intolerant of people who prefer to defend themselves rather than lay down and die? Is it okay to be an ignorant bigot against people who prefer liberty as a first principle? I mean, what if I were to say, “People who don’t like guns don’t belong in this country. There’s no place for you here.” Does that sound at all enlightened or worldly? How can you consider yourself a “tolerant” or “accepting” person if you believe that people who don’t share your principles should be turned into pariahs who can be fined, imprisoned, or exiled? So is all the liberal talk about tolerance just complete bullshit? A cynical political tool?
Now, I don’t want people to think I’m overgeneralizing based on one comment from one politician. Cuomo is not alone in his intolerance of non-liberals. This intolerance is neither isolated, nor unrepresentative. In fact, it is systematic, and has been documented. The linked review is pretty accurate, but if you’re not convinced, I highly recommend reading Jonathon Haidt’s whole book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. It’s truly cutting-edge.
The key observation I’d like to call attention to is that conservatives understand liberals, and believe liberals are “good people with bad ideas.” Meanwhile, liberals are, for the most part, completely ignorant of conservative principles, and do a terrible job of predicting how conservatives will react in particular scenarios. In other words, conservatives have a realistic view of liberals, but still reject their ideas, while the liberal view of conservatives is a cartoonish straw man that unrealistically kicks puppies and takes pleasure in the suffering of others. Conclusively, the liberal hatred of their intellectual opponents is not rational consideration, but ignorant bigotry.
So when liberals attack intolerance, are they just projecting their own weaknesses?
During my time engaging in political debates, I’ve encountered plenty of ignorance about my political philosophy, libertarianism. If you’d like to actually understand what we believe, Jonathon Haidt has recently published an excellent, well-supported, independent description of libertarian moral foundations. If you don’t understand how libertarians can believe what we believe, please read it. We tolerate you and your lifestyle, so why not make an effort to tolerate us?