Jonah Goldberg

"It is a mark of contemporary liberalism's commitment to abortion," Ramesh Ponnuru wrote in his book, "The Party of Death," "that one of its leading lights should have been willing to support temporizing on slavery in order to defend it."

As many pro-lifers suspected, being "personally opposed" to abortion but supportive of it in every legal and political way was always something of a rhetorical safe harbor rather than a serious intellectual position. In the time span of one generation, as the political climate became more supportive of abortion -- as it has in New York, thanks in part to the diligent work of the "personally" pro-life Cuomos -- the once-safe harbor of personal opposition to abortion is closed, at least rhetorically.

Of course, liberal intolerance isn't rhetorical or limited to hot-button issues; it is woven into mainstream liberal policymaking. The Supreme Court is now pondering whether nuns -- celibate, elderly nuns -- have the right to opt out of Obamacare's birth-control requirements.

New York City recently banned the use of e-cigarettes indoors as yet another "anti-tobacco" measure (in the words of Reuters), even though "vaping" involves no smoke, no tobacco and is often an invaluable tool for quitting real cigarettes. The real driver of the ban is the smug intolerance of a New York City Council that sees no reason to accommodate people who want to live in ways it disapproves of.

And it's not just policymaking either. Liberalism has a culture all its own. From cities like New York; Madison, Wis.; and San Francisco to countless college campuses in between, that culture can produce people as judgmental as the old Church Lady character from "Saturday Night Live." They'll be judgmental about different things, to be sure, but every bit as intolerant.

Tolerating opposing views and lifestyles is an abstract liberal value when politics demand it (which is why Cuomo will have a very hard time if he wants to run for president of a nation that doesn't see eye to eye with him). But given a free hand, liberal intolerance all too often ceases to be an abstract oxymoron and becomes a lived reality.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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