Challenging the Liberal Bubble as a Liberal

Janice Lee

As I wrote articles for my internship this past summer, I frequently perused Twitter to keep up with the political discourse on the topics I pitched. Ranging from environmental sustainability to menstrual equity, my curiosity led me to filter through heaps of replies in hopes of finding inspiration, but sometimes I would so adamantly disagree with a comment, typically conservative, that I would just close the window and shut my laptop. 

One memorable instance was when one user, opposing the abolition of the tampon tax, tweeted along the lines of “I’m not trying to subsidize women’s groceries.” I immediately felt so much anger out of confusion toward this stranger, because from my perspective, menstrual hygiene products are a necessity and therefore shouldn’t be taxed. I was so flustered that I even brought this up at length to multiple friends, searching for whatever justice I could find without getting into a petty internet argument. It was in this tirade that I realized that even though I believed I was entirely right, my desire to take away all authority and credibility from a random Twitter user was an example of intolerance.

With entertaining but slanted media, like John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, functioning as news outlets for many, the cutthroat bubble of the liberal community feels incredibly real. And though I’m a registered Democrat and a longtime liberal, I respect this criticism. We shouldn’t willfully reject it because there’s merit in political diversity. When done correctly, political diversity can sow healthy and thoughtful tension that challenges us and elevates our thinking. Discussing your opinions, especially with those you don’t agree with, should only help you become more informed when determining your own stance. Political diversity also has the potential to unravel pervasive stereotypes through personal interaction with unfamiliar people and belief systems. A monoculture in any sense is limiting because it deprives us of opportunities leading to growth.

Yet while it’s easy to justify the principle of political diversity, it’s infinitely harder to confront. We each have our own notions of what justice entails and how to ultimately get there, and our political beliefs reflect that logic. And when someone ardently disagrees with those beliefs, to many, it seems as if they’re violating the basic morals and ethics by which they live, making it nearly impossible to tolerate and accept the other person. 

Perhaps a significant reason why liberals specifically struggle with tolerance is that we have a relatively wide definition of harm. To many of us, harsh immigration policies like the Muslim ban, white supremacist beliefs and economic policies that maintain income inequality all qualify as harmful. Invalidating the beliefs that we believe bring harm to marginalized groups and making assumptions about a person’s moral character is an honest, natural reaction to a perceived moral failing. The lack of desire to understand and the jump to immediate accusation are attributes of the liberal monoculture with which many conservatives find fault. 

The swift condemnation of others is a pitfall that I and many others often come across. The NYU community is subject to these problems as well because it can be broadly defined as a liberal monoculture. Yet this tension doesn’t mean that we should stop advocating for what we believe is justice. 

Instead, we must first acknowledge that we’re a part of the problem. No one is exempt from the impulse to discredit one another. We must keep in mind that growth should always be our utmost priority, and then work towards cultivating empathy and thoughtfully challenging ideas instead of condemning people. It’s difficult but we can’t pride ourselves in being accepting of diversity when we fail to include political diversity.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 4 print edition.

Email Janice Lee at [email protected]

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