You’re Oppressed, I’m Oppressed (let’s call the whole thing off)

November 5, 2004 | 118 comments
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If you’ve spent five minutes in the bloggernacle, you’ve heard a liberal-leaning Latter-day Saint bemoan the constant conservative harping among members of the church. It’s sometimes hard to believe, but when people tell stories of gospel doctrine teachers showing how Moronihah is a foreshadowing of Ronald Reagan, they’re probably being serious.

From the accounts of many somewhat trustworthy people in the bloggernacle, the tendency among members of the church to assume that 1) conservatism = the gospel and 2) everyone in the congregation = conservative, is quite widespread. Again, I haven’t seen much of this myself, but I suppose I may have missed it because as a middle-of-the road type, it’s not likely to irritate me as much as it would a real BCC-level Mormon. However, I will throw my lot in with them and say that if it does happen, it is a problem. The official church has no interest in defining itself on one side of the aisle (most Mormon chapels have more than one aisle, anyway), and has taken measures of arguable effectiveness meant to counter the trend.

For the sake of argument, let’s say this problem does exist, and is widespread enough to cause real alienation among a large set of liberal-leaning Mormons. I feel I am qualified to offer my sympathy to these people, for one important reason: as a person with some conservative ideas, I deal with this in every area of life that doesn’t involve the church. Let me explain.

Last night, I was with a few associates from work, and we were making casual conversation. The election came up and one of them said that the real problem of the election, of course, is that Bush will likely have a few Supreme Court picks, and it’s really scary to think of what this could mean for Roe v. Wade. Of course this put me in an awkward position, given that I would be happy to see Roe v. Wade go the way of Plessy v. Ferguson. But my only options were to just stay silent, and give the impression that I’m cool with what she’s saying, or to speak up, and bring tension into what had been, and should have remained, a very casual, laid-back conversation.

This story only backs up the bulk of my experience. Wherever I’ve been, I’ve observed that liberal-leaning people feel amazingly free to express their deeply-held beliefs in the open, among people they are not close to, in a way that assumes that everyone obviously agrees. Mind you, I’m not speaking of a problem with loose-lipped lefties in Greenwhich Village or Berkeley. My experiences are mostly limited to Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake City, two places where one is likely to encounter at least an occasional conservative. And yet I find that even when my conservative views are in the majority, they are also not kosher for public airing. Even in Salt Lake, I often hear my more liberal colleagues sound off on this or that church or presidential policy, and just as often see my conservative associates stare at the floor, too embarrassed or passive to speak.

It seems that part of good manners is never to state controversial political opinions, especially in the everyone-obviously- agrees-with-me-tone, in the company of people you don’t know well. I don’t think I would ever make a sarcastic jab at the Don’t Amend Alliance while hanging out with mere aquaintances, for fear of putting someone else in the same awkward spot I am often put in. Why does it seem like those who lean left are so willing to do that very thing to me?

So here’s my question: despite the slight numerical majority of conservatives in our country (okay, call it a statistical tie if you wish), why does liberalism dominate polite company? Is it just me, or have others noticed that it is not impolite to express contempt for President Bush, but that stating support for him borders on the gauche? Is liberalism simply cooler than conservatism? Are there others out there that wonder why they feel compelled by. . . something to keep quiet while their liberal co-workers feel free to rant at will?

And finally, here’s the tie-in: If everything I’ve said above is true, could it be that the problem of conservative triumphalism within the church is a response to the feeling of being muzzled in all of the rest of one’s interactions? Perhaps the brash conservative guy in your ward gets that way because he feels justified in exploiting the comforting majority position he enjoys at church, due to the buffetings he takes from everyone else he talks to the other six days of the week. While this wouldn’t justify hijacking your Sunday School lesson to talk about the holiness of the Second Amendment, does it perhaps partially explain that behavior?

Anyone have any examples supporting or rejecting this thesis? (I’m sure no one does).

(Please keep comments on-topic. This need not be contentious. I would like to know 1) whether people agree that liberal-leaning folks feel more free to state their views in polite society than conservatives 2) why this might be, and 3) if that has anything to do with the problem of conservative braggadoccio in the church.)

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118 Responses to You’re Oppressed, I’m Oppressed (let’s call the whole thing off)

  1. Steve Evans on November 5, 2004 at 1:05 pm

    “BCC-level Mormon”

    Awesome. I have no idea what that means, but I love it.

    I don’t agree with you that liberal-leaning folks are more open in polite company to express their views. I mean, I believe that liberalism is more cool than conservativism, but my experiences don’t match your own.

  2. Kristine on November 5, 2004 at 1:07 pm

    Ryan, I think it may just be that people assume that others who are similar in terms of education, profession, class will have similar views, so if you’re hanging out with a bunch of hypereducated lawyers, they’re more likely to make the assumption that you think the way they do, because you otherwise *do* what they do.

    Also, though this perception is undoubtedly biased by my own leanings, I don’t think liberals are necessarily any freer with their opinions. I do my fair share of nodding and smiling through gritted teeth at comments made by random strangers in the grocery store, carpenters working on my house, the UPS guy, etc. Sadly, most of us are not nearly as thoughtful as we ought to be, regardless of our political positions.

  3. Ana on November 5, 2004 at 1:13 pm

    [Hi, first time posting. I’m Ana; I live in central California, work in university communications. I’m a BYU alumna (English, ’96) with a Ph.D. student for a husband and two wonderful, trouble-seeking little boys ages 5 and 3.]

    I’ve been thinking about this lately. I think the conservative bragadoccio at church and the liberal swagger in other arenas (like the university where I work) amount to about the same thing–lack of respect for the views of others, especially others who are in the minority in a given situation. In my experience, both often seem to come from individuals who don’t spend much time out of the context in which they’re speaking.

  4. Steve Evans on November 5, 2004 at 1:14 pm

    Amen Ana! Not bad for a first poster!

  5. Adam Greenwood on November 5, 2004 at 1:21 pm

    Ryan Bell,
    I’ve never had this problem with anyone who knew me, only with strangers, so I assume it’s not intentional rudeness.

    I wonder if your personal presentation has something to do with it. You probably look and act like a nice young professional, which makes you more likely to be sympathetic with left-wing views and less likely to be nasty about it if otherwise. If you had a handlebar mustache and wore cowboy boots you might get a different reaction.

  6. danithew on November 5, 2004 at 1:22 pm

    Is liberalism cooler or are liberal perspectives permitted freer expression in polite company?

    I think in a classroom setting liberalism is more likely to be considered cooler (unless maybe at BYU). On more than one occasion I’ve one professor at the UofU express rather contemptuous disparaging remarks about Bush (how stupid he is) in the open classroom setting.

    Then again we’ve heard from many their experiences about how they experience the exact opposite in a ward/chapel setting — where people openly advocate conservatism far more often than liberalism.

    It cuts both ways. There are liberals and conservatives who are quite assumptive that they are in the right and the other side is comprised entirely of immoral people or idiots.

    In the blogosphere immediately following the election I’ve certainly seen a lot of comments where people are basically saying “our country is going to hell” due to the re-election of George Bush. Some seem to almost feel this is the apocalypse and G.B. is the anti-Christ. When I read something that has that kind of a tone, it almost seems senseless to respond.

  7. Kristine on November 5, 2004 at 1:22 pm

    ““BCC-level Mormonâ€?

    Awesome. I have no idea what that means, but I love it.”

    You do, Steve? It kind of creeps me out.

  8. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 1:24 pm

    I do think most people rein in their ideas in company, because most people don’t like to argue or shout. I know from long personal experience that if I express my ideas in my normal social functions (the LDS church) it will only lead to painful, angry feelings and possible separation of friendships. I usually don’t say a word on any controversial subject, and this was true at both the Bloggernacle parties I attended, though I almost put my foot in it with Davis sitting on my own sofa. I said something about the Church ought to be neutral on political issues like SSM, and Davis said, “why?” but fortunately I was suddenly taken away to another part of the apartment. It could have been a bruiser.

    One thing you didn’t really mention: blogging is different. I have no trouble saying what I think I mean here.

  9. john fowles on November 5, 2004 at 1:27 pm

    And yet I find that even when my conservative views are in the majority, they are also not kosher for public airing.

    Despite Steve’s and Kristine’s views to the contrary, I fully agree with this statement and with the rest of your post, Ryan.

    In my law firm, we have a social hour every Friday afternoon in the attorney lounge. People come and have drinks and food and talk loudly about anything and everything–except conservative politics. That is absolutely taboo, although Bush-bashing is quite often the topic of conversation in that gathering of lawyers. I would go so far as to say that if someone in attendance would open their mouth in support of Bush or his judicial nominees, or in opposition to abortion (although pro-choice is often enthusiastically discussed), or in opposition to other liberal social policies, it would actually jeopardize career chances. That is only natural when the most powerful partners in the firm and many of the associates are the ones loudly ridiculing Bush right in the middle of the social hour. I am not exaggerating or whining; I am making a very honest observation that corroborates Ryan’s point. And I am wondering why these people would take offense at someone loudly trumpeting socially conservative views when they are airing their views without compunction.

    This has been the case for me in almost every forum that I have been in since high school (with the exception of BYU Law School, but even there, right-leaning political discussions were just not considered polite). Standing around in a pub in Oxford with others in my masters program: the assumption is that everyone is pro-choice, pro-SSM, anti-Bush, (and there, anti-American). Raking leaves in my front yard and having to be polite in the face of loudly expressed conservative-hate of the neighbors. (I would never even consider discussing socially conservative issues loudly with a friend in my front yard in my neighborhood, even dispite the fact that I voted for more democrats in the recent election than republicans.)

    This is merely something I have observed through my own experiences.

  10. CB on November 5, 2004 at 1:34 pm

    Something we are overlooking, or maybe it is just me.

    At church, I am dismayed by the expression of political views, left or right.

  11. Andrew W. Griffin on November 5, 2004 at 1:35 pm

    Try bringing up libertarianism in mixed-company and both conservatives and liberals tend to roll their eyes and write you off as a dope-smoking slacker. Of course this is unfair. Fortunately, there is a growing force of people who are fed up with the left-right paradigm and are looking for different paths to explore.

  12. Ryan Bell on November 5, 2004 at 1:37 pm

    I thought you’d like that, Steve.

    Ana, is it that these people don’t spend any time outside of the context in which they’re speaking, of that they don’t know that they spend much time outside of the context in which they’re speaking? In other words, whether it be the Bo Gritz yokel in Pleasant Grove or the Pelosi pinko in NoCal, isn’t it probable that they do come into frequent contact with people who hold opposing views, but because of their willingness to opine without understanding their audience, they never realize that they’ve just met someone who disagrees?

    Let me ask a different question: In normal polite company (say, a get-together among work aquaintances), it comes out that Joe in Accounting is a devout conservative who supports SSM constitutional amendments and the Iraq war and that Ann in IT is a devout liberal who protests against the war and is a pro-choice activist. Who is more likely to become the butt of sarcasm or humor?

  13. CB on November 5, 2004 at 1:40 pm

    Andrew,

    What, no dope smoking slackers among the libertarians? And just as I was about to convert!

    p.s. How close are you to Ville Platte, and do you ever listen to KBON 101 FM?

  14. CB on November 5, 2004 at 1:46 pm

    Ryan,

    “Who is more likely to become the butt of sarcasm or humor?”

    Look around you at the popular culture. SNL, The Daily Show, Letterman, Leno, Bill Maher –

    Does that answer your question?

  15. Carrie on November 5, 2004 at 1:46 pm

    Probably because I’m very liberal and thus sensitive to conservative arugments or because I work in an industry dominated by Republicans, I disagree that most people consider conservative talk to be impolite. I hear it all the time from people who are completely unapologetic.

    I think that when your party is in control, talking about your political beliefs may have a “poor winner” vibe to it. This may make conservative comments seem impolite in a way they wouldn’t if you were the underdog.

    Personally, I think it’s always rude to go off about your political beliefs without at least trying to figure out the politics of the people you’re talking with (something that, of course, isn’t possible in blogs) and making any appropriate changes to your discourse. I talk about politics very differently with my conservative friends than I do with my liberal friends. Not everyone does this though, which is why most of us have probably been in uncomfortable situations.

  16. Bryce I on November 5, 2004 at 1:47 pm

    Ryan–

    1) whether people agree that liberal-leaning folks feel more free to state their views in polite society than conservatives
    After much waffling, I find myself agreeing with you here

    2) why this might be, and
    At the risk of over-generalizing and offending many, “polite society” is dominated by people with left-leaning political views. People feel comfortable expressing views that may be controversial when they feel those views are held by the others in the group they are in. In communities outside of the urban professional world, there are plenty of people who air their conservative views with just as much openness as liberals you describe.

    3) if that has anything to do with the problem of conservative braggadoccio in the church
    Not really — I think a majority of US members live in areas where their views are the norm, and they don’t have to think much about the minority opinion. You’re just hanging around with the wrong crowd :)

    Basically, I’m saying what Kristine said, I guess.

  17. Steve Evans on November 5, 2004 at 1:57 pm

    Kristine, ‘BCC-level’ is like becoming a Thetan in Scientology. You’re that much closer to understanding the mysteries of the realm.

  18. lyle on November 5, 2004 at 1:58 pm

    I’m with Ryan & John. I work for plaintiff’s class action trial lawyers. Here it is openly assumed that everyone is a lefty democrat; and that pro-Bush folks are just plain stupid, ignorant, et al. I don’t ignore these comments, but if I address my opinions, they are usually from a ‘joking’ standpoint; i.e. I try to use humor to express my disagreement/differing opinion in the hopes that no contention arises. = mixed results. :)

  19. lyle on November 5, 2004 at 2:00 pm

    p.s. I loved the title…allusions to movies, songs, etc. are great :)

  20. Ryan Bell on November 5, 2004 at 2:03 pm

    Well so far we have only conservatives agreeing with the proposition. Hmm. Maybe this really is just the universal tendency to feel like a victim.

    By the way, Bryce, the argument against conservative trash-talking in church is never about whether or not the conservatives really are the majority or not. It’s whether the conservative majority ought to have more respect for the liberal minority (okay, and for, say. . . the church). Thus, I don’t think it’s a valid excuse to say that liberals are in the majority in polite company. (though I’d quibble with the assumption). That still doesn’t cancel an obligation to show respect for whatever conservatives might be in the room, regardless of how few.

  21. Kristine on November 5, 2004 at 2:10 pm

    So, if conservatives have won the last two elections, how is it possible that they are such a tiny and oppressed minority? I wonder if this feeling is at least partly built into the American conservative movement, which, until the last decade or so, viewed itself as a sort of permanent opposition party? When I read Podhoretz and others (I *can* do that, you know :)), this sense of oppression, outsiderdom is palpable–is it a necessary component of being a conservative? It would be harder, after all, to fight for the right if the forces of liberal decadence weren’t threatening to destroy that which one is trying to “conserve.”

  22. Bryce I on November 5, 2004 at 2:14 pm

    Ryan–

    I don’t disagree with you — I’m not trying to excuse anyone’ s behavior, just account for it.

    As for my assertion about “polite company,” I’m being a bit flippant, hence the quotes.

  23. danithew on November 5, 2004 at 2:19 pm

    I’m not sure that liberals or conservatives can entirely complain about being a minority as the country is fairly close (in my view) to a 50/50 split. Any given decade it can go a certain way.

    Maybe what’s being talked about here is the awful feeling of being “the only one” when in the company of others. It’s not fun to realize that everyone you’re with disagrees with you entirely and is quite contemptuous of your views. Liberal or conservative, probably all of us have felt that sinking feeling, that “oh I had better shut up now” instinct.

  24. Carrie on November 5, 2004 at 2:21 pm

    Exactly, danithew.

  25. Ryan Bell on November 5, 2004 at 2:22 pm

    Kristine, just a disclaimer, oppression is not part of my m.o. I could care less about it. Further, I don’t buy that conservatives are oppressed. As I noted, conservatives have a slight majority in the country, or at least are well-enough distributed to create a majority in government.

    However, I’m surprised that the current political dominance hasn’t translated to everyday insiderhood. Despite the fact that a lot of people voted for President Bush based on their moral convictions, it would still be social suicide to go on about the threat of gay marriage at a party. And I don’t think it would be nearly as bad to state how awful the anti-SSM movement is. Given the conservative majority/equilibrium in the country, isn’t it surprising that conservative dialogue is still so far behind in social acceptability?

    (again, the oppression thing was a rhetorical device for the title. I don’t think it’s a helpful part of conservative ideology.)

  26. Davis Bell on November 5, 2004 at 2:26 pm

    Ryan asks: Whether people agree that liberal-leaning folks feel more free to state their views in polite society than conservatives.

    Davis answers: Only when those liberal-leaning folks can reasonably assume that most, if not all, of the people in the room are also liberal-leaning folks. I disagree with the notion that there is any substantial difference between the way in which conservativea and liberals, treat the odd person of the opposite persuasion.

    D: I think we disagree on the appropriate role of the Church in the debate over SSM. I think, though, that we would have been able to have a civil and enlightening discussion about it. I don’t think it would have been a bruiser.

  27. William Morris on November 5, 2004 at 2:28 pm

    Ana:

    I live in California and work in university communications. Are you at a CSU (central Calif. mention made it seem quite possible)? Drop me a line sometime and we can compare notes — motleyvision AT gmail DOT com

  28. Davis Bell on November 5, 2004 at 2:29 pm

    Ryan says: it would still be social suicide to go on about the threat of gay marriage at a party. And I don’t think it would be nearly as bad to state how awful the anti-SSM movement is.

    Davis responds: Ryan, do you honestly believe it would be social suicide to go on about the threat of gay marriage at a party held by our parents with people from their neighborhood, or at a family party, or in a Sunday School class at BYU? Of course not. The whole proposition depends entirely on who happens to account for the majority.

  29. CB on November 5, 2004 at 2:30 pm

    Well, I think Kristine has a point. William F. Buckley himself said that the role of a conservative is to *stand athwart history, yelling “Stop!”*

    I think it says something interesting about human beings that people on the left feel the same way.

  30. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 2:30 pm

    Davis: why not? You don’t think I could stand up to you, eh? Well, you may have the shoulders, but I’ve got the … rejoinders.

    :)

  31. Ana on November 5, 2004 at 2:41 pm

    Ryan, good point about whether people are aware of how mixed the company they keep may be. Sometimes I think we prefer to be unaware. We’d rather not confront our differences, and sometimes that’s necessary to preserve “normal polite company.” One of my Young Women asked me Tuesday night whom I had voted for that day (as I wore my “I Voted” sticker to Mutual) and I told her I couldn’t answer. I don’t need that contention in my calling.

    I think, also, though, that people’s expectations of “normal polite company” differ. At most universities and many places of work for educated people, liberal is the default. In the Church, conservative is the default. Both are normal and usually–*usually* polite.

    We are living in an particularly polarized political climate. Each side demonizes the other–they’re not just wrong, they’re evil. The man who runs the natural foods co-op, where I order foods for my son who has allergies, called me with his best Darth Vader impersonation as a satirical (?) Bush campaign call. SUVs drive around with Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes kneeling at a cross and “Support our Troops” and Bush-Cheney campaign stickers all displayed together. Everyone is so darn sure of where they stand that we don’t dare open our mouths if we stand in a different place than those with whom we’re speaking. That’s because there’s so little discussion that remains free of emotionally charged defensiveness. It’s religious for both sides, whether they see it that way or not. Nobody’s changing their minds.

    I can’t help but think it’s unhealthy for the country, standing here in the middle of the road.

  32. Nate Oman on November 5, 2004 at 2:44 pm

    Ryan: Try to be nice. I don’t think that even the bloggers at BCC deserve being labeled as ““BCC-level Mormons.” I mean, who wants that kind of a cloud over them?

  33. Davis Bell on November 5, 2004 at 2:45 pm

    D,

    Don’t make me come over there and give you a noogie. Because I will.

  34. Davis Bell on November 5, 2004 at 2:47 pm

    Damn you, Ryan! I was in the process of writing a post on the blog you’ve abandoned about how everyone should spend some of their life as part of the minority, and as part of the majority.

  35. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 2:49 pm

    Davis,

    Watch out with that rhetoric. A noogie kinda sounds fun to me.

    ;)

  36. Steve Evans on November 5, 2004 at 2:50 pm

    Nate, you’re late to the game with that zinger of yours, so I’ll forgive you for posting something so lame. You show all the signs of a pre-Clear neophyte. Come back when you’re an Operating Thetan, and we’ll talk about deeming you BCC-level.

    Yours truly,
    Tom Cruise.

  37. Rosalynde Welch on November 5, 2004 at 2:51 pm

    Like you say, Ryan, this is going to cut down partisan lines. And like everyone else says, it’s a matter of one’s interpretive community, I think–and temperament, maybe. I spent five years in (I dare say) as or more radically liberal an academic environment as John Fowles, and even though John and I share a lot of views, I don’t feel as defensive.

    There are certainly many situations in which I feel uncomfortable expressing liberal views, though not so much at church; for me, it’s mostly family situations. In fact, I was just wondering the other day why a relative of mine (not you, John) felt so free to email her conservative political views, whereas I wouldn’t dare email my dissent. And I didn’t dare vote in the (anonymous) family exit poll set up by a family member. (Did you vote, John?)

    I’ve had lots of practice (and some success) trying to discuss sensitive political issues with political opponents by starting out building common ground, and trying to acknowledge that I understand (or don’t) his or her position before going on the offensive.

  38. Kristine on November 5, 2004 at 2:51 pm

    D., Davis couldn’t have gotten to you anyway–he’d have had to fight me first :)

  39. Ryan Bell on November 5, 2004 at 2:52 pm

    Davis, I’ve already made allowance for the difference in context. The kernel of my observation is that the context in which liberals are limited is the church (not a pervasive influence in life, but a deeply significant one), whereas the context in which conservatives are limited is everywhere else (totally pervasive, but able to be blown off as less-significant).

    In other words, at a party in Mom and Dad’s neighborhood, of course the SSM supporter would look out of place, but that’s because it’s realistically a church context. But if you remove the party from a Fruit Heights neighborhood to one in Salt Lake where people are slightly less sure about the Mormonness of every single person there, there will be a shift toward favoring explicit liberal viewpoints disproportionate to the drop in conservative party-goers. In other words, if you’re at a party that includes fifty conservatives and fifty liberals, but no one’s there as such (it’s not an overtly political gathering), liberal opinion will far outweigh conservative opinion. Because it’s not polite to express conservative opinions. Thus, while it does depend on context, the dependance is this: Liberal opinions are out of place in a group of 90% conservatives. Conservative opinions are out of place in a group of 50% liberals.

    D., I had meant to say, but didn’t, that Davis is one of the people who possesses that amazing skill of conducting reasoned dialogue without ever needing to descend into contention. You would have been fine.

  40. Matt Evans on November 5, 2004 at 2:55 pm

    Nice post, Ryan, I’m glad you wrote it. I think that people who express their opinions without knowing how the other people feel, whether at church or a law firm reception, are actually employing a rhetorical tool or trick. The speaker knows that:

    1) there are likely people who disagree within earshot,

    2) those people are in the minority,

    3) this makes it unlikely that the minority will contradict speaker, or if he does, speaker will have numbers on his side, and

    4) stating an opinion as though it’s uncontroversial forces your opponent to create tension just to state their opinion, and makes them fight both the statement and the perception that they’re a hot-headed reactionary.

    I think the dynamic is similar to passive-aggression. Note that a necessary component of this dynamic is the speaker’s confidence that he’s in the majority. I don’t think this will happen in circumstances where the speaker believes he’s outnumbered.

  41. Ryan Bell on November 5, 2004 at 2:58 pm

    Rosalynde, I’ve had exactly the same experience, with crazy-conservative family members who love to mail out strange anecdotes that inarguably prove the merit of all conservative positions. These emails ALWAYS include really obvious factual errors that make me cringe. Not exactly the kind of stuff that invites reflective debate.

    Still, though, I would argue that your family experience is different. Your family would never push those same emails on you if you were a co-worker in any place outside of small-town Utah. Thus, again, within church boundaries, conservatives push it on the rest of us, but without, I still think it’s always liberals.

    P.S., your approach of seeking to understand someone, then state your positions as your own personal opinion, is almost always appropriate. In fact, i wouldn’t find this stuff grating at all if it wasn’t laced with sarcasm, or came prefaced with a “this is just my take. . .”

  42. Davis Bell on November 5, 2004 at 3:00 pm

    “Thus, while it does depend on context, the dependance is this: Liberal opinions are out of place in a group of 90% conservatives. Conservative opinions are out of place in a group of 50% liberals.”

    I guess I don’t think that’s true, with one notable exception: places where there is a significant majority influence that has imbued the majority with a weariness of strongarming the minority and the minority with a feeling of embattled bitterness. So, even though the SLC party has 50% liberals and 50% conservatives, that’s not the really the context: the 5 liberals are there representing the 30% minority, and the 5 conservatives represent the 70% majority. The conservatives are weary of being the oppresive gorillas, and the liberals, even though the makeup of the party is even, still keenly feel their minority status in the greater context and feel justified speaking out in an attempt to balance the scales. However, I don’t see it as a function of conservativeness or liberalness; I see it as a function of minority/majority. Outside of that, I disagree with your equation.

  43. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 3:01 pm

    Ryan, yeah, but maybe I missed out on a good fight. Maybe liberals (uh-oh, is this me?!) LIKE being public spectacles (Michael Moore, anyone?). Then maybe, it’s the conservatives that like it. I don’t know…

  44. Kristine on November 5, 2004 at 3:02 pm

    There’s one element that I think we’ve overlooked a bit in trying to translate between general political discourse and such discourse in the church, and that is that, at church, people don’t just believe they are in the majority, they often believe that God agrees with them. That adds a level of difficulty to the plight of the minority viewholder that we haven’t addressed. At the same time, it makes it more reasonable for conservative people to be openly declarative with their views–if you really believe that your politics are not just correct, but also *righteous,* then it is your duty to enlighten those around you who are benighted. American liberals may sneer at conservatives, or think they are stupid, but they don’t usual think of them as minions of Satan.

    Not sure what to do with that, I’m jes’ sayin’…

  45. danithew on November 5, 2004 at 3:02 pm

    Some long time ago there was kind of a jokey discussion about what a person could do to avoid positions of responsibility. I don’t recall anyone mentioning the possibility of announcing controversial political views on a regular basis. I’m guessing in a more conservative ward that announcing liberal views could be useful in deterring that sort of a thing. And maybe in a more liberal ward a necon would also get a negative reaction.

    I am currently in a presidency (I’m trying to avoid talking about callings too specifically here) and when I went over to have a first-time conversation with one of the other members of the presidency, I was pretty surprised that immediately some very conservative views became the topic of an extended conversation. I did my best to be reasonable and listen and actually felt it was an interesting discussion — but I was bit disconcertd that this person was so quick to bring up his political ideas the very first occasion he met me — especially since I had to assume he knew nothing about my own political perspectives. Maybe the problem sometimes is more to do with the way these conversations are timed, rather than with the actual views themselves.

  46. Davis Bell on November 5, 2004 at 3:02 pm

    As scary as Kristine’s 98-lb frame is, I still think I could get past her to give D a noogie (or, a wedgie, depending on the nature and severity of the offense).

  47. Kristine on November 5, 2004 at 3:04 pm

    Dunno, Davis–I bite! (You should have stayed till the end of the party.)

    (And I haven’t weighed 98 lbs since, like, 4th grade)

  48. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 3:05 pm

    Oooh, no, noogie sounded somehow fun, but wedgie sounds like … reverting to my junior-high nerdom complete with pens in the pocket and fear of locker-room banter. I’ll pass, thanks.

  49. Rusty on November 5, 2004 at 3:06 pm

    Ryan,
    I have been in situations that you are talking about. But I think I feel that almost all the time in discussions, whichever side of the aisle I’m on. I tend to always disagree at first. If I’m talking with a group of liberals I go into conservative-mode, if I’m with conservatives, I go into liberal-mode. Being in the middle helps me understand both sides a lot better and hearing both sides makes me want to defend the other side. At home I like to say (outlandishly) liberal things to my super-conservative family. Here at design school in New York I like to talk about God and conservative ideas to my super-liberal class-mates and co-workers. But I don’t think that they ever make me feel sheepish for having those ideas. In fact, I think they respect me more for having said something.

  50. Ryan Bell on November 5, 2004 at 3:08 pm

    Kristine, I would go farther than you have– rather than say that anyone who believes their political views are endorsed by God might feel justified in pushing them on others, I’d say that such a person should never act on that belief in a church setting. So I do think the conservative guy in gospel doctrine is doing something much more misguided and damaging that the liberal guy in the cafeteria. It’s one thing to make a co-worker feel uncomfortable, it’s another to convince a co-worshipper that he’s not a welcome part of the church.

  51. Ryan Bell on November 5, 2004 at 3:09 pm

    Rusty, your position exactly mirrors mine. Except the part about not being made to feel sheepish sometimes.

  52. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 3:11 pm

    LOL to Rusty’s comment: it’s my exact experience.

    To LDS people like those that post here, I might as well be a Satan-worshipping, leather-wearing, nipple-piercing Communist.

    To those people in the theater and other NYC friends who aren’t members of the Church: I’m ridiculously square, with one foot in the impossibly Victorian social world of the LDS church in NYC, and the other foot in the grave.

  53. Rosalynde Welch on November 5, 2004 at 3:12 pm

    Rusty, I’m like you: the contrarian in me usually pushes me *against* the view that prevails in my current context. Before I started graduate school, a professor told me “You’re going to become more conservative, you know.” I thought he was crazy, but in retrospect I think I did instinctively take up a more conservative viewpoint. Similarly, I became much more liberal during my first years at BYU for the same (but inverse) reason.

  54. Ana on November 5, 2004 at 3:14 pm

    Danithew: Eugene England once said that he regretted some of his more public expressions of liberal viewpoints, as they had limited his opportunities to serve. I believe it had to do with an opinion he had stated at a Mormon Letters conference, though unfortunately I can’t remember what it was about. When I heard the story from him, his words were something like, “there went my chances of ever being a mission president.” I don’t believe he was aspiring to callings, but truly desiring to serve, and it’s possible he was right about why he didn’t have that chance.
    Maybe I should have proclaimed my vote in Mutual. I’d love my Tuesday nights free.

  55. Rosalynde Welch on November 5, 2004 at 3:14 pm

    D., Satan-worshipping, nipple-piercing–yes. But obviously you wear denim and corduroy, not leather.

  56. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 3:17 pm

    Rosalynde, you know me better than I know myself!

    Actually, I don’t have one single item of clothing in corduroy.

    :)

  57. danithew on November 5, 2004 at 3:18 pm

    To LDS people like those that post here, I might as well be a Satan-worshipping, leather-wearing, nipple-piercing Communist.

    LOL> Yeah D. That’s exactly how you came across at the bloggersnacker over at the Fowles. :)

  58. mike on November 5, 2004 at 3:22 pm

    Is liberalism simply cooler than conservatism?

    toby keith & the oakridge boys vs. the boss and pearl jam

    you make the call.

  59. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 3:23 pm

    Well, Dan, I don’t show my piercings to just anyone.

    But seriously, a chance to show up in person to make you all see how normal, how… average, I really am? That’s what the bloggersnakles are all about.

    :)

  60. Bob Caswell on November 5, 2004 at 3:30 pm

    Interestingly enough, I agree with both Ryan and Kristine on different accounts: I agree with Kristine in her implication that liberals at church are less likely to consider Mormon conservatives as devil children whereas the opposite doesn’t hold true (because that’s one of the biggest annoyances of Mormon conservatives stated by liberals, at least in my experience). But at the same time, there is something to be said about Ryan’s overall observation outside of the church context. Unfortunately, it does seem like; in general, liberals are much more vocal, flamboyant, and rude. No one made a movie about Clinton’s issues whereas Bush? Movies are made, rallies are held, signs are carried, etc, etc.

  61. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 3:32 pm

    That’s because liberals are funnier and more artistic.

    ;D

  62. danithew on November 5, 2004 at 3:32 pm

    I dunno D. Ever since I saw the evil principal on Buffy the Vampire Slayer show, I learned that well-tailored professorial types are really gigantic demons poised to destroy the world.

    Seriously though, I’d second you on the “normal” but not on the “average.” You have some rather unique and well-developed talents (musically and otherwise) and I wish I could have come to the other “blog party” and seen you at your home. I never dreamed that the organist who wants to play in church is also a Springsteen fan.

  63. Steve Evans on November 5, 2004 at 3:34 pm

    hey danithew, the principal wasn’t evil. He was just a jerk (until he got eaten by the Mayor). The next principal had issues, but also not evil.

  64. Andrew W. Griffin on November 5, 2004 at 3:35 pm

    I’m no hardliner, but I must admit that I enjoyed going to see Toby Keith in Houston over the summer. He may not be cool in some circles, but I found out online that while he’s a registered Democrat, he gave some mad cash to Dubya. It’s posted online.

    As for “The Boss” and those has-beens in Pearl Jam, well, re-watch “Singles” sometime and go to the part where Matt Dillon’s character in the band Citizen Dick reads a write-up of their concert — need I say more? I’d much rather hear Toby Keith over Pearl Jam. At least Toby has a sense of humor.

    p.s. CB, I’ve listened to KBON. Ville Platte is about 50 miles south of Alexandria. Lots of good Cajun music there.

  65. danithew on November 5, 2004 at 3:36 pm

    Oh yeah… it was the mayor. I think that’s who I was talking about. I’m so embarrassed that I’ve got my Buffy trivia all wrong. That’s really terrible. :)

  66. Bob Caswell on November 5, 2004 at 3:43 pm

    The more I think about it, the more I dislike the idea of being categorized. No matter what “team” I’m on, there’s always going to be someone on my team that embarrasses and/or frustrates me.

  67. Adam Greenwood on November 5, 2004 at 3:45 pm

    “American liberals may sneer at conservatives, or think they are stupid, but they don’t usual think of them as minions of Satan.”

    This has not been my experience, Kristine. At least, this has not been my experience if you replace ‘Satan’ with its functional equivalent. Corporations or the Pope or Bush or something. The only difference may be that Mormon conservatives are willing to condemn their co-religionists for being so wrong (‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’ etc.) whereas American liberals think of most conservatives as dupes.

  68. Rob Briggs on November 5, 2004 at 4:03 pm

    Dani: “I was bit disconcertd that this person was so quick to bring up his [conservative] political ideas the very first occasion he met me – especially since I had to assume he knew nothing about my own political perspectives.”

    It was the NeoCon sticker on your forehead.

    Doh!

  69. ed on November 5, 2004 at 4:03 pm

    I agree with Adam. I have met as many smug, self-righteous liberals as I have smug, self-righteous conservatives. Sometimes you can even meet a few smug, self-righteous liberal mormons, at least in the blue states. Both types are unwilling to ascribe any measure of intelligence or goodwill to those on the other side.

  70. Steve Evans on November 5, 2004 at 4:08 pm

    “Sometimes you can even meet a few smug, self-righteous liberal mormons…”

    If only there was a group blog where they could congregate. Oh wait — it’s here!.

  71. danithew on November 5, 2004 at 4:09 pm

    Rob B.,

    I put that NeoCon sticker on my forehead to cover the permanent and deeply-etched 666 scar I’ve had ever since childbirth. No one seems to know where that came from.

  72. Rob Briggs on November 5, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    Rusty: “If I’m talking with a group of liberals I go into conservative-mode, if I’m with conservatives, I go into liberal-mode.”

    Sounds wishy-washy. Except Oliver Wendell Holmes made it respectable. He said (paraphrasing) he took positions to counterbalance the excesses in others. I read that about 30 years ago & have always liked that.

    That’s what us moderates is all about.

    Nate, Kaimi or others with a better recollection of Holmes, do you know/remember the exact quote?

  73. Nate Oman on November 5, 2004 at 4:13 pm

    “Maybe I should have proclaimed my vote in Mutual. I’d love my Tuesday nights free. ”

    Ana we have discussed this before. It is called “playing chess.” See “Chess, Shar’ia & Church Callings”

  74. Last_lemming on November 5, 2004 at 4:16 pm

    the context in which liberals are limited is the church … whereas the context in which conservatives are limited is everywhere else

    From what I have read here, “everywhere else” consists of gatherings dominated by lawyers, academics, and or artsy types. I can attest that “everywhere else” does not include groups of accountants, and I strongly suspect that it does not include groups dominated by engineers, physicians, or insurance salesmen. It also does not include gatherings at which uniformed military personnel are at all conspicuous. The dichotomy of Church vs. everywhere else just does not hold up.

  75. CB on November 5, 2004 at 4:36 pm

    D. Fletcher,

    liberals are funnier.

    Obviously, you have never been to my ward! If I may, I would like to offer a revision:

    Liberals are funnier, when they intend to be; conservatives are often inadvertently funny.

    How’s that?

  76. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 4:38 pm

    Yes, I agree CB, conservatives make the best stars of America’s Funniest Home Videos.

  77. danithew on November 5, 2004 at 4:42 pm

    I am suddenly remembering a skit where a certain prominent Republican politician was falling down stairs.

  78. CB on November 5, 2004 at 4:51 pm

    How about the Simpsons episode where Homer and family are neighbors with both Gerorge and Barbara Bush and Gerald and Betty Ford?

    When it comes to humor, conservatives present what the people in the pentagon call a “target rich environment”.

  79. greenfrog on November 5, 2004 at 5:17 pm

    Thus, while it does depend on context, the dependance is this: Liberal opinions are out of place in a group of 90% conservatives. Conservative opinions are out of place in a group of 50% liberals.

    In my experience, this tends to be true, as well. Why? By and large, most people prefer to avoid conflict. IMO, those who make partisan comments (from either end of the spectrum) don’t do so expecting to engender a conflict — they expect nodding heads and knowing chuckles. If they knew that their statements were going to engender conflict, most folks would avoid making them. That’s at least one definition of polite conversation.

    So why the disparity of experience? Perhaps this: a certain percentage of left-leaning folk have taken that particular stance because they felt that injustice was occurring that needed to be addressed, and they have adopted an ethic that teaches them to speak up in opposition to what they perceive to be oppression, rather than to sit still and endure it, for the sake of “polite conversation.” If I’m right about this, the percentage of liberals with that particular proclivity doesn’t need to be very large to have a pretty noticeable effect on society. In a discussion composed of five conservatives and five liberals, if a courtesy-tone-deaf conservative happens to make a partisan comment, even if only one of the five liberals is of the variety I’ve described, s/he will still speak up, oppose the statement, and will have created a conflict.

    Unless the mostly-courtesy-tone-deaf folk are completely-courtesy-tone-deaf, they will eventually learn not to make partisan comments in public gatherings because it isn’t “polite.” For this theory to play out, I’d have to conclude that conservatives do not have a similarly situated percentage of its constituency that has overcome its’ natural proclivity to avoid conflict, so when a courtsey-tone-deaf liberal makes an equally partisan comment, there tends to be fewer conservatives conditioned to speak up to oppose the oppression.

    See? Natural selection at work.

  80. Randy on November 5, 2004 at 6:10 pm

    I think there are simply too many variables at play to justify any neat and tidy assertions like many made here. So much of this is dependent on context. What we say about our political beliefs varies enormously depending on where the conversation takes place (work, school, church, grocery store, etc.), how well we know everyone in on the conversation (best friend, casual aquaintance, total stranger), the status of the people involved (Bishop, boss, client, teacher, student, some mixture, etc.), and so on. Sure, there is no shortage of people who will spout off virtually anywhere to virtually anyone about how much they despise Bush. The same was true of many conservatives when Clinton was president.

    Stripped of all of these variables, I suspect that the relative difference in the tendancy to rant about politics between most liberals and most conservatives is roughly zero.

    Of course, that is not to say that all such talk has the same impact. I think, for example, that Kristine’s comment (#44) is spot on.

  81. anonymous on November 5, 2004 at 6:27 pm

    liberalism . . . feeding off its own dead carcass . . . while conservative free-market forces create the wealth needed to pursue the leisure time you spend keeping your socialist dreams alive.

    give me a break.

    the reason the intelligencia leans left is because they feel entitled to something for just being something (i.e. well-read and conversant about “big ideas” ) rather than doing something (i.e. producing or serving).

    liberals do talk more freely – because they TALK MORE and PUT MORE STOCK IN TALKING than do conservatives, who primarily concerned with doing things, doing them well, and doing them quietly, without needing to talk about it or seek an audience.

    liberalism died (again) on tuesday.

  82. anonymous on November 5, 2004 at 6:32 pm

    intelligencia [sic]

    that should read – “intelligentsia”

    sorry . . . only a conservative could’ve spelled it wrong!

  83. Randy on November 5, 2004 at 6:37 pm

    M Das, is that you?

  84. K. Nielson on November 5, 2004 at 8:25 pm

    Unfortunately, it does seem like; in general, liberals are much more vocal, flamboyant, and rude. No one made a movie about Clinton’s issues whereas Bush? Movies are made, rallies are held, signs are carried, etc, etc.

    Perhaps there haven’t been any documentaries a la “Farenheight 9/11,” but nobody has tried to impeach Bush for lying to the country to get us into a war with Iraq. Contrast that with the Republican call for Clinton’s removal from office after he lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. If you talk to a Clinton supporter you’ll probably get a response along the lines of, “which is worse–lying about an affair or lying about a war?” On the other hand, Bush supporters either seem to think everything the president says is true, or just in the face of the goals he’s pursuing. Both sides have their blind spots for the men they revere.

    Oh yeah, and there are plenty of jokes from the “liberal media,” including bits of movies, that reference Clinton’s piccadillos.

    Kristine Nielson (not the other one :)

  85. Lisa on November 5, 2004 at 8:29 pm

    Ryan,
    My experience is exactly opposite of yours, here’s why I think this may be
    1) I’m liberal and I live in suburban Idaho
    2) I remember the statements that make me feel uncomfortable and out of place and
    3) If I agree with a political statement it feels more neutral *to me* and therefore I don’t really remember it.

    So perception and our own faulty memories may have a lot to do with how we percieve and remember gauche comments. Literally every time I’ve left the house this week I’ve heard conservative opinions expressed in awkard (for me) ways.

  86. Cody Stewart on November 5, 2004 at 9:11 pm

    Ryan,

    Although I can’t say for sure whether that was his intention, your comment, “anyone who believes their political views are endorsed by God might feel justified in pushing them on others, I’d say that such a person should never act on that belief in a church setting” would seem to condemn about a dozen or more conference talks from Ezra Taft Benson given during the 50’s and 60’s. I think it is fairly safe to assume that he believed his political views to have originated from his understanding of the gospel. Do you believe he was wrong to make such explicit political statements or do you believe he adequately clarified them as being his own opinions?

  87. Ivan Wolfe on November 5, 2004 at 9:34 pm

    Boy – that’s a lot of comments. Stay away for a day and this is what happens.

    Looking back on the initial post, a lot of pundits have speculated that this is why the exit polls on Nov. 2nd were so wrong – people did not want to tell exit pollsters that they voted for Bush – because of fear of public ridicule.

  88. Gilgamesh on November 5, 2004 at 9:48 pm

    I always thought I was in a conservative ward until a new high priest began speaking up about the need for women to submit, that children’s inactivity is the result of the parent’s lack of faith and that the prophets don’t condemn enough from the pulpit. All of a sudden the group realized we were pretty moderate. I think when the extremes are spoken as the consensus, it makes both liberal and conservative moderates uncomfortable. I would presume in those larger gatherings where an extreme opinion is expressed as fact, others also feel that it is inappropriate.

  89. Jack on November 5, 2004 at 11:09 pm

    Conservatives (for better or worse) are busy defending established ideals while liberals (for better or worse) are busy changing those ideals. IMO it requires more effort to do the latter, and therefore may come across a little “louder” than the former.

  90. john fowles on November 5, 2004 at 11:19 pm

    K. Nielsen,

    I don’t think there’s much evidence that Bush lied to get us into war (unless you actually believe Moore propaganda). Even Kerry, the French, and the Germans thought that Saddam had WMD.

  91. Larry on November 5, 2004 at 11:43 pm

    Cody,

    If you recall, he made his statements about communism based on experience and did not attack fellow Americans, except as they promoted communism.
    Today the attacks are internal, giving in my mind to believe that we have seen the enemy and it is us.
    When the Constitution hangs by a thread it will have been caused internally and the level of vitriole that was witnessed in this election and some of the responses afterwards are a foreshadowing of just how severe things will get.
    Some of the comments here indicate how deeply some issues are held on both sides. If ordinary members feel free to condemn the other side in Church, we can only imagine the consequences. The Gospel has room for both perspectives and alienating one side or the other because of personal beliefs can only lead to misery – not joy.
    One of Abraham’s desires was that he could become a Prince of Peace – which I believe – is the highest level of Celestial being that we can achieve. Ought not that be our goal instead of using the pulpit to bully.

  92. anonymous on November 6, 2004 at 12:41 am

    Gilgamesh – don’t confuse conservatism with cheuvenism . . .

    Jack – “Conservatives (for better or worse) are busy defending established ideals while liberals (for better or worse) are busy changing those ideals.”

    It is not the challenging of ideals that is the problem, it is the false belief that perfection can be obtained in this life (if only we have the perfect “system”), and it is on those grounds that liberals are misguided. Conservatism consists in what Russell Kirk calls a reverance for the permanent things, not the permanent urge to destroy and replace.

    Liberal does not equal revolutionary. What is going on in the country right now is quite revolutionary – a backlash against the liberal impetus that has been seducing and degrading America for the last 30 years.

    Look at bottom it’s a different view of human nature. Liberals view human nature as essentially good – remove or relax the restraints on behavior and people will essentially choose the right thing. Conservatives view human nature as something corrupted that must be kept in check by restraints. I understand this is a gross simplification, but it is a good lense through which one can understand policy formation.

    Conservatives understand life is something to be “gotten through”. Liberals believe life is something to be perfected. Conservatives understand that perfection is something that comes about through the struggle of getting through life. It is a darker view of the world, yes, but something more in line with what really is – that the origins of man began with temptation by the adversary, and that is the battle fought ever day by fallen man. It is good vs. evil. Conservatism realize evil for what it is – something that does not exist outside of man, but inside him. It is therefore that the conservative holds to institutions that have provided necessary restraint – church, religion, tradition, family.

  93. Clark Goble on November 6, 2004 at 12:51 am

    “Conservatives understand life is something to be ‘gotten through.'”

    I don’t think I buy that, especially since modern conservativism bears more than a striking resemblance to the aims and beliefs of classic liberalism. (i.e. faith in humanity’s ability to govern itself)

  94. Jack on November 6, 2004 at 12:59 am

    I think the media and public school have successfully established the parameters for “acceptable” discourse on social topics. How many movies or television programs are there that tout the conservative ideals that offend the liberal minority in the Church? How many teachers in the public school system would have an enduring career if they were to do so? I find it odd that I (a conservative) find myself sinking in my seat whenever I see “consevative values” portrayed on the screen or hear them discussed in the class room. I’m afraid someone’s going to be offended. Not so with “liberal values”. I may get a little annoyed but I usually don’t fear that there’ll be a general rise in tension among the group. Why is that?

  95. Jack on November 6, 2004 at 1:10 am

    anonymous, I agree with much of what you say. But, I think a good dose of libealism is important if only to help us understand that some of the things that we deem “permanent” really aren’t so permanent.

  96. Jack on November 6, 2004 at 1:13 am

    Oops, I left the “r” out of “libe[r]alism”

  97. Rob Briggs on November 6, 2004 at 2:29 am

    Anon: “What is going on in the country right now is quite revolutionary – a backlash against the liberal impetus that has been seducing and degrading America for the last 30 years.”

    Oh Laudy, Anon, I wish I shared your optimism that Dubya is saving us from that which “has been seducing & degrading America for the last 30 years.” Give me a Truman or an Eisenhower any day of the week.

    You’ve advanced a powerful argument for conservatism, if conservatism & liberalism are as you’ve defined/described them. Unfortunately, the varieties of conservatism & liberalism have been so varied over the last century, to say nothing of the past 300 years, that I can’t help but feel that you’ve privileged the version of conservatism you posit while setting up a strawman of liberalism. In other words, if I could accept your premises almost thou persuadest me to be a conservative of your stripe.

    This from a 50-something Mormon lawyer, bound simultaneously to one of the most conservative of religions & most conservative of professions in America. A conservative by nearly any measure but hardly a doctrinaire one.

  98. Larry on November 6, 2004 at 3:38 am

    Rob Briggs,

    And all this time I thought you were a brash young metro… yuppie. I didn’t think anyone our age could still be liberal after Carter and Clinton, let alone Dean and Kennedy and …!
    Have you had your synapses checked recently for blockages . :>) (Just Kidding)
    You must be high on the WoW to appear to be so young and yet have walked with the dinosaurs.

  99. Rob Briggs on November 6, 2004 at 5:38 am

    Larry,

    Blew my cover.

    What did Churchill say? If you’re not a liberal in your youth, you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative in your old age, you have no brain — something like that.

    Most of my Mormon friends my age have followed Churchill’s advise. They emailed stirring defenses of the Iraq War (I’m sure you’ve seen some of these). I’ve been happy as a clam about the Afghanistan war but bothered by the Iraq invasion — minor things like the concept of a just war keep nagging at me. So about Day 7 of the election countdown I “replied to all” & said the election was a referendum on the war; no WMDs, it was all very problematic, etc. I attached the McConnell piece in “American Conservative” about how Bush’s policies would create a backlash against conservatives. All very rational & sane, I thot.

    I received a stiff barrage of fire power across my bow. All the 30-, 40-, & 50-somethings flamed back at me. The only one who cheered me on was my friend’s mother — a 70-something. She said (jokingly, I believe) her family thot she was senile because of her views on the war.

    It’s been a strange election year.

    Have a good weekend. I’ve got to sleep so I can walk with dinosaurs manana.

  100. Ian R on November 6, 2004 at 5:24 pm

    Great Post. I think Jack got it right. Change requires more audacity and forthrightness.

    As a libertarian, I can usually relate to either crowd and get along fine. I am law student. At school the conservatives are such a minority that they have to be more boisterous and outspoken. This seems to be in line with Jack’s idea too.

  101. Sarah on November 6, 2004 at 9:37 pm

    I’m a nominal Republican, libertarian leaning Mormon living in Ohio and raised in California in the Unitarian Universalist church. I’ve made the beginnings of a real career in being a perpetual outsider. Politics at church bugs me a lot, and I don’t engage in it. In general it seems like at my job (I work at the Harry & David distribution center in Hebron; before that I was at a Steak n’ Shake, and before that Disneyland), wherever it is, liberal or left-leaning or anti-Bush sentiment is the norm, while at church and at my stepfather’s Army reserve family weekends and all, conservative or right-leaning sentiment is the norm.

    The work thing bugs me a lot, too. So, for that matter, does the social-environment-that-isn’t-political-at-all that gets completely dominated by the voices of one opinion, with the virtual silence of the other side.

    I’m a member of the Star Wars line group in Hollywood, CA; we have about 90 long-term members, 45 or so of whom post at least occasionally (maybe 15-20 very regularly) on our message boards. There’s a Politics forum, which has about 11 or 12 posters. There is one very conservative, very vocal person, one fairly conservative person who hardly says anything, and one conservative who pipes in for a while and then doesn’t say anything. There’s me (I don’t generally discuss my position on politics on those boards, and refused when asked to identify which party I’d be volunteering for when I got to Ohio — I have enough problems, thanks), and then there’s everyone else:

    http://www.liningup.net/mb/viewforum.php?f=13
    (there may be some offensive language/references there: there are only three LDS people in the group, and I’m the only one posting in that section, most of the other board posters swear — plus some people are REALLY mad right now)

    Even a very casual perusal of the forum would make someone think that we have two conservatives and forty liberals in the group. I’ve camped out on the streets for six weeks with these folks, and that’s just not the case (it’s more like what you’d expect in Los Angeles; about 30-40% conservative). You be the judges of why things are like that on the boards. ^_^

  102. Jack on November 7, 2004 at 2:36 am

    Sigh. I just watched the movie “To Kill a Mocking Bird”. My children were riveted right along with me. (it’s one of those movies that I’ve gotta watch every couple of years) I think it captures the feel of the book quite well. Gregory Peck is a wonderful Atticus.

    Atticus Finch is the quintessential Democrat. Integrity incarnate.

    Harper Lee, almost thou persuadest me to be a Democrat.

  103. Ethesis (Stephen M) on November 7, 2004 at 9:06 am

    I think of Atticus Falcon as the quintessential modern Democrat ….

  104. Kaimi on November 7, 2004 at 9:26 am

    I think it depends on context. Prior to the mission, I worked for a moving company. It was manual labor, no-collar kind of work. It was routine for opinions about democrats, affirmative action, Clinton, gays, Hilary Clinton, to be expressed. The opinions were generally not positive ones. It was routine for the appelation “gay” to be used as a mild insult (often in jest, as in “don’t be gay, man” or “that’s so gay”). I’ve also done roofing a few times, and visited a few construction sites. My in-laws do construction for a living. Based on my observations and experiences (at various places, moving and construction; I’m not saying that my in-laws do all of this), it’s incredibly common for conservative political opinion to be expressed in these locations. People discuss the latest thing they’ve heard on talk radio (and they don’t mean NPR). Democrats are routinely bashed. “Gay” and a variety of racial epithets –from “wetback” to “jew” to “nigger” — are common, widely-accepted insults. I’ve heard a lot of racist anti-black and anti-hispanic jokes told to broad audiences and to general approval (and even, in my younger and foolisher days, passed on a few myself, thinking it was cool).

    (This seems to me to be the opposite, or perhaps the reverse analogue, of Ryan’s assessment. The speaker in each case assumes that a certain object — whether that object is President Bush or is gays in general — is universally held to contempt. Comments flow from that assumption).

    It’s not confined to construction sites — I had an economics professor tell the class about how Bork got a raw deal — but is a lot more common there than in a university setting.

  105. drex davis on November 7, 2004 at 4:24 pm

    I have worked my share of manual labor jobs, construction, etc. as well as jobs for my city. My experience was the opposite of Kaimi’s. While I did hear my fair share of gay bashing . . . . the bashing came from the democratic contingent. There are those who build big government, and there are those who receive handouts from big government. Both are complicit in the liberal cause.

    This understanding has been key for me. Those who lean liberal on moral grounds and who lead liberal causes are VERY different that those who are the beneficiaries (materially) of these causes. You often find the very rich and the very poor teaming up on liberal causes, while a great many conservatives inhabit the area between them.

    Does the liberal cause seem to anyone to actually be more steeped in aristocratic sentiment than egalitarian sentiment?

  106. john fowles on November 7, 2004 at 5:45 pm

    drex davis, I agree with your observation on this. I have worked in a number of menial jobs, including in a chalkboard factory. It was there (more than a decade ago) that I noticed what you have just pointed out. Many of these people were poverty level. They weren’t about to turn down any gov’t handout and wouldn’t criticize the dems. Still, they had no lack of racial jokes. So maybe both you and Kaimi are both right.

  107. Cal on November 7, 2004 at 10:09 pm

    In the latest postings I noticed something interesting. One comment claimed manual labor generally resulted in bashing Clinton, Affirmative Action, Minorities…(you know, Democratic type things). The resulting postings claimed the opposite, but limited their examples to those of an economic nature…(poor people like handouts).

    My experience, however, indicates that both claims could easily be correct. Sure, most of my past poverty stricken associates were Democrats economically speaking, but their moral stances were by no means so accepting. If you’re poor and lean towards government assistance, should that automatically mean you’re for SSM? If you believe that BIG Government is inherently wasteful, should that necessrily imply you’re against SSM?

    Herein lies what I think is the biggest political problem our Country faces. It isn’t the fact that this or that Party is in control, it’s the fact that there are only two legitimate choices, and the lines are drawn in such a way that Reason is left far behind. I implore anyone to show a convincing connection between the stances taken by either Republicans or Democratics on Economic and Moral issues.

  108. Mark B on November 8, 2004 at 1:29 pm

    Just back from three days in the belly of the Mormon-Republican Complex beast–Utah Valley–and still trying to recover.

    My brother and I shared a van from the airport to Provo, and I’m sure that the driver was sure that we were a couple of communist pinko perverts, but we tipped him $5 so he’ll probably not report us to the thought police.

    Then, testimony meeting yesterday included a couple of paeans to this great democratic system at work. I wondered if we’d have heard those if the other party had prevailed. I also thought it would be fun to stand up and remind folks about that great anti-democratic statement in Mosiah 29:13 Therefore, if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you. And it might have been nice to remind folks that it’s not the Democratic Republic of God that we claim to belong to, but the Kingdom of God.

    Of course, Mosiah goes on to suggest that since kings can go wrong and cause all sorts of grief, it’s better to have the voice of the people rule, but that you’re really headed to hell in a handbasket if the majority of the people choose evil. It may have been fun to at least raise the question in testimony meeting whether we were sure that the majority in this country hadn’t done that last Tuesday.

    Then there was the testimony of how things in Iraq are so much better than the media portray them, and how the Iraqis love us as their liberators. Those damned reporters, again! First they ruined the People’s paradise of South Vietnam, led by such luminaries and Nguyen Cao Ky and What’s-his-name Thieu, and now they’re doing the same to Iraq. Further, to quote the memorable words of Chauncey Riddle (sometime after 1960) “And don’t you forget what they did to our Senator McCarthy.”

    All said by sweet people who assumed that everyone agreed with them on their religion and their political view of the world.

    The solution: spend most Sunday’s in a branch of newly converted Spanish-speaking members (but only if you’re mostly incapable of understanding that language). It keeps you humble, and helps you avoid political discourse altogether.

  109. Jack on November 8, 2004 at 2:00 pm

    “All said by sweet people who assumed that everyone agreed with them on their religion and their political view of the world.”

    Hmm.

  110. John K on November 10, 2004 at 2:30 am

    You are right on with your original post, Ryan!

  111. Ryan Bell on November 10, 2004 at 2:34 am

    Lol, thanks, John. Glad you finally found it.

    P.S. I’m glad you called me Ryan. For some reason, during my guest blog stint here, everyone has insisted on calling Ryan Bell. Can’t think why this might be. Am I book title?

  112. John K on November 10, 2004 at 4:16 am

    Amazing, I am always called by my full name by anyone outside my family and very close friends. I can not explain why this is done.

  113. Ivan Wolfe on November 12, 2004 at 11:26 am

    Interesting article that applies to this topic:

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110005886

    excerpt:
    [This article] is about the liberal assumption, and how that relates, vexingly and unpleasantly, to me. What is the liberal assumption? It is the self-declared right to set the moral parameters of political debate. Hence my friend’s words, “at least” and “we.” Who are the “we”? Apparently it is the community of sensible people. What is the “at least”? The lowest common denominator that unites me to my friend as persons of sense.

    Question: What happens if I don’t subscribe to the “at least”? Answer: I cease to belong to the “we.”

  114. Ryan Bell on November 12, 2004 at 11:39 am

    Thanks for that, Ivan. I agree with the article. I’m surprised we didn’t have more of a consensus on these points in this discussion. Oh well.

  115. lyle on November 12, 2004 at 2:28 pm

    Ryan: you pre-anticipated this article that Adam mentions in the side bar:

    http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=56a4b06e77oshwaiq5psszuc2gti5neb

    re: how liberals screen out conservatives for academic jobs. the first step is “assume everyone at the conference is a fellow liberal.” Hm…sound familiar?

  116. Ethesis (Stephen M) on November 13, 2004 at 12:26 pm

    http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/8525.html

    Is another on the same topic, as are the threads at http://www.erinoconnor.org/movabletype/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=1042

    Interesting stuff, though I’m not sure how correct.

  117. Kaimi on November 13, 2004 at 6:58 pm

    I followed a link from Instapundit, and found a few comments like this:

    Ever see a blue state type freaking out because they are being forced to put chains on their tires? And they’re like muslims, you pull them out of their own dung and they spit at you.
    I was saying on another blog (Matt Welch): blue state types can’t even produce inspired novels or great art or even passably entertaining shallow movies anymore. They really are comically vain nitwits.

    Just another data point. I remain of the position that there is an abundance of crass, overbroad, condescending commentary from both liberals and conservatives.

  118. Larry on November 13, 2004 at 8:42 pm

    Well said Kaimi.
    It’s as though they treat politics like an athletic event and depending on how their team does, they rage or whine, instead of realizing that this is the real world and we ought to be at the least, civil