Friday, February 03, 2012

Conservatives Are Not Dumber Than LIberals

A new study is getting a lot of play lately, as it suggest conservatism and racism are linked to low intelligence. That’s an iffy proposition on multiple levels.

The first is trying to define intelligence. The study uses childhood IQ. That’s one measure, though over time this has been debunked as a magic number for determining intelligence. There are different kinds of intelligence; IQ measures only one.

Second, and maybe more damaging, is linking conservatives and racism. There may be studies that show conservatives are more likely to be racist than liberals or moderates; I really don’t know. I do know that racism takes many forms, and the less intelligent may be less able to cover it up in their actions. Many conservative politicians are happy to sprinkle racist comments through their speeches using code words. Whether they are truly racist, or cynically appealing to racist voters is open for discussion.

Linking “conservative” and “racist” in the same breath brings to mind the stereotypical redneck who lives in a trailer, drives a pick-up truck with a shotgun rack and a Confederate flag, and thinks getting some strange means sleeping with other than a blood relative. Yes, those people are out there (stereotypes have to come from somewhere), but not in the quantities people believe. Therein lies the problem.

Let’s separate true racists from the argument. A died in the wool racist is a piece of shit not worthy of discussion. They can all die and the world will be a better place. Yet there are shades of racism. Is a person a racist because they are uncomfortable among others who are different, and want better outcomes for those more like them? Common sense and scientific studies imply these traits are natural. We may well be hardwired that way from our tribal ancestors. It’s how we respond that’s important, and is the crux of the discussion.

We live in a country that believes the average TV viewer cannot understand a football play because it’s too complicated, yet can solve the problems of society with a solution that fits on a three-by-five note card. Life is complicated, and it’s a lot more complicated than even those who think it’s complicated want to deal with a lot of the time. Pull one thread and the whole sweater will eventually unravel. An enlightening discussion could probably arise from playing Six Degrees of Separation with what’s going on in the country instead of movie stars.

Conversations, blogs, and message boards have led me to believe conservatives are not inherently less intelligent than liberals. They’re perfectly capable of thinking about an issue in depth; they just don’t want to. Life is hard enough as it is, with jobs and family and health and retirement and the transmission and your pain-in-the-ass shiftless brother-in-law. A lot of people don’t have the energy do sift through the ramifications of No Child Left Behind or the Affordable Care Act or Dodd-Frank. They’re busy, and they want someone to distill it for them.

Up step Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and their ilk. (Rarely has “ilk” seemed a more appropriate word.) These “pundits” cherry pick statistics and ridicule opposing points of view and lower the bar for rational discussion. Much has been written about why there is no counterbalancing liberal talk radio. Among the reasons cited is that, while liberals will listen to conservative radio (if only to better understand the enemy), conservatives are not inclined to listen to a liberal. Once the idea is set, let no thought pull it asunder.

Conservative “solutions” tend to be simpler. They won’t work, but people can understand them without taking time off work to attend a focus group. Too many immigrants from Mexico? Build a fence and be done with it. Ignored is the fact the Soviet Union couldn’t keep people from slipping through the Iron Curtain when they lined it with machine guns and had a border a fraction the size of ours to seal.

I can’t begin to recount how many discussions I’ve had with conservatives where points are won until the argument is conceded, only to have the final point be, essentially, “I don’t want to.” That is the core of conservative thought today. They have things they want, or don’t want, and they don’t really care what the potential complications are, or who else is affected. Conservatives by and large aren’t stupid, but their thought processes are often selfish and immature.

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