Help! I’m Surrounded by Intolerant Liberals at Work: A Guide for the Perplexed and the Outnumbered

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

How do you behave or talk in a workplace of liberals who monitor every behavior for political and social correctness?

While  my colleagues are hard-working, the general setting of my workplace is extraordinarily liberal. It is expected that you will be just as liberal as the socialist working next to you.  Worse: in 2008 we had meetings where the managers talked openly about who had donated to Obama’s campaign.  They regularly went online to see who had — and who had not.  The head of the company — loyal and generous Obama supporter that he was — did nothing to discourage this outrageous behavior and so, in 2007, I began to feel as if I were living in the People’s Republic of China.  I still feel that way, now more than ever.  I’ve never said a thing about my conservative views, but believe me, it isn’t easy.

What should I do?

Sleepless in Seattle

Dear Sleepless,

This is a serious problem and one that particularly afflicts those who work in academic settings, in the media, and in the entertainment industry.  It’s also likely to affect any conservative or libertarian working in a blue state.  I’ll give you my advice on your best options for dealing with this, but first I’ll say why the situation you’ve described has become a widespread phenomenon in workplaces across the country.

The problem you’ve described stems from a convergence of four factors that are far more prevalent today than at any time in the past seven decades, possibly since the Civil War (although I can’t speak personally of that era: I don’t go back that far).

They are (1) the increasingly high concentration of liberals in certain sectors of the economy; (2) the militant intolerance displayed by liberals; (3) the steep decline in civility everywhere, including the workplace; and (4) the lowering of barriers to discussions of topics that were, in the not-so-distant past, deemed off-limits, especially in the workplace, but even at social gatherings in general: politics, sex, one’s earnings, and one’s religious beliefs.  This is a toxic confluence of trends that afflicts our professional and social lives and results in a less tolerant environment in which one’s “zone of privacy” is far narrower than ever before.

(1)  Types of work that attract more liberals than conservatives:

Your email address tells me that you work in a university. I’ve long wondered why academia is so strongly skewed toward liberals (by some estimates 90% liberal versus 10% conservative, except at explicitly Christian universities and colleges).  Last week, I  heard an explanation that rings true.  It comes from Tim Groseclose, professor of American politics at the University of California at Los Angeles, who explained, in a fascinating interview with The Daily Caller’s Jamie Weinstein, that liberals want to direct the lives of others whereas conservatives don’t.  A person whose goal is to direct the lives of others, according to Professor Groseclose, will be drawn to academia, the media and the entertainment industry, the last of which — at least as much as teaching and the media — has an enormous impact on how and what people think.  A single film can powerfully shape opinions and points of view, and epitomize an entire era.

Conservatives tend to be less interested in proselytizing and prefer to be guided by the maxim “live and let live,” as they focus their lives on family and work.  They favor less government intrusion and prefer to be left alone. Liberals, particularly in academia, he said, are willing to forgo higher incomes for the chance to have a direct impact on the lives of others.

Furthermore, Professor Groseclose added, once an overwhelming liberal majority takes over a particular occupation or individual workplace, it becomes increasingly uncomfortable to be the sole conservative, or one of a small minority, amid a sometimes belligerent, often nastily self-righteous majority. So conservatives begin leaving these environments, which they find increasingly hostile and intolerant of them and their views. (To see the full interview click here.)

Two memoirs offer personal insights into this phenomenon in the entertainment industry, the first of which I’ve read and recommend highly. Turning Right at Hollywood and Vine: The Perils of Coming Out Conservative in Tinseltown by PJMedia’s Roger L. Simon, novelist and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter; and The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture by playwright and screenwriter David Mamet.

In an economy as dire as ours, few employees, no matter how uncomfortable they are in their present workplaces, feel free to leave a secure position in hopes of finding more congenial colleagues elsewhere, especially if they live in a blue state or work in a sector of the economy in which liberals predominate.

Even if the economy were more robust than it is, if you work in any of the sectors that attract liberals in droves, or if you work in deep blue America, changing jobs is unlikely to help. It will change the names and faces of your colleagues, but not the underlying problem.

(2) The fact that you’re the lone conservative in a department or office of liberal Democrats would not be the problem you describe if liberals were more tolerant — or indeed, if they were tolerant at all — of other political perspectives.  As I’ve discussed here and here, the current incarnation of the Democratic Party is not the big, welcoming tent it was in the days of FDR.  Today, it represents big unions, including the strident teachers’ unions, academia, some minority groups, and social and political liberals.

In the wake of the budget deal, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in vitriolic Democrat attacks on the Tea Party, and by extension, on the Republican Party of which they form an influential part.  Rather than merely express contrary views, the Democrats at the highest levels of the party have turned up their attacks on a scale of 1 to 10, to at least 11, thus deepening the already sharp schism between the two parties.

[YouTube video, BBC blocked on Copyright grounds]

As PJMedia’s Bryan Preston noted last Friday, Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass), a former nominee for the presidency, explicitly called on the nation’s media to refrain from reporting and broadcasting the views of members of the Tea Party — at all.  John F. Kerry said,

And I have to tell you, I say this to you politely. [Let’s hear it for good manners as we descend ever further into the netherworld of extreme intolerance.] The media in America has a bigger responsibility than it’s exercising today. The media has got to begin to not give equal time or equal balance to an absolutely absurd notion just because somebody asserts it or simply because somebody says something which everybody knows is not factual.

Presumably, Sen. Kerry’s idea of an “absurd notion” is one with which he disagrees, while his definition of “everybody” is the fellow members of his windsurfing club.

This arrogance, this hubris, and this unembarrassed sense of entitlement are relatively recent additions to the traditional arrows in the Democrats’ quivers. Unlike in the past, actual political positions are secondary to extreme  expressions of political passion. Vitriol overwhelms content.

A similar point was made last week by former Vice President Gore, who was oddly silent on the massive contributions to left-wing causes by billionaire George Sorosas he scolded the Republican Koch brothers for supporting movements Gore finds reprehensible, preferring to advocate (I kid you not) an “Arab Spring” here in the United States, where we, unlike the Egyptians in Tahrir Square, actually have a tradition of free and fair elections:

[Youtube video – now unavailable]

After the debt ceiling  talks ended and the president signed the bill, the Democratic Caucus met and a new phrase of attack began being bruited about by increasingly desperate Democrats. Suddenly, liberals from Vice President Biden to Rep. Michael F. Doyle (D-Pa) appeared on TV accusing Tea Partiers of being terrorists. TheWashington Times’ Jeffrey T. Kuhner noted  that “MSNBC host Chris Matthews likened Tea Partyers to ‘terrorists’ and ‘hostage-takers.’ Newsweek’s Tina Brown called them ‘suicide bombers.’ In short, for the Democratic left, the Tea Party is evil incarnate.”

As Commentary’s luminous Jonathan S. Tobin wrote at the Contentions blog,“Indeed, with the abuse escalating to a point where liberals now feel no shame about accusing Tea Partiers of being ‘terrorists,’” it is unsurprising that the group’s negative polling numbers have risen.  He also notes:

From its beginnings, liberal papers such as the Times slammed the Tea Party as a dangerous form of populism. It was smeared with unsubstantiated charges of racism on the false premise opposition to President Obama’s signature health care plan was a sign of prejudice. Though it was one of the most broad-based popular protest movements in modern American political history with a reach that extended across the country, it was still treated by most of the mainstream media as a slightly more respectable version of the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, when Tea Partiers vocally expressed their dismay to members of Congress and senators at town hall meetings, liberals reacted as if public dissent against politicians was the thin edge of the wedge of a new wave of fascism.

That line held until November 2010 when it turned out the only poll that counts — the ballot box — showed the Tea Party was a mainstream force in American politics. While the Republican victory put a damper on talk of Tea Party extremism, the theme was rediscovered this year as some members of Congress decided to act as if their campaign rhetoric about debt, spending and taxes wasn’t just hot air but a pledge of honor.

This is an important reason that political discourse among our fellow citizens has moved — in the immortal phrase of Abba Eban, Israel’s eloquent foreign minister, in his address to the UN Security Council on June 8, 1967 — “backwards to belligerency.” It has descended into the unchecked aggression of gang warfare — or the Pleistocene Era.  And citizens take their lead from the political class. When Americans see the president, the vice president and the Solons of Congress and their media allies attacking Tea Party members and Republicans in general — all with identical epithets — can there be any doubt that such unacceptable conduct will trickle down to all Democrat partisans, including those in your Seattle workplace?

Decades ago, I lived in a deep blue bastion of the country where I observed that while conservatives were viewed by liberals as rare, exotic birds (“That’s interesting.  I wonder what makes him think that?”), there didn’t exist the reflexive derision, hostility, and shunning that passes for enlightened behavior today. Republicans and libertarians were considered socially acceptable, if eccentric, human beings, not pond scum lacking a conscience or intellectual honesty.

(3) The public mockery of the Tea Party and Republicans in general dovetails with a even larger societal problem: the slow but clear coarsening of discourse and a descent into a jungle of inter-party disrespect veering into loutish contempt. Unfortunately, this tendency is not confined to liberals.

Those who thought they were alone in sensing a rising tide of rudeness can find confirmation of their impressions from a recent Rasmussen poll, which found 76% of adults believing that Americans are becoming more rude and less civilized.  According to the poll,

Seventy percent (70%) say Americans are more rude to sales personnel or people waiting on them than they were 10 years ago, up eight points from last year….Conversely, 61% say sales and service personnel are ruder to customers than they were 10 years ago….Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Americans say they’ve confronted someone over their rude behavior in public, up seven points from the previous survey.  Thirty-eight percent (38%) have never confronted someone about their rude behavior. Sixty-four percent (64%) of men have confronted someone in public about their rude behavior, while 52% of women have done the same.

The confrontations arise when people are so deeply offended by the rude conduct of others that they cannot help but push back and say something.  Recently, I found myself behind a man in a supermarket line who didn’t realize the high price of the cellophane-wrapped cheese he planned to buy.  When the young, pregnant Hispanic cashier rang up his intended purchase and he discovered how expensive it was, he became angry at her and hurled a pound of Cheddar at her face.  I raced to the store manager and asked him to confront the assailant.  He did, telling the man never to set foot in the store again, or he would call the police.

This rudeness and decline in basic courtesy that infects our relations with others — be it at work, in public settings such as supermarkets, or at social gatherings — is a malignant and powerful new force in our lives combined as it is with the extreme polarization of the two parties.  The confluence of these developments makes for some vexing experiences, such as those you’ve experienced in Seattle.

(4) The final reason that workplaces such as yours have become toxic is the free, online information available to all, revealing your political contributions, personal data, and even — have they no shame? — your age.  Whatever organizations you support — from the Audubon Society, to your place of worship (if you’ve donated to it), to charities to which you’ve contributed — are all easily accessible on the Internet.  Aspects of your life that were 100% private in 1980 are 100% public in 2011.

These inroads into the personal areas of your life that you could have protected by your silence or discretion then are out in the open now, and are grist for your colleagues’ inappropriate and shameful conduct in 2008.  The easy availability of your personal information places you in a more vulnerable position when it comes to office politics: your Obama-supporting manager and colleagues can easily discover, without a word from you, that unlike them, you contributed exactly zip to Obama’s 2008 election, and if my speculation is correct, that you’re unlikely to contribute to his 2012 re-election campaign (just a wild guess).

What to do?

My answer depends on two variables: the first is how secure you are in your job.  For example, in a university, do you have tenure?  Professor Groseclose explicitly stated in his interview that he would not have published his most recent book, Turning Left: How Liberal Media Distorts the American Mind, if he didn’t have tenure.  It would have provided ammunition to a liberal political science department that would have used it to prevent him from being granted tenure.  With tenure, he can now publish whatever he likes.

If you feel that your job is a secure one, you have the options discussed below.  If not, you have to judge for yourself how perilous it would be for you to speak your mind freely when you know in advance that your colleagues and manager are staunch, Obama-contributing liberal Democrats.  In a recent advice column in July, about dealing with liberals in social settings, two commenters wrote as follows:

53. JPL17

I’m a guns and religion-clinging, slurpee-drinking, pea-eating conservative who happens to work in the entertainment industry. I think it would be folly for me to follow the advice in this column. I think I’d become nearly unemployable.“Don’t ask, don’t tell” has been my best policy. Meaning, I never ask a colleague what his or her politics are; I never reveal my own; and I keep my job and professional relationships.It’s sad, but it’s harder to come out of the closet as a conservative than as a gay communist necrophiliac serial killer.

Nimrod Goldberg

I think if you read the question and the answer one more time you’ll see that the column is intended for social situations, not the workplace. I can’t speak for Belladonna but it looks to me as if she’d agree with you when it comes to the workplace. She doesn’t seem like a person who would want to see one more American added to the country’s already 9.2% unemployment.

JPL17:

Actually, Nim, although my post was a bit opaque, that was the point I was trying to make; i.e., that although Belladonna’s advice may be good for social settings, I didn’t think it would apply very well to the work setting. It would be very interesting to know her take on that question.

Belladonna Rogers:

JPL17, I’m glad you raised this question. And Mr. Goldberg, you correctly stated my position. This column was, indeed, intended to apply to social gatherings and not to the workplace. When at your place of employment, unless it’s at the Republican National Committee, the Democratic National Committee or anything of that sort—like a political campaign—my advice is not to talk politics. Not at the water cooler, not anywhere in the workplace. If a social situation includes colleagues from your workplace or industry, the workplace rule of not discussing your politics would supersede the social gathering rule.

So, I’m on record as agreeing with anyone whose own antennae and judgment suggest that a “don’t tell” strategy at work is the best job-protecting policy — as excruciating as that can be.  It has one substantial advantage: it guarantees a paycheck.

The second variable is your level of tolerance for conflict compared with your tolerance for the inner turmoil that prompted your email to me.  Coming out with your candid political views in a department or office that includes, by your own description, the expectation that “that you will be just as liberal as the socialist working next to you” will exchange one form of discomfort for another.  Now, you are suffering in silence.

If, on the other hand, you make your views known in what I gather is a close-knit, even gossipy environment, then the insults will likely be intentional.  You can expect anything from under-the-breath negative mumbles to highly audible, heated expressions of intolerance and derision.

Unfortunately, either course — whether you choose silence or speaking out — will result in your discomfort.

The question then becomes whether you want to turn every lunch hour or working hour into a potentially unpleasant argument session or, what may be even worse, subject yourself to being shunned.  Revealing your true political views can cause your coworkers to cease treating you as a colleague.

What you decide to do depends upon how much you relish a good fight, and equally, how great your tolerance is to being treated as a pariah.  If you speak your mind, you may experience some temporary relief and discover that you can now spend your time in the cafeteria reading a book rather than interacting with colleagues.  But there are advantages to collegiality, even faux collegiality, one of them being that if you ever need help, someone will be there to offer it.  Being an outcast is not an unmixed blessing at work.

My sense, based on your email, is that if you enjoyed arguments, you would have openly declared your antipathy to Obama in 2007 and by now your colleagues would be accustomed to your difference of opinion.

Even if you’re not a natural-born verbal mud-wrestler, four years of silence compounded by the same four years of working among Obamaphiles may finally have tried your patience to the point that the unremitting enthusiasm for the president has become more than you can bear in silence.

If, after weighing the pros and cons of speaking out, you decide you want to do so, I’d suggest three rules:

(1) Don’t initiate the encounter;

(2) Be calm, matter-of-fact, reasonable, and good-natured, as if you were saying you enjoy six-foot snowfalls, knowing full well that your interlocutor would prefer to live in Longboat Key, Florida; and most importantly,

(3) Try to make the issue not the other person’s views versus yours, but rather the virtue of tolerance for a variety of approaches — not whose view is correct.  You could certainly mention that, historically, one of the core values of liberalism was toleration of minority views.  That is, in fact, one of the hallmarks of democracy: the rights of minorities are as fully protected as those of the majority.  You could even extend your hand and  say, in a friendly way, “Why don’t we agree to disagree? We have so much here at work in common that we don’t have to get into who thinks what about which candidate.  That’s not as important as getting our work done as well as we can — together.”

This doesn’t mean that you won’t find one of these stuck to your locker door or on the rear bumper of your car:

But you can always cover it with this:

Or, you could beat them to the punch and preemptively display President Lincoln’s wise words on your locker and bumper first.

Whatever you decide to do,  the most important thing to remember is that, in my grandmother’s words: this, too, shall pass.  Since FDR, no president has been elected to four consecutive terms.  This one has been fortunate to have been granted one term.  If only the same could be said for the country.

—Belladonna Rogers

Coping With Obama-Induced Irritation Syndrome (OIIS): A Guide for the Perplexed

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

I didn’t vote for Obama and wasn’t happy when he won. Still, I’m a loyal American and want to see the country to do well even if it means he’s re-elected.  But the country isn’t doing well and I find that almost everywhere I go, even among people who agree with his politics, I sense a wave of anger rising up at the president.  I’m normally a pretty even-tempered guy and I don’t get emotional about politics or whoever is president, but even I’m feeling irritation when I see him on TV. What is it about this president that’s so exasperating?  And how can I deal with my rising level of annoyance with him?

Irritated in Cleveland

Dear Irritated,

“Folks,” as the president likes to refer to Americans outside the Beltway, are getting fed up with him. You ask what it is about President Obama that causes even a normally even-tempered man like you to become incensed.  Short answer: his withering condescension.

By way of introduction, a few words on the importance of presidential character in general. If you’re a politician, you don’t want voters’ assessments of your policies to be based on their negative reactions to your personality. The counter-example to Obama is Reagan: people thought he was a sunny, decent, fair, good-natured guy.  That was a political advantage, especially with independents and centrists: they were predisposed to give his views a fair hearing (even though they didn’t always agree with his positions) just because they liked him.

One of the great lines in the classic 1978 movie Animal House is uttered by Dean Vernon Wormer, when he says to fraternity pledge Kent “Flounder” Dorfman, “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

Similarly, I’d say that condescending, disdainful, and contemptuous is no way to go through a presidency.  Nothing is better guaranteed to alienate your fellow citizens than being addressed as if you’re the only serious adult while they’re not merely in kindergarten, but are among the dimmer five-year-olds in the class.

With Obama, we hear the derision in his mocking tone. We also intuit his nonverbal signals of contempt.

Poker players are well-acquainted with “the tell” — the tiniest of changes in behavior, from a slightly deeper inhalation of breath to a nano-second-lasting twitch that reveals a clue about the cards another player has or signals an upcoming bet in the game.  Every player has a different tell, and some tells are genuine while others are purposeful and intended to deceive — an under-the-breath curse word uttered to suggest a bad hand when a the player actually has a terrific hand.

Similar to poker tells are what the psychologist Paul Ekman calls “microexpressions,” which, as the term suggests, are fleeting facial expressions that last from less than a second to a few seconds at most, and reveal the real emotions a person may be trying to conceal, or may unconsciously feel. A teenager’s eyeroll when being chastised would be a microexpression, conveying to the parent or teacher that the experience is way annoying while attempting to seem respectful and cooperative (the sooner to get it over with).  If the parent or teacher looks away for a nanosecond, he or she will miss the microexpression — it is that fleeting.  Another Ekman-coined term is “leaking,” meaning the unintended expression of an emotion that has inadvertently “leaked” out.

With Obama, the tell or microexpression is invariably a kind of smile, which has “leaked” out.  It isn’t a friendly smile; it’s a sneer, a smirk and it’s visible in the videos in this column. When you see him break into a smile as he’s about to answer a question, that’s invariably the tell that he’s about to lob a contemptuous and condescending taunt at the questioner.

Only last week, on July 25, Obama could be seen on TV lecturing us as follows: “Now, what makes today’s stalemate so dangerous is that it has been tied to something known as the debt ceiling — a term that most people outside of Washington have probably never heard of before.”  As William Kristol, editor-in-chief of The Weekly Standard, commented,

Consider the condescension implicit in the president’s statement — “a term that most people outside of Washington have probably never heard of before.” These “people outside of Washington” are not little children being lectured on an obscure subject by a worldly adult. These people outside Washington are … citizens. Judging by the polls, most of us have opinions about whether, and under what conditions, the debt ceiling should be raised. We don’t seem to be as ignorant as Obama thinks we are of the term or concept of a debt ceiling. But the president assumes we’ve never bothered our pretty little heads about such a thing…It would be nice to have a president who spoke candidly to his fellow citizens as adults.

Similarly, Commentary’s John Steele Gordon wrote, of the same speech, “Was last night’s speech by President Obama…the moment when American popular opinion froze into an enduring, and negative image of this president? It was classic Obama: elitist, condescending, impolitic, self-obsessed, and dishonest.”

Thanks to the wonders of online video, one can see Obama’s mockery of the kinds of people he doesn’t respect, and hear the derision dripping in his voice when, for example, he referred during the campaign to plumbers.  (I wonder how he felt about plumbers five years ago in Chicago when his toilet was blocked and the Drano and the snake he bought didn’t do the trick):

[YouTube Video not Available]

Condescension is an attitude whose implicit message is: “I am superior to you.”  It’s gratuitously insulting, it’s anti-democratic and it’s wrong.  As few people in public life have demonstrated more vividly than Obama, just because you’re highly-credentialed doesn’t mean you’re either smart or well-educated.  And even if someone is bright, that isn’t the only important quality in a president.

The most important qualification for a president isn’t a Harvard degree but rather (a) competence at dealing with other people and working well with others; (b) emotional intelligence, a concept pioneered by psychology writer Daniel Goleman, meaning the ability to read other people’s emotions and being able to behave in a way that takes those feelings into consideration;(c) good judgment; and (d) character.

Character has been described as “how you behave when no one is looking,” and involves basic human decency, empathy, dependability, and the courage to understand what “the right thing” is, and then to do it.  Presidents who had it include George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Harry S Truman, and George H.W. Bush.

The character essential to be an effective president is hardly expressed by dismissing and denying the intelligence of “the public” — you know, Obama’s idea of losers who’re trying to get through life without an Ivy League degree.  Another way he expresses his condescension is by holding himself up as the only unflappable, self-controlled adult in the room, who’s been  tasked with the  tiresome duty of dealing with the volatile, immature folks “out there.”  In August, 2009,  John Knefel found himself irritated by Obama’s condescension in describing his liberal critics as “a little excited,” as if passion and fervor were negative qualities in an advocate:

During an interview with a Philadelphia-based radio show, Obama, once again, mocked and infantilized his critics on the left. Responding to a question by the show’s host, Michael Smerconish, about recent comments made by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about jettisoning the “public option” from the final health care bill, Obama responded, “The press got excited and some folks on the left got a little excited…” What a fantastically dismissive thing to say about health care reform advocates who feel discouraged and betrayed by the administration’s willingness to consider a bill that doesn’t include a public option. They are “excitable” — you know, like children are. Their anger, and the backlash that Obama is facing from liberals, stems from a purely reactionary mindset, apparently. Yes, why on Earth would the announcement that the health care bill might no longer contain any teeth at all cause the left to cry foul? If they were more serious and thoughtful, they wouldn’t be so excitable.

Obama seems to me to have trouble with his own aggression, and his disdainful notion of humor may be one way of expressing it without appearing (to himself, anyway) to be angry.  He thinks that appearing cool is his strong suit.  When he’s pissed off, he turns to contempt or sarcasm rather than overt anger.  He assumes that his true feelings of hostility are concealed by his verbal jabs, when in reality, they’re revealed for all to see.

This is a constant undercurrent in Obama’s response to criticism: to denigrate his detractors by dismissive adjectives and verbs that suggest he’s the only rational one in the room.

In Portland, Maine, on April 1, 2010, he was at it again, this time characterizing opponents of ObamaCare as “hollering,” and purveying “fear mongering” through “overheated rhetoric:”

“There’s been a lot of fear-mongering, a lot of overheated rhetoric.  You turned on the news, you’d see that those same folks who were hollering about it before it passed, they’re still hollering, about how the world will end because we passed this bill.”

Another of his favorite put-downs is to say, “But that’s not what’s happening.  Instead, they are trotting out the exact same ideas that got us into this mess in the first place.”

“Trotting out,” is condescending.  When Obama presents his arguments and his data, he’s being logical. If anyone has counter-arguments or countervailing data, they’re “trotting out” irresponsible drivel.

He seems unable to hold a town hall meeting outside zip codes such as 90210 (Beverly Hills) or 10027 (Columbia University and the Upper West Side of Manhattan) or 02138 (Harvard) or  without insulting his audience, as he did in Fairless Hills, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, answering a questioner with ten children, clearly more than Obama found acceptable:

 

He said, “I notice some folks clapped, but I know some of these big guys, they’re all still driving their big SUVs.  You know, they got their big monster trucks and everything.  You’re one of them?  Well, now, here’s my point.  If you’re complaining about the price of gas and you’re only getting eight miles a gallon — (laughter) — you may have a big family, but it’s probably not that big.  How many you have?  Ten kids, you say?  Ten kids?  (Laughter.)  Well, you definitely need a hybrid van then.”

As veteran White House reporter Keith Koffler wrote of Obama’s response on his blog, www.whitehousedossier.com, in April of this year:

Obama has no idea why the person who called him out – or why anyone, for that matter – has purchased an SUV…. But he assumes they are up to some kind of egregious mischief. We get this little lecture on fuel economy from the president who thinks nothing of trucking a convoy of heavy-duty vehicles 15 miles to go golfing every other weekend, flying to Hawaii every year on vacation, or jetting to New York City date night with his wife – who BTW flew separately last December to Hawaii for the family vacation and took a four day jaunt to Spain.Obama has carved out a nice chunk of change for himself, but the community organizer’s hatred of success and wealth abides within him. There’s real contempt in the first two lines of the statement, with phrases like “their big SUVs.” This is a person who, while pursuing his own success, continues to resent you for yours.

With miniaturized technology such as cell phones that can record video, a politician is virtually never entirely off-the-record.  He may think he’s talking to a roomful of like-minded, wealthy, Marin County devotees, but then, wouldn’t you know it, one of them has a video feature on his phone, and the candidate’s intolerance, coupled with his condescension for millions of his fellow Americans whom he neither knows nor understands, goes viral:

When you add it all up, it’s clear that Obama deploys mockery, derision, humiliation, ridicule, contempt, scorn and downright nastiness when he’s outside the comfort zone of people he knows and likes.  His forays into the heartland seem to evoke either anxiety or hostility that he tries to mask with what he thinks is humor but that comes across to others as a screeching fingernail across the blackboards of our souls.  He’s not the smooth, cool guy his PR machine imagines he is: he’s a snob, and a nasty snob at that. He seems to be utterly unaware of how he comes off: unconscious of the intolerance, the disrespect, and the profound ignorance of how people unlike himself and his cronies live, think and feel.

It’s interesting to compare Obama’s snide condescension with the firm, effective way that Ronald Reagan expressed his exasperation  in New Hampshire in 1980 — and he was exasperated.  Watch how skillfully he deployed just the right degree of anger as he dealt with the moderator of the debate that was about to begin:

By contrast, when Obama finds himself feeling anger, he strikes back, but not in a comfortable-in-his-own skin Reaganesque way.  Because some members of every audience will giggle or laugh, if only out of nervousness, Obama hears the laughter and interprets it as a green light to continue badgering, belittling and demeaning the person whom he believes has challenged him, or is just a man with ten children, a version of family apparently unfamiliar to this president.

Obama’s behavior bears some resemblance to locker room towel-snapping where young men compete to put one another down. In those circumstances, though, it’s a group free-for-all on a level playing field.  When Obama deploys his ridicule and arrogance, however, the playing field is far from level: citizens normally feel the need to express respect at least for the office of the president, and invariably for the incumbent in office.  In return, this president often behaves like an ill-mannered Ivy League frat boy making fun of a townie.  It’s an odious thing to behold, and may be one of the reasons you find yourself irritated by his behavior.

Cumulatively, the continuous repetition of condescending remarks such as these becomes annoying to some, and downright infuriating to others. The “public” — of whom Obama is so dismissive — pays attention to his superciliousness, and remembers what they’ve seen and heard from him.

To quote from Lincoln, the current president would be well-advised to find a way to speak more respectfully to “the better angels of our nature” than to betray his contempt for the millions of citizens who aren’t like him and his friends.

At least half of our politically-divided country will continue to disagree with President Obama’s policies.  But is it necessary, or politically wise, for him to aggravate policy differences with his repeated demonstrations of disdain for those whom he is in office to serve?

What irritates you, I believe, irritates many people.  Even without the credentials of which the president is so proud, everyone can recognize a snob, and resent the obnoxious disdain that is never far from the surface.  My advice?  When you see the Seal of the President of the United States on your TV screen,

reach for your remote and switch to a channel that doesn’t broadcast presidential addresses or press conferences. If they all do, then turn off the TV altogether.  Life is stressful enough without being irritated by this condescending man.

—Belladonna Rogers