December 21, 2005
The Liberal Bubble

By Thomas Lifson

To a remarkable degree, America’s liberal elites have constructed for themselves a comfortable, supportive, and self esteem-enhancing environment. The most prestigious and widest-reaching media outlets reinforce their views, rock stars and film makers provide lyrics and stories making their points, college professors tell them they are right, and the biggest foundations like Ford fund studies to prove them correct.

It has been a disaster for them.

American liberals are able to live their lives untroubled by what they regard as serious contrary opinion. The capture of the media, academic, and institutional high ground enables them to dismiss their conservative opponents as ill-informed, crude, bigoted, and evil. The memes are by now familiar. Rush Limbaugh and the other radio talkers “preach hate.” Evangelicals are “religious fanatics” comparable to the Islamo-fascists in their desire to impose “theocracy.” Catholics observant of the teachings of their church are “hypocrites” and their priests possible “pedophiles.” Jewish conservatives are members of the “neocon” cult, a suspicious lot schooled in the esoteric works of Leo Strauss.

Liberal elites tend to cluster in the biggest cities, coastal blue states, and if marooned in a red state, liberal enclaves like Austin, Texas, Missoula, Montana, Lawrence, Kansas, and Moscow, Idaho. Ensconced in their turf, they feel free to utter causal epithets directed at the President, Republicans, or conservatives in general, as if no person worthy of respect would dare to disagree.

As a result, liberal discourse has become an in-group code, perfectly understandable and comforting among the elect, but increasingly disconnected from everyone else, and off-putting to those not included in the ranks of the in-group. Rather than focusing on facts, logic, and persuasion, liberals find it easier to employ labeling (“That’s racist!”) and airy dismissal of contrary views to sway their audience, and because their authority figures in the media and academia accept this behavior, they assume it is persuasive to the rest of us.

Even worse (for them), the self-reinforcement they experience in their geographical, academic and media strongholds encourages more and more extreme expression of their worldview. Within the in-group, such strong expression of group norms earns prestige. But to the rest of society it becomes stranger and stranger, until it becomes repellant.

A perfect example is the recent “Bloody Santa” display in front of a Manhattan townhouse. The creators offered a high-minded excuse that they were protesting the commercialization of Christmas. Their stunt certainly drew plenty of media attention, and the creators of the display no doubt were the toast of their own social circle, and will dine out on the incident for years.

But parents of children horrified by the sight may not be quite so enamored of this particular example of “transgressive art.” And the arguments of liberal pundits like Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times that there is no such thing as a war on Christmas looks more than faintly ridiculous in the face of such visible evidence to the contrary on the same island housing his office.

Last week’s catchword in the mainstream media’s ongoing campaign against President Bush was “bubble.” Newsweek pictured the Commander in Chief helplessly trapped inside a transparent sphere, and other journos and commentators joined the chorus, chanting that Bush is out of touch, speaking only to friendly groups and relying on a tight circle of advisors where no diversity of opinion is tolerated.

While every President faces the danger of splendid isolation, and President Bush does indeed rely on the advice of a long-trusted inner group, there is more than a small dose of projection in this picture, coming from practitioners of in-group journalism. The liberal bubble, encompassing more than 90% of the education industry and all but a handful of big city newspapers and all three broadcast networks, dwarfs anything a conservative White House located in liberal-dominated Washington, DC could construct for itself.

John McIntyre of RealClearPolitics notes this same phenomenon:

Perhaps the intensity of their left wing base and the overwhelmingly liberal press corps produces a disorientation among Democratic politicians and prevents a more realistic analysis of where the country’s true pulse lies on these issues.

Rather than experiencing their isolation from the rest of us as “disorientation” – a state which connotes confusion and uncertainty – most liberals experience their differences with the rest of society as a sign of their advanced intelligence and consciousness. At best, they are perplexed at how long it is taking everyone else to catch-up with their enlightened state of understanding.

Conservatives, on the other hand, have been fighting an uphill battle against a dominant liberal establishment culture for over half a century. As a result, we know we need to marshal facts, to develop careful and logical arguments. We also realize we have no reservoirs of generalized intellectual prestige, such as accumulated Pulitzers or Nobels (except for economics), to fall back upon.

Conservative intellectuals living in blue enclaves have had to develop the sensitivities and dual consciousness characteristic of many marginalized groups. It is not enough to speak what one thinks, one must also think ahead and anticipate the reactions of others who see things differently. This is a taxing discipline, intellectually and emotionally, but it also produces superior results in terms of winning over the undecided or the wavering.

The liberal establishment in the media remains strong, but it is a vestigial strength, weakening every year with the rise of talk radio, Fox News, and the blogosphere. Because the liberal media’s circulation and viewership still dwarfs that of the conservative alternatives, they can sell a vague image or storyline as long as the public isn’t paying close attention.

The biggest problem the inhabitants of the liberal bubble face now is that War on Terror is a compelling story, one that affects vital interests – like survival. Nobody wants to spend all day, every day worrying about survival, so there is room for vague images to gain a foothold, especially when there is at least some evidence to support it. Missteps like Abu Ghraib can be blown out of proportion to indict an entire military and administration.

But in the end, those outside the bubble notice other data points: election turnout, the prosecution of Abu Ghraib miscreants, and the overwhelming decency and superb behavior of our armed forces. And timely reminders of the stakes involved come up with regularity, often with tragic consequences for the victims of bombings and other terror tactics.

When the President launches a counter-offensive, focusing the public on the counter-arguments, the results are nearly immediate and dramatic.

The liberal bubble is a seductive delusion, one to which many liberals are addicted. Repeated failures to persuade the public to vote into power those politicians who agree with their political principles will not persuade many to venture outside the glossy confines. As result, expect the liberal spiral downward to increasingly resemble a vortex, leading to oblivion.

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.

Thomas Lifson

Print This Article
Send Article To a Friend

The American Thinker

More Commentary
Big Brother W.? - Marshall Wittmann
How Bush Turned It Around - Patrick Buchanan
The President Is Not the Enemy - Ed Koch

More From Thomas Lifson
The Media Elites: The Mask Slips