It has long been an article of faith among liberals that they are more enlightened and compassionate than conservatives and Republicans, who instead are characterized by ignorance, prejudice and “hate.” Like most stereotypes popular on the left, these views tell us more about the sanctimonious nature of liberals themselves than they do about social realities. “Hate” is an excellent case in point.

In the wake of the horrific mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Democratic presidential candidates and Hollywood know-it-alls are stumbling over one another to cast blame on conservatives, Republicans and President Trump.

Trump and his fellow travelers have “empowered” white supremacists, we are told, and “demonized” people of color, making it inevitable that some radicals will act on their bigotry and take innocent lives.

Usually, the evidence, such as it is, to support such claims is the willful misinterpretation of Trump’s and other conservatives’ public statements, twisting even those remarks that may be identical to those issued by Democrats and liberals into sinister clarion calls to “white nationalism.”

Such arguments are not surprising, however, when one considers that the Democratic Party has chosen to base its electoral viability on the idea that people of color can and should be convinced that half of America (the Republican half) “hates” them. Hate, lest we forget, can be good politics.

Let us be clear: Trump and the vast majority of conservatives and Republicans are on the record deploring racism, white supremacy, and all forms of criminal violence.

Indeed, it is conservatives and Republicans who believe that those who break the law and especially those who take innocent lives should receive the harshest punishments, up to and including the death penalty.

It is Democrats and liberals, by contrast, who make excuses for criminals, and who reflexively oppose and undermine the police and our criminal justice system.

The goal of liberals’ rhetoric surrounding the problem of “hate” in America is clearly to stigmatize conservatives and Republicans as hateful. The left talks as if white nationalism and white supremacy defined conservatism and Trumpism, when they know, based on polling data, that this is far from the truth — and that liberal support for violent groups like Antifa is arguably more mainstream.

Anyone who has been to a Trump rally can attest that the atmosphere there is far from threatening or aggressive. It is celebratory, patriotic, even lighthearted. These are not people enthralled by “hate.”

The most prominent example of the veritable industry of hate-mongering that has sprung up on the left in recent years is the Southern Poverty Law Center, which issues pious bulletins about the various right-leaning organizations that are allegedly pushing an agenda of “hate.” 

Does your group support the enforcement of immigration laws and oppose illegal immigration? That’s “hate.” Do you believe that marriage ought to be between one man and one woman? “Hate.” Do you oppose affirmative action, race preferences and quotas, or do you refute the liberal dogma of “white privilege”? “Hate,” “hate,” “hate!”

The bar for hatred and extremism has been set so low that almost any deviation from liberal orthodoxy will trigger a charge of “racism,” “sexism” or, more generically, “hate.”

The truth is that hatred and extremism are by no means exclusively or mainly conservative or Republican phenomena. Do they exist on the right?

Certainly! But if we were to ask the question: are liberals or conservatives more consumed by “hate” and negative emotions, the answer at this point in our history would be unambiguous.

Polling data clearly shows that many liberals are enraged at conservatives and at Trump.

Their extreme hatred can and already has generated violence against conservatives — violence that the media is inclined to dismiss, because it undermines the mythology that “hate” is owned and operated by the GOP.

Likewise, we could ask the question: are most violent criminals Democrats or Republicans?

Again, the answer is unambiguous. Our prisons are filled with Democrats who have committed dastardly crimes. Republicans (despite their fondness for guns) are statistically much more law-abiding and peaceful.

None of this is to suggest that one’s ideological or partisan orientation causes extremism or violence. The vast majority of Democrats and Republicans are upstanding citizens who would never dream of harassing, assaulting or killing anyone.

What makes a person hateful to the point of engaging in violence is neither liberalism nor conservatism. It is personal weakness and poor decision-making, combined with the moral rot and egoism that unfortunately afflicts all segments of American society, at least to a point. On an even more basic level, it is human nature that spawns “hate” and specifically the instinct for tribalism, which is largely responsible for driving us into the camps of left and right to begin with.

To address, or at least mitigate, what may be a recent upsurge in hate, we need to move beyond facile finger-pointing.

We should admit that hate festers in both parties, and among liberals and conservatives.

We should also take the first step in disarming hate, and that it is to acknowledge that it doesn’t dominate America as a whole, or any mass political movement.

The best antidote for “hate,” in other words, is to affirm the basic decency and good will of the vast majority of the American people, who are today less prejudiced and “hateful” than they have ever been in their history.

Let’s tackle the problem of hate, therefore, but let’s treat it as what it is: a bipartisan aberration, rather than a mass epidemic.

Nicholas L. Waddy is an associate professor of history at SUNY Alfred. His essay was originally published by Townhall.