Political Personalities

Posted on 2014 August 6


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Why is it that liberals and conservatives fail to communicate? Aside from the obvious fact that they generally hate each others’ guts, why is it that they so frequently talk right past one another? It’s as if they live in separate universes.

Arnold Kling is an economist — he worked for the Fed and Freddie Mac — and an author, most recently of The Three Languages of Politics. Kling neatly encapsulates the different thinking styles of the main political parties. He explains, for example, that liberals see the world as divided between the oppressed and the oppressors, while conservatives see the divide as between the civilized and the barbaric.

Let that sink in for a moment. It’s an elegantly powerful idea. And it makes sense. Liberals tend to have less money and feel left out, so their focus falls on those who have more — those who, by rights, jolly well ought to hand some of it to them, thereby making society more fair. Meanwhile, conservatives tend to be somewhat more successful and/or feel a greater sense of belonging, so their biggest concern is that the heathens will storm the ramparts of their gated communities and pillage their lives.

How vastly different, then, can be the world views of people who share the same country. One side sees oppressors while the other sees barbarians. One side feels marginalized while the other side feels, well, civilized. These concepts aren’t just vaguely different, they’re entirely different. It’s not apples and oranges; it’s apples and bicycles.

No wonder liberals and conservatives don’t get each other.

If they could just see how understandable are their opponents’ viewpoints — Of course liberals would tend to feel treated unfairly! Of course conservatives would fear disruption of their carefully nurtured lives! — then maybe they can begin to address each others’ concerns at the bargaining table.

Yeah, right.

Anyway, in the spirit of boundless naive optimism, I’ve assembled a chart that sets out a number of additional differences between liberals and conservatives — contrasts in their personalities, preferences, peculiarities, prejudices, and several other dimensions that I bet could start with the letter “p”. I’ve arranged them below into two columns for your convenience.

By the way, some of you smarties are asking, “What’s the third language of politics?!?” You’re paying attention. Okay, I’ll tell you: Kling also discusses the libertarians, whose political worldview he defines as “freedom vs. coercion.” That sounds about right. In the interest of fairness, I’ll include them, too:


LIBERAL                            CONSERVATIVE                    LIBERTARIAN

rebellious                              obedient                                        diligent

rogue                                      stuffed shirt                                  nerdy

whiny teenager                    cranky uncle                                 eccentric neighbor

envious                                  contemptuous                              aloof

weird                                      boring                                            really boring

mousy                                    pugnacious                                   intellectual

effeminate                             macho                                           “Hey, whatever”

proudly gay                           secretly gay                                  “Hey, whatever”

bad credit                              maxed-out credit                         always pays on time

is broke                                  feels broke                                    was broke

goes jogging                          lifts weights                                  believes in “free” weights

visits museums                    visits bars                                      visits state capitals

drinks wine                           drinks beer                                   “Hey, whatever”

smokes weed                        smokes cigars                               smokes anything

likes Starbucks                     likes Chik-fil-A                             likes food competition

watches “Daily Show”         watches “Swamp Loggers”        watches “Meet the Press”

bad at math                           bad at art                                       bad at getting dates

fears the NSA is spying       knows the NSA is spying            is spying on the NSA

wants legalized drugs          wants legalized religion              wants legalized everything

licentiously merry                licensed to carry                           likes Dave Barry

hates conservatives              hates liberals                                disapproves of everyone



…Come to think of it, maybe mutual understanding really is a pipe dream…


Posted in: Humor, Politics