The Wrong Kind of Liberal

Aug 6, 2016 | Liberalism, Political Ideologies

Published: The Good Men Project (August 6, 2016)

I’d like to talk about a specific type of liberal – namely, the liberal who believes that his or her liberalism can be brandished as a “get out of jail free” pass for bad behavior.

Based on my personal observations, this manifests itself in three ways:

  1. There is the MacFarlane type of liberal – i.e., someone who believes that because of their left-wing political views, they can make any number of offensive jokes without being accused of bigotry. “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane is a particularly egregious offender here, most notably when he released an episode of his show in which all of the characters insulted and dehumanized a transgendered individual while MacFarlane proclaimed innocence because of his well-known sympathy for LGBTQ rights. I’m also reminded of close friends from Bard College (which, at least when I attended, had a reputation as the most left-wing school in America) who regularly cracked jokes about morbidly obese African American women, the mentally disabled, lower-income whites, and other marginalized groups… and, when confronted, would invariably mention their liberal politics as an excuse.
  2. Then there is the Bernie Bro type, someone who believes that because they are steadfastly adhering to left-wing political values, it excuses political behavior that enables regressive results. Throughout this presidential election, many commentators have noted that the Bernie Sanders supporters who refuse to back Hillary Clinton are operating from a place of privilege. Even though they may emotionally sympathize with marginalized groups, they are willing to sacrifice their well-being in the name of abstract ideological goals because they personally wouldn’t feel the effects of a Donald Trump presidency. When I bring this up to Sanders supporters, I naturally hear about how “progressive” they are in their views toward marginalized groups… as if having a sympathetic ideology means anything when you’re willing to sacrifice others in its name.
  3. Finally there is the Wesley type, named after an abusive and narcissistic hippie from the 1994 movie “Forrest Gump.” In general, this is the type of person who treats others around them in a terrible way, then talks about how left-wing they are as a way to vilify the other person when called out on it. To use another personal example: When I discovered that one of my friends had been gossiping about me to my ex-girlfriend and I told him I was hurt by it, he claimed that “as a feminist, I have to take a woman’s side in situations like this.” Instead of apologizing for betraying my trust or admitting that he allowed himself to be manipulated, he tried to cover it up as a progressive political stance.

If you think any of these descriptions apply to yourself, do the world a favor: Don’t react by writing me an angry email or posting a nasty comment. Perform a little introspection. The world will benefit from it… and you might become a better, more genuine liberal as a result.