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I remain struck by the character of the many responses I’ve read to my postings on women and politics (as well as those on race and violence). There’s been a strong tone of horror and denunciation. Of course, when it comes to social media and blogging, there’s a bias in favor of shrillness and extremism. But what I’ve been reading accords with my experiences in higher education where certain thoughts trigger an almost primitive response from liberal intellectuals.

One blogger wrote this about my reflections on women, marriage, and politics: “People who believe there is One Right Way to live your life are a menace to society.” Again, blogging encourages hyperbole, but I’ve heard this sentiment expressed often. Any defense of moral authority ends up being denounced as a threat to, well, the One Right Way to Live, which is the contemporary progressive view of living in accord with your own desires.

It doesn’t matter that my postings never said there is One Right Way to Live. I argued that the overwhelming majority of people desire to be married—and that our progressive culture has deconstructed many of the norms and institutions that help guide people to that goal. That doesn’t mean some people don’t desire to be single—priests and nuns, for example, but others as well. Someone who idolizes James Bond probably isn’t eager to get married. But it does mean that we’ll have more and more unhappy people as it gets harder and harder to get and stay married.

Maybe I’m wrong about what people want (which means the polling data isn’t valid). Maybe I’m wrong about what it means for us to deconstruct the institution of marriage and scramble traditional modes of male-female relations (which means it’s not harder for men and women to find each other and get married today than it was in decades past).

What I find remarkable is that liberals aren’t even willing to entertain the possibility that I’m right. I’m a heretic—a menace to society—not someone who cares about people, worries about the common good, reads surveys, observes society, and has a capacity to reason and analyze.

It’s true that conservatives bloggers can be shriller still: Obama is a socialist who wants to destroy our country! But what’s so interesting to me is how widespread the horror and denunciation are on the left. Quite sophisticated and well-educated people on the left view social conservatism with a mixture of horror and disdain. This is not true in the same way for social conservatives. We’ve been to college. We’ve had to deal with liberal and progressive cultural ideas our entire adult lives.

That difference is perhaps one explanation for the reaction. Liberal culture in America is extraordinarily parochial. I often meet well-educated liberals who have never had an intellectually serious conversation with a social conservative. It also reflects, perhaps, an intuition among liberals that when it comes to social issues I actually represent a super-super-majority of the world. Even a half-conscious awareness of this is bound to affect liberals, encouraging a compensatory shrillness. Another reason has to do with liberalism, the most modern of social attitudes. Liberalism denies that it emerged from a particular history and culture in the West. Instead, liberals believe their own propaganda, which is that liberalism emerges from reason’s reflection on human nature. That’s why liberals believe that any and all rational people will agree with them—and therefore those who don’t are irrational and a menace to society.

Liberalism’s illiberalism is an enduring paradox, not one I imagine will go away anytime soon.

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