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US politics

We liberals don’t have all the answers

A homeless encampment next to City Hall in San Francisco. Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty

It was easy for my generation of “baby boomer liberals” to stay humble, says Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. Having been “catastrophically wrong” about the most important issue of the 20th century – the dangers of Soviet communism and Chinese Maoism – many of us had “much to be humble about”. But more recently, it’s conservatives who have been getting the big calls wrong: if you’re an American under 50, you’ve seen Republicans “championing the Iraq war, refusing to tackle Aids, denouncing gay rights, shrugging at racism”, denying climate change, resisting vaccinations and hailing Donald Trump. My fear is that young liberals are reacting to this by “inflating with self-righteousness” – and, crucially, putting aside all self-doubt.

With that in mind, it’s time the left acknowledged some “unpleasant facts”. Three of the four states with the highest rates of homelessness are run by Democrats. Look up and down the West Coast, “where liberals reign”, and you won’t find a single “triumph of good governance”. The left’s sense of superiority has resulted in “streaks of intolerance”, like blocking conservative speakers on university campuses and openly mocking evangelical Christians. Overzealous liberals also “regularly undermine their own causes”: Democrats’ calls to “defund the police” helped Republicans win House and Senate seats; talking about “people with uteruses” rather than “women” leaves most Americans feeling bewildered. If conservatives won’t let us earn humility the traditional way – “by periodically discovering we’re the stupidest people in the room” – then we’ll have to do it ourselves. “Otherwise, the whole room gets stupider and stupider.”