The Atlantic

What Critiques of 'Smug Liberals' Miss

Attacking half the country with condescending vitriol has been going on for decades in movement conservatism, too.
Source: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Last April, Emmett Rensin warned in Vox about what he called “the smug style in American liberalism.” Its adherents believe that American life is not divided by moral or policy differences, “but by the failure of half the country to know what's good for them.” He worried that an ideology responsible for a lot of good for a century was now indulging in the posture of a “condescending, defensive sneer toward any person or movement outside its consensus, dressed up as a monopoly on reason.”

That September, Ross Douthat published a prescient column where he observed that cultural arenas that have long been liberal––comedy, college campuses, awards shows––were being prodded or dragged to the left, and that the left’s cultural gains would cause it political problems. For instance, “there’s a growing constituency for whom right-wing ideas are so alien or triggering, left-wing orthodoxy so pervasive and unquestioned, that supporting a candidate like Hillary Clinton looks like a needless form of compromise,” he offered, even as “the feeling of being suffocated by the left’s cultural dominance is turning voting Republican into an act of cultural rebellion.”

Then that cultural rebellion helped to elect

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