In political discourse, by far one of the most important assumptions is that you respect and acknowledge the opinions of the person you are debating. It is also often one of the first rules sacrificed in heated political discussions and even in our characterization of our opponents.
Phrases like “they don’t know any better” or catch-alls such as “they’ve never experienced diversity” are pervasive, especially when looking at how liberals talk about conservatives.
This kind of rhetoric is patronizing and problematic.
It hurts our ability to have honest conversations and makes it harder for conservatives to cull bad figures.
The first victim of liberal elitism is almost universally the dialogue. It becomes unequal, as one person is approaching the conversation from a place of equal footing and the other is assuming a lesser and invalid opinion.
When people feel like they can’t engage in fair and genuine conversations, they will inevitably choose to not participate in them. Politics is supposed to be about talking and we shouldn’t engage in behaviors that hurt people’s willingness to get involved in the discussion.
On that same note, it is patronizing to assume that conservative ideas are all sourced to the same experiences. It erases the reasons behind the opinions of conservatives and right-wingers and assumes that individuals cannot reach those conclusions on their own.
It presumes that everyone’s journey to their beliefs is one rooted in irrationality or in parental authority instead of in strongly held values or logic and it is insulting.
In a viral post to Twitter commenting on the results of Texas’s most recent Senate election, leftist activist Alexis Isabel criticized white women for “valu[ing] their whiteness over their womanhood”.
The reduction that white women, as a group, view all of their opinions through the paradigm of their whiteness is a prime example of this elitism. The opinion holds that it is impossible for these women to have simply preferred Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) policies or preferred to vote for an incumbent.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is what liberal elitism encourages. The reflexive reaction to being stereotyped within a group is to defend that group at all costs, including the bad apples within the crowd.
In order for conservatism to progress, conservatives need the space to criticize their own. This becomes inherently more difficult when the environment is encouraging tribalism.
Elitism from any side or any one person will always be harmful. What we stand to gain from approaching political discussions in an open-minded way, from the interactions with new ideas to the reduction of tribalism, would leave us far better off.
Aida Vazquez-Soto is a senior majoring in political science and economics.