The false narrative of 'both sides don't understand each other over Hobby Lobby.'

I like this Megan McArdle post on the clashing ideological worldviews on Hobby Lobby, but I object to her suggestion that the Left and the Right “misunderstood each other so profoundly — and continue to do so even after all the screaming.”  That’s not even remotely true: I (and most of the rest of the Right) understood the Left’s position on the case from the beginning. I just rejected it, because it was stupid; simplistic; and frankly designed to produce Two-Minute Hates on cue.  We in this business have a bad habit sometimes of assuming that there are, broadly speaking, at least two correct answers to any policy problem (if we had three viable political parties, we’d assume that there were three, and so on).


That’s not… always true.  A lot of times, there is a right answer, and a wrong answer.  In this particular case, the Left had the wrong answer: the Right had the rig… err, ‘correct’ answer; and that is the end of it.

Still, Megan’s article is in itself of interest:

…while the religious right views religion as a fundamental, and indeed essential, part of the human experience, the secular left views it as something more like a hobby, so for them it’s as if a major administrative rule was struck down because it unduly burdened model-train enthusiasts. That emotional disconnect makes it hard for the two sides to even debate; the emotional tenor quickly spirals into hysteria as one side says “Sacred!” and the other side says, essentially, “Seriously? Model trains?” That shows in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, where it seems to me that she takes a very narrow view of what role religious groups play in the lives of believers and society as a whole.

The second, and probably more important, problem is that the long compromise worked out between the state and religious groups — do what you want within very broad limits, but don’t expect the state to promote it — is breaking down in the face of a shift in the way we view rights and the role of the government in public life.


Not least because it shows that what we are facing here is an increasingly fundamental disagreement between two factions over what voices should be allowed in the public sphere.  The thing is, however, that the two factions are not equal: it’s not so much that the public agrees with Hobby Lobby on this one (although they do). It’s that they largely do not care. Which is a major reason why trying to run on this issue in 2014 is going to blow up spectacularly in the Democrats’ faces; it’s a great way to get progressives to the polls, sure – but those voters were going to show up anyway. The kind-of Democratic voters that the Left needs to mobilize aren’t going to have the same reaction.

And progressives probably haven’t figured that out yet, either. Not that they’d admit to ignorance on that, or indeed anything at all.  One of the problems with self-defining as The Smartest People In The Room is that it gets messy when objective reality intervenes…

Moe Lane (crosspost)


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