In any dispute, a refusal by one side to understand or even acknowledge an opponent's argument renders that side incapable of effectively challenging or disproving their opposition.
Yet this is the way the American left conducts "debate."
Liberals approach simple disagreement convinced that opposing arguments are, by definition, meritless, or worse, evil, and ignore or demonize them. This willful ignorance is often taken for arrogance (not mutually exclusive traits), and it produces stunning examples of progressive cognitive dissonance.
For example, liberals see no conflict in, or even irony between supporting abortion, even late-term, partial-birth abortion, and giving public funds to abortion providers on one hand and, on the other, declaring capital punishment as "barbaric," something no enlightened country should allow.
Inexplicably, liberals are not conflicted by simultaneously pressing a case for "fairness" while liberal politicians grant unfair access to wealthy donors at $40,000 per-plate fund-raisers, something their presidential candidate has done dozens of times in the past few months alone. Nor, while demanding the sole right to define what is "fair," will liberals accept that "fairness" is an arbitrary construct.
Liberals demand tolerance and inclusion but see no inconsistency in abridging the First Amendment rights of conservative businessmen like the owners of Chick-fil-A for supporting the same heterosexual legal and cultural standard for marriage their liberal president held only six months ago.
Liberals justify their unearned sense of superiority by citing the claptrap of "scholars" and "professionals," a tactic that filters down to their inattentive base as intellectually weak declaratives - the ubiquitous "they" and "everybody," as in "They say ...," and "Everybody knows/does ..." (Complete either with liberal talking points on any subject including - but not limited to - global warming, starving seniors, the "1 percent," or "it's for the children.")
The "intellectual" foundation of liberal positions is often buttressed by self-acknowledged liberals like Chris Mooney, author of "The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science - and Reality" and a recent Washington Post article in which Mooney declared: "There's now a large body of evidence showing that those who opt for the political left and those who opt for the political right tend to process information in divergent ways and to differ on any number of psychological traits."
Mooney suggests that liberals "score higher on a personality measure called 'openness to experience."' And conservatives, "in contrast, tend to be less open - less exploratory, less in need of change."
Tell that to the conservatives who advocate policy changes to public-school funding or choice, voter ID, the tax code, missile defense or balancing budgets.
Other matters on which liberals won't budge include: supporting citizenship for anyone who enters the country illegally while making people who want to legally become American citizens wait for years in their home countries and pay for the privilege; complaining that we aren't spending enough while outspending what we take in by more than a trillion dollars annually; and encouraging able-bodied Americans to become dependent on government rather than become self-reliant.
In order to meet Mooney's standard for "openness to experience," one must embrace liberal orthodoxy. It never works the other way. Any deviation constitutes "hatred," "stupidity" or "greed," no matter how well-expressed or intellectually grounded the opposition.
Consider the greatest cognitive dissonance of all: Liberals' definition of "diversity" embraces everybody of all races, nationalities or creeds who agrees with them. Conservative blacks, Hispanics and women cannot be "authentic" advocates for their race, ethnicity or gender, because their views are unacceptably diverse.
Turnabout is fair play, so one wonders how liberals will react to scientific analysis of their willful ignorance, a manifestation of self-deception. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, author Sue Shellenbarger writes: "Lying to yourself - or self-deception, as psychologists call it - can actually have benefits." Shellenbarger cites the work of Del Paulhus, psychology professor at University of British Columbia, author of a widely-used scale to measure self-deceptive tendencies, and Robert Trivers, an anthropology professor at Rutgers University, author of "The Folly of Fools."
Shellenbarger writes that self-deception "involves strong psychological forces that keep us from acknowledging a threatening truth about ourselves," and "Social psychologists say people deceive themselves in an unconscious effort to boost self-esteem or feel better."
That explains quite a bit. After all, who is more obsessed with self-esteem than the American left?
Conservatives despair. How is one to understand liberals, when liberals cannot rationally explain themselves?
If the left wishes to be understood and taken seriously by those who merely disagree with them, they must learn to pay attention and treat their opposition with the respect liberals demand for themselves. Liberals must confront and deal objectively with the realities of culture and governance. They must understand that conducting political disputes from positions of willful ignorance and antipathy neither strengthens liberal arguments nor wins converts.
If everybody on the American left does those things, they will all become conservatives.