Help! I'm Surrounded by Intolerant Liberals at Work: A Guide for the Perplexed and the Outnumbered
Dear Belladonna Rogers,
How do you behave or talk in a workplace of liberals who monitor every behavior for political and social correctness?
While my colleagues are hard-working, the general setting of my workplace is extraordinarily liberal. It is expected that you will be just as liberal as the socialist working next to you. Worse: in 2008 we had meetings where the managers talked openly about who had donated to Obama's campaign. They regularly went online to see who had -- and who had not. The head of the company -- loyal and generous Obama supporter that he was -- did nothing to discourage this outrageous behavior and so, in 2007, I began to feel as if I were living in the People’s Republic of China. I still feel that way, now more than ever. I’ve never said a thing about my conservative views, but believe me, it isn’t easy.
What should I do?
Sleepless in Seattle
This is a serious problem and one that particularly afflicts those who work in academic settings, in the media, and in the entertainment industry. It's also likely to affect any conservative or libertarian working in a blue state. I’ll give you my advice on your best options for dealing with this, but first I’ll say why the situation you’ve described has become a widespread phenomenon in workplaces across the country.
The problem you’ve described stems from a convergence of four factors that are far more prevalent today than at any time in the past seven decades, possibly since the Civil War (although I can't speak personally of that era: I don’t go back that far).
They are (1) the increasingly high concentration of liberals in certain sectors of the economy; (2) the militant intolerance displayed by liberals; (3) the steep decline in civility everywhere, including the workplace; and (4) the lowering of barriers to discussions of topics that were, in the not-so-distant past, deemed off-limits, especially in the workplace, but even at social gatherings in general: politics, sex, one’s earnings, and one’s religious beliefs. This is a toxic confluence of trends that afflicts our professional and social lives and results in a less tolerant environment in which one’s “zone of privacy” is far narrower than ever before.
(1) Types of work that attract more liberals than conservatives:
Your email address tells me that you work in a university. I've long wondered why academia is so strongly skewed toward liberals (by some estimates 90% liberal versus 10% conservative, except at explicitly Christian universities and colleges). Last week, I heard an explanation that rings true. It comes from Tim Groseclose, professor of American politics at the University of California at Los Angeles, who explained, in a fascinating interview with The Daily Caller’s Jamie Weinstein, that liberals want to direct the lives of others whereas conservatives don't. A person whose goal is to direct the lives of others, according to Professor Groseclose, will be drawn to academia, the media and the entertainment industry, the last of which -- at least as much as teaching and the media -- has an enormous impact on how and what people think. A single film can powerfully shape opinions and points of view, and epitomize an entire era.
Conservatives tend to be less interested in proselytizing and prefer to be guided by the maxim “live and let live,” as they focus their lives on family and work. They favor less government intrusion and prefer to be left alone. Liberals, particularly in academia, he said, are willing to forgo higher incomes for the chance to have a direct impact on the lives of others.
Furthermore, Professor Groseclose added, once an overwhelming liberal majority takes over a particular occupation or individual workplace, it becomes increasingly uncomfortable to be the sole conservative, or one of a small minority, amid a sometimes belligerent, often nastily self-righteous majority. So conservatives begin leaving these environments, which they find increasingly hostile and intolerant of them and their views. (To see the full interview click here.)
Two memoirs offer personal insights into this phenomenon in the entertainment industry, the first of which I’ve read and recommend highly. Turning Right at Hollywood and Vine: The Perils of Coming Out Conservative in Tinseltown by PJMedia’s Roger L. Simon, novelist and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter; and The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture by playwright and screenwriter David Mamet.
In an economy as dire as ours, few employees, no matter how uncomfortable they are in their present workplaces, feel free to leave a secure position in hopes of finding more congenial colleagues elsewhere, especially if they live in a blue state or work in a sector of the economy in which liberals predominate.
Even if the economy were more robust than it is, if you work in any of the sectors that attract liberals in droves, or if you work in deep blue America, changing jobs is unlikely to help. It will change the names and faces of your colleagues, but not the underlying problem.
(2) The fact that you’re the lone conservative in a department or office of liberal Democrats would not be the problem you describe if liberals were more tolerant -- or indeed, if they were tolerant at all -- of other political perspectives. As I’ve discussed here and here, the current incarnation of the Democratic Party is not the big, welcoming tent it was in the days of FDR. Today, it represents big unions, including the strident teachers’ unions, academia, some minority groups, and social and political liberals.
In the wake of the budget deal, we've seen a dramatic rise in vitriolic Democrat attacks on the Tea Party, and by extension, on the Republican Party of which they form an influential part. Rather than merely express contrary views, the Democrats at the highest levels of the party have turned up their attacks on a scale of 1 to 10, to at least 11, thus deepening the already sharp schism between the two parties.
As PJMedia’s Bryan Preston noted last Friday, Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass), a former nominee for the presidency, explicitly called on the nation’s media to refrain from reporting and broadcasting the views of members of the Tea Party -- at all. John F. Kerry said,
And I have to tell you, I say this to you politely. [Let’s hear it for good manners as we descend ever further into the netherworld of extreme intolerance.] The media in America has a bigger responsibility than it’s exercising today. The media has got to begin to not give equal time or equal balance to an absolutely absurd notion just because somebody asserts it or simply because somebody says something which everybody knows is not factual.
Presumably, Sen. Kerry’s idea of an “absurd notion” is one with which he disagrees, while his definition of "everybody" is the fellow members of his windsurfing club.
This arrogance, this hubris, and this unembarrassed sense of entitlement are relatively recent additions to the traditional arrows in the Democrats' quivers. Unlike in the past, actual political positions are secondary to extreme expressions of political passion. Vitriol overwhelms content.