Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Liberal Or Libel?

Someone sent me an "Are You A Liberal?" test from conservative talk show host Dennis Prager.  The test has a number of statements that you can agree or disagree with.  The idea is that people will take it and realize they're not, in fact, liberal.  I have no doubt Prager honestly believes the test is fair, but it's not, for several reasons:

1)  He gets to pick which issues to discuss.  The majority sometimes agrees with conservatives, sometimes with liberals. I've seen liberals argue if people actually voted for what they believed, liberals would win every time, and then they pull out the cherry-picked polling to prove it.

2)  It's not the number of things you agree or disagree with, but where you are on a handful of important issues.  Prager's test makes no distinction between what's essential and what's tangential.

3)  Above all, the wording of the statements is grossly unfair.  The arguments are made with a tin ear (or worse, a biased ear).  The phrasing tends to be off, and often put in such a way to make the liberal position sound more extreme than it is, saving the broad middle ground for everyone else.  It's no good to note some (or even a lot of ) liberals would agree with this particular statement--yes, you can find extreme statements from either side.  I'm sure plenty of self-identified conservatives don't agree with many things conservative politicians, or for that matter conservative talk show hosts, say.  So what?

Anyway, here's what was sent.  I was going to go into great detail explaining how many of the statements are unfair, but I think you can see for yourself:

It is my belief that about half of the Americans who call themselves liberal do not hold the great majority of positions held by mainstream liberal institutions such as the New York Times editorial page, People for the American Way, and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. So here is a test of this thesis to be given to anyone who believes he or she is a liberal. If you feel I have omitted a liberal position or have unfairly characterized any of them here, please email me. This is still a work in progress.

Thank you,
Dennis Prager

You say you are a liberal.

Do you believe the following?

1.Standards for admissions to universities, fire departments, etc. should be lowered for people of color.
2.Bilingual education for children of immigrants, rather than immersion in English, is good for them and for America.
3.Murderers should never be put to death.
4.During the Cold War, America should have adopted a nuclear arms freeze.
5.Colleges should not allow ROTC programs.
6.It was wrong to wage war against Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War.
7.Poor parents should not be allowed to have vouchers to send their children to private schools.
8.It is good that trial lawyers and teachers unions are the two biggest contributors to the Democratic Party.
9.Marriage should be redefined from male-female to any two people.
10.A married couple should not have more of a right to adopt a child than two men or two women.
11.The Boy Scouts should not be allowed to use parks or any other public places and should be prohibited from using churches and synagogues for their meetings.
12.The present high tax rates are good.
13.Speech codes on college campuses are good and American values are bad.
14.The Israelis and Palestinians are morally equivalent.
15.The United Nations is a moral force for good in the world, and therefore America should be subservient to it and such international institutions as a world court.
16.It is good that colleges have dropped hundreds of men's sports teams in order to meet gender-based quotas.
17.No abortions can be labeled immoral.
18.Restaurants should be prohibited by law from allowing customers to choose between a smoking and a non-smoking section.
19.High schools should make condoms available to students and teach them how to use them.
20.Racial profiling for terrorists is wrong -- a white American grandmother should as likely be searched as a Saudi young male.
21.Racism and poverty -- not a lack of fathers and a crisis of values -- are the primary causes of violent crime in the inner city.
22.It is wrong and unconstitutional for students to be told, "God bless you" at their graduation.
23.No culture is morally superior to any other.

Those are all liberal positions. How many of them do you hold?

So that's it.  I'm thinking of coming up with my own "Are you a conservative?" test.  Here are the first six questions.  What do you think?

1.  Big corporations should be left alone by the government to do as they please.

2.  The richest in our society should have their tax costs lowered more than the middle class.

3.  It should be unconstitutional to make even the slightest legal acknowledgement of the legacy of racism.

4.  People who have been out of work for more than a year should have their government assistance cut off.

5.  Women who are raped and have an abortion should be prosecuted.

6.  Schools should teach as an alternative scientific theory that humans first appeared on Earth approximately 6000 years ago.

PS  Prager has since updated the test at his website,  It's tighter and better phrased, but my criticism still stands.

PPS By the way, most people don't identify themselves as liberal.  The term has taken a beating and most would rather not be called one.  For decades the Gallup Poll has shown that about 40% of the public self-identify as conservative, 40% as moderate, and 20% as liberal.  It doesn't matter in elections, since plenty of moderates and, for that matter, a fair number of conservatives, have no trouble voting Democrat.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your argument seems to be that it is meaningless that twice as many people identify as conservative as liberal.

It seems hard to believe that nothing would be different if the numbers were the other way. At the very least, everyone talks the conservative game. Why, Obama has assured us numerous times he supports the free market.

5:49 AM, December 21, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More evidence of the ridiculousness of the liberal/conservative, left/right categorization. Its just laziness. People vote how they vote on a number of issues and think about the category and its cache afterwards.

7:30 AM, December 21, 2010  

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