Liberalism, Conservatism and Kindness

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Guest: William Voegeli

That title is prompted by a great quotation that I only recently encountered: “Liberalism is the politics of kindness.” The source is Garrison Keiller, the sage of Lake Woebegone, and I found it in William Voegeli’s new book, “The Pity Party” by which he means to convey his summary judgement of the Democrats.

His argument, most colorfully and baldly stated in the book, is that the modern Democrats have been running a sort of extended con-game in which both their rhetoric and some of their vaunted legislation promise to relieve the disappointment, deprivation, suffering and humiliation of the “disadvantaged.” But, as he argues, in reality, things often and/or usually get worse for those who are supposedly benefited. Still, their counter-argument runs that conservatives don’t care about the burdens placed on working class people (that being the operative meaning of “middle class” these days) or on minorities and the truly indigent. Conservatives, whether of the established party, Tea party or Libertarian party, are rather cold-hearted, lacking in empathy and blindly loyal to the near-religion of the free market.

This is one side of the politics of mutual defamation. Another book could be focused on some of the simple-minded epithets hurled by liberals against conservatives. At any rate Voegeli has done half of the job and done it very well. Here he is in a conversation in which the proprietor of the podcast required himself to take the role of the defender of the works and ways of liberalism.

Does Voegeli, a senior editor at the Claremont Review of Books, in fact hit the mark? I will be sending this one (the conversation, not the book) to some of my liberal friends. Perhaps you might want to do the same. Or can you easily anticipate how and with what counter-rhetoric they would fend it off?


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