Why are liberals the knee-jerks

In this post Shodan says

Knee Jerk Liberal is a term I have been inundated with my entire life, I guess dating from the 60’s, when the hippies and radicals protested againt the establishment for being, ya know, the establishment. And labels stick.

But looking at the organization and partisanship of the parties in the last two decades, conservative block voting, talking point blitzes, Limbaugh’s Ditto Heads, Fox’s Fair and Balanced reporting, and the seeming consensus that the Democrats were being pounded in congressional and presidential elections in part because they couldn’t all agree enough about anything to get behind a consistent message, why do Liberals still have the knee-jerk label? I mean these days, who’s the biggest jerk?


Given that the question specifically asked “who’s the biggest jerk?” your reply is out of line in GD.

[ /Moderating ]

Isn’t the conservative equivalent “reactionary” ? I admit it’s lost much of its string these last few decades, possibly because nobody but a knee-jerk liberal knows what it means anymore.

Which party is the biggest knee-jerk? Both are predicable, both react without much thought. They have party lines, and those lines are designed to keep them in power.

Naw. The opposite of ‘reactionary’ is ‘radical’, not ‘knee-jerk’.

It seems to be important, when arguing politics, to try to delegitimize one’s opponent at every opportunity. If this can be done effectively it avoids having to rebut arguments point-by-point, especially when the rebuttal to a certain point may be weak or non-existent. Calling someone a “knee-jerk liberal” attempts to portray someone as arguing a point purely for form’s sake, rather than on merit. A similar tactic includes referring to anyone who happens to object to any single aspect of the current administration as a “Bush-Hater”; they don’t have a real objection, they just want to run Bush down at any opportunity. None of this, of course, is limited to one particular ideology or viewpoint.

Every position has an idological component to it and practical reasons for supporting it.

A “knee jerk” proponent is someone who follows where the ideology leads, regardless of argument; the very same position could be arrived at by someone weighing the practical considerations in light of the evidence, and comming to a reasoned conclusion in favour of that position.

Every party naturally insists that its partisans have all gone through the latter exercise, and its opponents are all guilty of the former.

Because labels are convenient for dismissing your opponent’s argument without thought. It’s the ultimate ad hominem argument: call your opponent names without addressing his arguments.

A knee jerk is like the patient reacting to the rubber hammer on the knee. It is a reflex action. with no thought process involved. People who always defend their party ,regardless of evidence that they are wrong qualify. Like the repubs claiming the bailout failed because of the dems ,while repubs vote 2/3 rds against it. The dems were 2/3rds for it. Hard to reconcile that with logic or evidence.

And here you have knee-jerk. Notice the lumping all of one party together while repeating talking points?

While it’s certainly true that for just about every dirty trick you could come up with, there are examples of it from both sides of the aisle, the claim that both parties are automatically equally bad is something that one might call knee jerk political-independent-ness… “Sure, Ann Coulter is bad, but so is Michael Moore”, etc.

There’s no great physical law which states that whatever level of evil is being practiced by the leaders of one party at a given time is automatically the same level of evil being practiced by the leaders of the other party at the same time.
Here is my lengthy Pit rant on the topic.

I thought “radical” was the opposite of “conservative”, and “reactionary” was the opposite of “innovative”.

Not in 1960s politics, which is where the words’ current meanings became entrenched in the public vocabulary (not where the meanings were first employed). Actually, “radical” as “revolutionary” goes back several more decades since revolutionaries typically wanted to change (or tear up) society by the roots (L. radix, root). Reactionary came to be assigned to anyone who reacted against any change, regardless whether it was revolutionary or not–which was the way that those on the Left preferred to characterize their opponents. Innovative is politically neutral, with everyone hoping to capture it to demonstrate their own creative brilliance.
Liberal and conservative continued to be employed in Contrary Opposition, despite the fact that neither one bears its original meaning in U.S. politics.

Because the conservatives thought of applying the word to liberals first.

William S. White almost single-handedly invented the term knee-jerk liberal in 1959. He was an old time journalist/columnist.

To my mind, knee-jerk implies a lack of consideration regarding a position. “You kick puppies? You monster!” It’s a reflexive response.

“Reactionary” has the same feel for me, while “radical” doesn’t seem to imply the same lack of thought. A position can be both radical and well-thought-out, I don’t think the same applies to the terms knee-jerk and reactionary.

Well if my knee was prone to random jerking, the puppies better keep clear.

A reactionary is not necessarily a knee-jerk, he just wants society to return to the way it was before the change he doesn’t like took place. It originated as the term for people who wanted to restore the power of monarchies in Europe.

Vox Imperatoris

I’ve always thought the term referred to liberals who see a problem or inequity of some sort and then reflexively latch onto the first thing that seems to ameliorate the problem, without appreciation or concern for the consequences.