Considering Krauthammer's Law

-edited

Charles Krauthammer’s words of wisdom reveal that we may be wrong about our political opponents.

I didn’t grow up on Charles Krauthammer like other conservatives, and that's a pity. As the political world paid their respects to him this past week, I read more of his writings. Charles’s prose is polished to a gleam. He didn't “hide the ball” or beat around the bush; he was insightful without being condescending. I wish I had known him beyond his occasional Fox News appearances. The world has lost an astoundingly good writer and a great man.

While reading, I came across this leadoff statement in a 2002 column: “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.

This pithy quote deserves to be called “Krauthammer’s Law.” It is one of the most accurate descriptions of the foundational assumptions behind the American political left and right, and it deserves close examination.

Conservatives primarily seek to prevent the left from breaking down valuable cultural institutions that protect individual liberty. The right stands "athwart history, yelling Stop” with the assurance of realism and right reason. We pride ourselves on our methodical, logical approach to policy problems, and wonder why liberals seem to prefer the endless chaos of progressivism.

We eventually reach the conclusion that, at best, our political opponents on the left are naive about humanity’s fallible nature. At worst, they are mindless drones following pie-in-the-sky plots to make imperfect men perfect, parroting propaganda to the masses, screeching childishly when they do not get their way.

Liberals make messes, we think, because they are incompetent infants. Conservatives, the long-suffering parents, must clean up the spilled Cheerios of millennia of Western civilization after every left-wing tantrum.

But the left holds a different perspective. While conservatives value reason and caution when making policy, liberals see this measured mission as morally wrong. They view society as a factory producing inequality and oppression, a system that deserves swift destruction. Out of the ashes they plan to build a fairer, more perfect union.

Who would oppose harmony, equality, and all the good things that liberals believe will result from their great cultural reconstruction? Only a villain, the left concludes.

Thus when conservatives seek to safeguard society as it stands, liberals accuse conservatives of every evil they can conceive – racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, or just general bigotry. Those who cling to the past must be moved aside in the name of the left’s better future – and if they will not move, they will be run over by the mob.

Are either of these perspectives wholly correct? Charles Krauthammer didn’t think so. That’s why he called Krauthammer’s Law the “central axiom of partisan politics.”

So perhaps conservatives should consider the distinct possibility that liberals are not stupid. A group of idiots would not be so endlessly clever in their attempts to undermine our existing national fabric. Their PR blasts would not be so coordinated; their demonstrations would not be so well-organized; their reach would not be so broad.

None of the liberal program for social destruction and reconstruction bespeaks stupidity. In fact, conservatives should assume that most actions liberals take are calculated. They are operating on the body politic with a scalpel, not a chainsaw.

And liberals should likewise consider that maybe conservatives are not evil. Rather, conservatives see the good in our common life and worry about what will become of liberty at the left’s hands. Even if a conservative policy seems flawed on a leftist’s moral scale, it’s likely that conservatives are being careful and embracing a more deliberate approach to change.

True conservatives don’t wake up every day with a gleeful desire to beat down the least fortunate. They believe conservative policies will lead to good for all Americans – just like liberals do.

Our national discourse will be more honest if we look past certain cartoonish assumptions about our political opponents that we are often tempted to adopt as gospel. Liberals aren’t deluded morons, and conservatives aren’t mustache-twirling baddies. Krauthammer’s Law serves as a helpful way for Americans to see each other clearly in this partisan, testy times.

Comments
No. 1-25
phantonym
phantonym

Haha you people, just screeching past one another. You'll never learn until you stop generalizing everything that pops into your noggin.

mudskipper
mudskipper

@Swan: I wish I could heart your comment many times.

MAlanD
MAlanD

Liberal progressives aren't stupid. At least not the progressive "leaders". (Many, if not most, of the rank & file might be, however.) No, the progressive leaders are evil. They know full well that, under secular socialism, it's only the ruling elite who prosper. While the rank & file suffer. (Just look at Venezuela.) But they continue to lie to their followers, because of their lust for power... and wealth.

Swan
Swan

Don't get me wrong; there IS stupidity and evil out there. But it isn't necessarily in the quarters where we think it is. For instance, it is stupid to get news from only one source (whether that one source is mainstream media or our own preferred flavor of conservative media), that already agrees with us - that's just setting ourselves up to be deceived by confirmation bias, and to be misled by hearing only one side of the story. Anything can sound right to us when we don't hear out those who disagree with it (Proverbs 18:17 clearly says so). And it is evil to abort children or to tear apart families. But there are a lot of people being labeled "stupid" or "evil" solely by virtue of their political affiliations, who have done NOTHING to deserve such a label.

Krauthammer was right. People have reasons for holding the political stances they do, and the sooner we see the world through their eyes, the quicker we will discard our prejudices about them.

Swan
Swan

None of my liberal friends are infantile thinkers, and none of my Trump-supporting friends are racists...although there are some infantile thinkers and some racists on both sides of the political aisle.

The reality is that, if we could look past the prejudices that are popular for our side to hold, we could see that all people on the other side are not the same. We would look around and see all the variety on our own side - from the sincere people who simply believe everything their 'conservative' media source says, to the demagogues who think fighting for this country means stirring up strife (contrary to Proverbs 6:19) and inciting hatred for those who disagree with us, to the Constitutionalists who are afraid the Left will deprive us of liberty, to the evangelicals who mean well but are misled by charlatans who preach Trump as the political Messiah who is sent of God to restore what this country has lost by turning away from God, to the bullies who want to shut down businesses for opposing Trump (just like the Leftist bullies who do the same towards Right-leaning businesses), to the libertarians who just want government to get out of their face over every little thing, to the haters who use politics as an excuse to rant and rage online in a drunken stupor and make no sense - and we would realize that the Left has just as much variety in their ranks. Then we would see the invalidity of labeling an entire side based on the flaws of a few of its most vocal members. Would it be fair or accurate for people to label you with all of Ann Coulter's flaws simply because you are a conservative?

For instance, we would see how wrong it is to automatically label someone a "baby killer" because they are a Democrat. A third of Democrats are pro-life. Some don't believe voting for an official is the way to stop abortion. (They have a point. I mean, really, what have our pro-life politicians done to stop abortion, over the years? Abortion clinics are still up and running across this country.) Others don't think the government has a right to interfere in that decision (I disagree on that view, but it IS a libertarian view.) I might add that it was a Democrat I know who chose to have her baby when she was raped, because she is so pro-life, even though it was going to be a struggle to care for her child as a single woman. I am tired of hearing self-righteous members of the Right label all Democrats "baby killers." That is a blatant falsehood born out of ignorance and prejudice.

If we shoved prejudice out of the way, we could see that most liberals stand against Trump because they think it is the ethically right thing to do (despite their flaws - aren't we all often blind to our own hypocrisy?), and aren't just virtue-signaling. If we shoved prejudice out of the way, we could see that most Trumpers support a scumbag because they don't actually believe he is a scumbag...because they get their news solely from sources that rave over how great he is. And people often support the policies they do because they get their information from different sources than we do, and don't trust our sources.