If you subscribe to the Washington Post, you may have noted this weekend's Outlook section was blazoned with the question, "Why Are Liberals So Condescending?" Written by University of Virginia professor Gerard Alexander, the piece assumes as fact that liberals--a self-described group comprising  21% of Americans--are more condescending than conservatives and goes from there. The story has earned considerable flak for the Washington Post, which has been criticized in the past as a divided and slanted institution. But behind the criticism the question looms: why are liberals seen as condescending? Are they?

  • 'Why Are Liberals So Condescending?'  In his op-piece, Alexander writes, "This condescension is part of a liberal tradition that for generations has impoverished American debates over the economy, society and the functions of government -- and threatens to do so again today, when dialogue would be more valuable than ever. Liberals have dismissed conservative thinking for decades."
  • Well, Conservatives Are Dumb  Trouble-making science blogger and culture warrior PZ Myers writes that Alexander "does demonstrate nicely that many liberals do categorize many conservatives as idiots, but he doesn't seem capable of addressing the question of why they think that. It's mostly a lot of waa-waa about the tone and how this attitude is an obstacle to politics. He doesn't consider the obvious explanation that many conservatives are amazing idiots pursuing idiotic policies. Seriously. Sarah Palin."
  • Just Cynical Culture War  Liberal blogger Digby sees a transparent political strategy. "This is, of course, a ploy to make liberals temper their criticism of conservatives as they make their move over the next year. They are playing the refs, appealing to political correctness to force them to circumscribe their criticism," she writes. "They are now attempting to make this culture war hypocrisy into a complaint about their colossally failed ideas now, which they are, with characteristically insane bravado."
  • Are You Kidding? We're Way Too Nice  Liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias tweets, "Contra Gerard Alexander, most liberals are not nearly condescending enough to conservatives." He adds more seriously, "Of course I think my views are correct and based on fact and reason. If I thought my views weren’t correct and based on fact and reason, I would adopt different views [...] I'm not sure it’s possible to be condescending enough to this op-ed."
  • Conservative 'Reverse Snobbery' At Work  The Atlantic's Michael Kinsley suggests that conservatives like Alexander practice "reverse snobbery" by assuming Americans are too dumb to hear the truth. "If you had a friend who was wrecking his future by making bad choices, it would not be 'elitist' to tell him so. It would be treating him as an adult--and as an equal. In the end, which is more condescending? To tell citizens that they are behaving like children or like fools, or to praise them for their 'bedrock common sense'?"