Sunday, August 22, 2010

A rare political comment

A linguist I read quite a while ago made a suggestion to grammarians. He suggested that they get a needlepoint image of the word "ain't" and frame it and hang it on their wall. The reason he suggested that they do this is because the battle against ain't is probably the only battle linguists have ever won. Reminding themselves of this would be an appropriate lesson in humility.

For similar reasons, I think that American liberals would do well to frame a needlepoint of the figure "20%" on their walls. Why? Because that is the proportion of the population that reliably self identifies as liberal. That's it. Four out of five Americans disagree with liberalism some or all the time.

In that regard (and I'm thinking of things like this), could I humbly suggest that liberals are ill-advised to be insulting the people who disagree with them? As a controversial Catholic saint once said, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.


  1. I think that 20% figure might be misleading. I think that the far-Right wing has done a very effective job in making "liberal" a dirty word and distorting what it actually means, so most people would not want to identify with what they think or have been told "liberal" means. I think when people are asked their views on specific issues, they're often quite surprised when they find out that it reflects a liberal viewpoint.

  2. The number may be misleading but I think even the most optimistic reading still would leave liberals as the minority. And that is my principal point. When you hold the minority view and you are trying to convince others, it's poor strategy to accuse people who disagree with you of being idiots and racists when they express that disagreement. Far better to understand where they are coming from, show that you respect that and then try to convince them to change their minds.