Liberals Are 'Not Stupid, and They're Not Evil'
ORLANDO, FL — One of the most electrifying speakers at a conference for conservative political activists insisted that liberals are not stupid or evil. Don't misunderstand — he still said liberals were wrong, but he called on conservatives to replace their political contempt with gratitude and to answer anger with kindness.
He recalled a lady "talking about how liberals are stupid and evil. You know what I was thinking? She's talking about my family in Seattle, and I resent that! They're not right politically — you are! — but they're not stupid and they're not evil," declared Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). "It's not helpful, and I don't like it when we talk about each other that way, and it's time to stop!"
Brooks argued that the problem behind America's painful political polarization isn't anger — it's contempt. Conservatives and liberals don't just think their political enemies are wrong, they think they're evil. This is not a civil or a Christian way of treating one another, and it's not fitting for a great nation like America.
But the president of AEI was addressing the "Defending the American Dream" Summit, an event put on by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which boasts the largest grassroots network on the right. He had to acknowledge the evils conservatives fight against, and acknowledge them he did.
Contempt is a very understandable emotion for conservatives to have. "I feel it all the time," Brooks acknowledged. "Every night, I dream about some new terrible policy of the Obama administration, and every morning I open The Washington Post and what they did is actually worse than my dream. I feel contempt, and there's a lot of contempt flying around between people on the right."
Brooks asked the Dalai Lama what he does when he feels contempt, and the Buddhist leader said, "Substitute it with kindness."
"Sounds kind of soft, right? No, no. Kindness isn't for sissies," Brooks declared. "Kindness is for tough people, and it's magic." To demonstrate this point, he recalled the publication of his first commercial book, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism. The book argued that conservatives give more to charity than liberals, and it took off.
One day, the author received a hateful email attacking his book. But as he read the email, he realized that this reader had gone point by point throughout the book, responding to every claim in detail. Rather than responding in anger and returning this reader's contempt, Brooks sent an email thanking him for actually reading book. This unexpected response moved the reader, who suggested meeting Brooks in person.
"They express contempt, I react with warmheartedness. I give kindness, I answer anger with love. That's, by the way, what I learned in Sunday School," the AEI president declared. Indeed, Jesus Christ commands his disciples to respond this way, answering anger with love by praying for our enemies and those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).
Next Page: The deep Christian principles in Brooks' speech.