Sunday, April 23, 2017

From the Archives: UVA professor reacts to critics of 'Why are liberals so condescending?'

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on April 23, 2010. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

UVA professor reacts to critics of 'Why are liberals so condescending?'
April 23, 2010 5:47 PM MST

Gerard Alexander is an associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The author of The Sources of Democratic Consolidation (2002), his specialty is Western Europe, but that does not prevent him from commenting on trends and events in American politics, as well.

Gerard Alexander UVA liberals condescending Rick Sincere
On February 7, the Washington Post published an article by Alexander in its Outlook section headlined “Why are liberals so condescending?,” which provoked quite a reaction from readers, with 4,079 of them posting links to the article on Facebook, 486 of them Tweeting about it on Twitter, and 54 of them Digging it on Digg. In addition, there were 3,164 comments posted before the Post closed the comments section and Alexander himself received “over a thousand emails.”

He told the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner in an interview on April 15 that, of those thousand messages, they were “surprisingly enough, split about 50/50 between people who were generally appreciative and people who were critical or skeptical.”

Only Two Death Threats

“Interestingly,” Alexander noted, “I would say that maybe half of those who were supportive said, ‘I’m writing because I bet you’ll get almost no one being supportive.’ In other words, they do have a sense of beleaguerment and marginalization that I think is not justified by their numbers.”

Professor Alexander added, smiling, “Only two people wished me dead. That’s not bad [coming out of] 1,100 emails. We’ve all had worse.”

Asked to summarize, in about one sentence, the theme of his Washington Post article, Alexander paused, then quipped, “I’m a college professor, I don’t do anything in a single sentence. How about 50 minutes? That’s my usual sound bite.”

Conversational Short-Circuit

He pressed on, however, and explained:

“The argument was that there are a number of narratives about conservatism prominent and prevalent among liberals that all converge on the assumption, often unspoken, that how conservatives think the world works is invalid, that they are really the results of bigotry or other mental habits and world views rather than interaction with reason and evidence.”

Continuing, Alexander said that “when one side systematically believes that the way the other side thinks about the world is not connected or ultimately animated by reason and evidence, it short-circuits conversations that we ought to be having as a country.”

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