Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega
Location
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Birthday
September 11
Title
A (Sometimes) Respectable Negro
Bio
Editor and Founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes He has been a guest on the BBC, Ring of Fire Radio, Ed Schultz, Joshua Holland's Alternet Radio Hour, the Burt Cohen show, and Our Common Ground. His essays have been featured by Salon, Alternet, the New York Daily News, and the Daily Kos. The NY Times, the Daily Beast, the Utne Reader, Washington Monthly, Slate, and the Week (among others) have featured his expert commentary and analysis on race, politics, and popular culture.

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Editor’s Pick
MAY 15, 2012 1:24PM

Empathy Wars: Mitt Romney and the GOP's Bully Politics

Rate: 17 Flag

This is not rocket science.

Mitt Romney likes firing people. Mitt Romney drives with terrified family pets on the roof of his car. Mitt Romney assaulted a gay student while in prep school. Mitt Romney tricked a blind teacher, apparently one he "liked," letting the man walk into a glass door. He is a bully. Mitt Romney is also the presumed Presidential nominee for a political party of unapologetic bullies. Ergo he is a near perfect leader for the Tea Party GOP.

American politics in the Age of Obama is beset by deep divides in partisanship, ideology, and political values. These debates are about more than policy. They have devolved into disagreements about the very nature of empirical reality, facts, and science. For example, is global warming real? Do tax cuts for the rich pay for themselves as they trickle down to the rest of us? Can one cut a country's budget in a time of deep economic crisis and somehow miraculously produce economic growth? Is Barack Obama a United States citizen? Is the President a closet, Muslim, Manchurian candidate Socialist? Are white people "oppressed" in America?

As cultivated by the Right-wing media echo chamber, Democrats (and those "evil" progressives) are not just wrong on almost every major political and social issue. No, they are treasonous, deserving of death and extermination, and want to destroy the country.

The diametrically opposed worldviews of conservatives and liberals are also a function of differences in biology, brain structure, and political personality types. For example, researchers have discovered that the fear centers of conservatives' brains are over-developed. This in turn makes them highly susceptible to anxieties about social change, threat, and creates a hostility towards those people who conservatives perceive to be the Other.

Moreover, conservatives tend to be deferent to authority and hierarchy, fearful of change, closed off to new experiences, possessed of a binary world view, attracted to simple moral appeals ("right and wrong"; "good guys and bad guys") and highly intolerant of ambiguity.

These traits are a formula for authoritarian thinking, which as the book Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics demonstrates, has a broad impact on public opinion regarding such topics as immigration, privacy, women's reproductive rights, national security, gay marriage, and matters of race and racial inequality.

In all, these differences in political worldviews can be crystallized down into one key divide: conservatives and liberals are radically different in how human empathy impacts their political decision-making.

The University of Southern California's Ravi Iyer incisively demonstrates this divide with the following chart:

ravichart

The more empathetic a liberal is, the more likely they are to be interested in politics. The opposite holds true for conservatives: the less empathetic they are, the more likely a given conservative is to show interest in political matters. This is a damning reveal; it explains much of the Ayn Rand, dystopian, destroy the social safety net, one against many, politics of the Republican Party. By implication, those who show little empathy are rendered grossly incapable of even working through how either the Common Good or the Good Society should be values in the political calculus of governance, citizenship, and leadership.  

The Republican Presidential primary season has provided ample evidence of how the GOP, a group I have described as a death cult, has become a  party possessed by a deep lack of empathy.

For example, during the debates audience members laughed at the prospect of uninsured people dying. They mocked a gay soldier who was serving his country abroad. It was also suggested during their debates that Muslim Americans should be openly harassed and racially profiled (not one candidate intervened or suggested this was unconstitutional) and that undocumented citizens should be deported and/or the United States surrounded by electric fences.

And most recently, black people have been described as parasites on white America. And "inner city" children, what is code for black and brown youth, should follow through on a Dickensonian fantasy as they pick up mops and serve as school janitors, in order to learn the value of hard work

The policies of the Republican Party are demonstrative of a deep deficit in empathy. The poor are surplus people who are "unproductive," a "drain" on American society, and who leech off of the rich and "normal" Americans. The social safety net should be destroyed as "entitlements" like Social Security and unemployment insurance, encourage laziness and sloth. Support for hungry children, public education, the unemployed, and the poor should be cut to ensure tax cuts for the rich.

While income and wealth inequality is at record highs, inter-generational mobility is stifled, and the middle and working classes are being eviscerated, it is in fact the wealthy who are being held under siege by "class warfare."

The Republican Party has been practicing "bully politics" at its best since the election of President Obama.

The Republican leadership has proudly vowed to destroy his presidency at any cost--even if the country suffers because of it. The Republican Party has worked to obstruct legislationat every turn--even popular bills supported by the public. There is a concerted effort to destroy the public's confidence in government with the hope that anger and rage will be distributed equally at both parties--as opposed to those in the Republican Party who are most responsible for these impasses in procedure and voting (even opposing legislation they previously supported in order to spite President Obama).

The foot soldiers of the radical political faction otherwise known as the Tea Party have prided themselves on holding the country hostage (as they did during the debt ceiling crisis), repeatedly demonstrating that zealotry holds precedence over good government and the public interest.

Richard Mardouk, who defeated Senator Dick Lugar in Indiana last week, summed up the bully politics of the Tea Party GOP perfectly when he stated that a lack of compromise "...is the definition of political effectiveness. The fact is you never compromise on principles. If people on the far left have a principle they want to stand by, they should never compromise. Those of us on the right should not either. Compromise may come in the finer details of a plan or a budget. We are at the point where one side of the other will win this argument. One side or the other will dominate."

Ultimately Mardouk notes, "what I've said about compromise and bipartisanship is I hope to build a conservative majority in the United States Senate so that bipartisanship becomes Democrats joining Republicans to roll back the size of government, reduce the bureaucracy, lower taxes and get American moving again."

Compromise is their enemy. They must bend others to their will not through negotiation, moral and ethical clarity, or persuasion, but through hardheadedness and intimidation. Compromise is not give and take, or political horse trading: it is forcing Democrats to always agree with Republicans

Mitt Romney, bully, is a perfect candidate for a political party of bullies, a collective both refined and gross. The policies offered by the Republican Party are a one against all, state of nature mix of Ayn Rand's love of personal selfishness and unbridled corporate greed. Here, the government should be drowned in the bathtub and the social safety destroyed in order to transfer more resources to the rich.

Radical libertarianism, deregulation, and a free market unmoored by any restrictions of common sense, humanity, or reason will separate the weak from the strong. The rest of society be damned in this Mad Max view of Americans' obligations to one another and the social compact. We are all just individual agents, lacking any rights of citizenship which cannot be secured and protected by radical free market capitalism, the bankers, financiers, and plutocrats.

This America, the one of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party's dreams, is a bully's paradise.

Mitt Romney, prep school bully of the weak and vulnerable, corporate raider bully who takes pleasure in terminating employees, nominee of a political party of bullies and "real Americans," and he who wants to be President of the United States, has made it abundantly clear that empathy is not a public virtue to be cultivated or encouraged.

What does that mean for the rest of us who don't get to sit at the cool kids table or have enough money to hang out with Mitt Romney and his exclusive clique? 

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Thanks. You gotta have a caste-iron-belly to stomach those politicos. They are in a crude-base-realm. I tried to read Joan Walsh's comments on her post @ Salon.

I vowed to not comment.
I sure won't buy a `Core.
No buy any 'Coors Beer.
`
Buy a six-pack of`Schafer? Buy 'Colt- 45 Beer?
Con C. says if `You drink more than one beer.
I let You/`Alter/Net interpret/critique news.
`
Dr. Ziggy Mutter-Job did ref: `DSM's Psycho analysis.
He wrote a Blog-`Mitt Romney's Dysmorphic Thought.
Mitt Romney's hair looks like a Moo-Cow`Wet & Licked.
Mitt Romney's voice sounds like a Seagull`Wails & Wine.
Mitt Romney's gang surround him like a big`Lobster Trap.
huh?
I wrote that because Lobster Fisherman gave me 5- Lobsters.
Sherry steamed five-Lobsters and She No sips`Keith's Beers.
Sherry drinks N.S. Marchal Red Grapes. She No sip`Colt- 45.
'Keith Beer' is brewed in Halifax. Sherry think Mitt's `Pathetic.
Comment didn't post. Great analysis. Deserved early recognition.
"What does that mean for the rest of us ..." it means that if the current polling trends continue and spread to Ohio, Michigan, Florida and Wisconsin that Romney has a chance of getting elected, which will mean that "the rest of us" are totally screwed.
That USC study looks fascinating and revealing. I'm empathizing with the points you're making here! r
Fascinating. It certainly explains a lot, doesn't it.
You have gone right to the heart of the difference between the two parties. Empathy, or lack thereof . Great job!

Lezlie
“When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross” variously attributed, including to Sinclair Lewis and Huey Long
Super-interesting and well-done piece. It seems the Republican and Tea Party politicians really went off their rocker when Obama was elected. It was more than they could take and it catapulted them to this new level of viciousness--no attempt even at a civil veneer. It truly is anything goes and they come out and say it.
thus the love of professional sports where "winners" are celebrated not for "how they play the game" but simply for getting the most points in a completely meaningless exercise as it no longer prepares the participants for anything but a short, floundering "retirement" where the "winners" have rings and the "losers" are ghosts of what they might have been
Oh boy where does one start? Tea Party is extreme but, no mention of " Occupy___________ movement and the rapes,attacks and trappling of public and private property?"
No the radical Tea Party with their disgusting Flag Wavering and other sickeningorganized, respectful displays of @#$#$ Patriotism are the true threat to Amerika.
Let's attack Mitt's youth but, continue to ignore Obama's even when it is in his autobiography. No mention of Mitt's charitable contributions in the tens of millions because that bastard shouldn't be able to afford to give all that money way in the first place. Oops Obama and the John Kerry's of the world give next to nothing.
No Chauncey has never made a racist remark. Has a problem being held hostage by" Radicals" yet remains quiet when Al Sharpton and Jess Jackson hold the country 'hostage" over the death of a young black man at the hands of a hispanic Obama supporter. Some how that became all about the right wing as well.
Principles -stand by them principles.

Any insight on Norfolk,Virginia? Didn't think so..........We are talking about principles
Oh boy where does one start? Tea Party is extreme but, no mention of " Occupy___________ movement and the rapes,attacks and trappling of public and private property?"
No the radical Tea Party with their disgusting Flag Wavering and other sickeningorganized, respectful displays of @#$#$ Patriotism are the true threat to Amerika.
Let's attack Mitt's youth but, continue to ignore Obama's even when it is in his autobiography. No mention of Mitt's charitable contributions in the tens of millions because that bastard shouldn't be able to afford to give all that money way in the first place. Oops Obama and the John Kerry's of the world give next to nothing.
No Chauncey has never made a racist remark. Has a problem being held hostage by" Radicals" yet remains quiet when Al Sharpton and Jess Jackson hold the country 'hostage" over the death of a young black man at the hands of a hispanic Obama supporter. Some how that became all about the right wing as well.
Principles -stand by them principles.

Any insight on Norfolk,Virginia? Didn't think so..........We are talking about principles
"As cultivated by the Right-wing media echo chamber, Democrats (and those "evil" progressives) are not just wrong on almost every major political and social issue. No, they are treasonous, deserving of death and extermination, and want to destroy the country."

As far as I got. Pure twaddle. I'm up to my eyeballs in conservatives and I've never heard any of these opinions. Your group does not, I believe, "want" to destroy the company, but it's having a good go at it.

Most voters want to get rid of Obama on the very basic ground that he doesn't have a clue how to run the government. And why should he? He doesn't have the experience or intellectual brights.
Gordon,

To start with, just look at Ann Coulter's book titles, before you even get to content.

The contention that a lot of people don't agree with how Obama has run what he can of the government is certainly valid, but the most visible anti-Obama rhetoric - and there is certainly a lot of that - isn't really along those lines. He's been a moderate President portrayed continuously as a radical President. Understand that from my perspective "moderate" isn't a compliment but it's certainly an apt description. The rabid Birther rhetoric has zero to do with performance - and would have been applied just as quickly to John McCain if he was a Democrat because of the fact that he was born outside of the fifty states. The rumors that he is a Muslim who is, paradoxically, too close to the pastor of his church had zero to do with performance. His rather loose association with Bill Ayers engendered a lot of screaming though how universally conservative his financial advisors have been somehow escaped notice. The Birther-associated contention that he was somehow representing Kenya has no relationship to reality, let alone his track record. I'm sorry, but if you've been hanging around with conservatives but have been lucky enough to avoid the most visible conservative pundits, you've been luckier than the rest of us. The rhetoric alluded to in the post is extremely pervasive.

Jay,
Is your objection to tone or content? Do you object to the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton pointing out that racism is still alive, well, and a factor in American life and that the killing of the young man in Florida without the killer initially even having his murder (or manslaughter) weapon confiscated was the end of a chain of events obviously triggered by the young man's race? If you object to talk of racism, do what you can to end racism; otherwise, you're going to hear from these guys for as long as it's a factor. No "hostages" here; just an answer to those who claim that racism no longer means anything in the United States or, worse, that the measures the Federal Government has taken to counter the effects of racism have overcompensated and the end result is that Black Americans are actually better off on average than White Americans.

Mitt Romney's youth isn't the issue; a series of actions indicating a pattern is the issue, and Chauncey's observation about that pattern isn't nonsensical given the pattern. As regards the Tea Party, their flag waving isn't the issue; if anything, their flag waving is a distraction. Holding the budget hostage to the point where they'd rather see the United States Government go into default than allow a portion of the population that has enjoyed historically low taxes for a while (without creating jobs as predicted, giving us instead something called a "jobless recovery") pick up more of their fair share is a really funny definition of Patriotism. Flag waving doesn't say much if you're willing to harm your country while waving it.

Chauncey's point that the Republican Party has, as of late, treated their opponents less like opponents and more like enemies sure looks obvious from here, a trend mainly started by Newt Gingrich when he was Speaker. That their formula for accomplishing anything has changed from "work with who you have" to "the only way we'll ever accomplish anything is to replace the other side, so put most of your efforts into replacing them rather than into fixing the country's problems" looks obvious from here.

If you think that Chauncey is wrong about the relationship between compassion and political involvement within the two parties, if you think that compassion is irrelevant and shouldn't be a value in American politics, if you think that the GOP hasn't been following the priorities he outlined and I reiterated in the last paragraph, make your case. So far, you haven't.
So brilliantly conceptualized, then realized, I'm feasting on it as the hungry do at a banquet...a banquet of words....
Rated
Well said. I was dumbfounded three years ago watching Senator Jeffrey Beaureguard Sessions III lead a succession of Republicans in trying to convince the nation during the Sonia Sotomayor conformation hearings that "empathy" was a disqualifying characteristic in a judge.

Nothing could have been more clear to this reactionary worldview that dominates the modern GOP that the law was written by white Christian men, for white Christian men and should be applied by judges on behalf of white Christian men, and so judges who put themselves in another person's shoes to see how the law might impact them is an "activist judge" subversive of the Natural Order of Things that always places white Christian men on top.
Kosher,

Both tone and rhetoric-Conservatism is based on fear? But, by that logic, we would all want a safety net as many conservatives are not independently wealthy. I see more demonization going on from the left than the right that is really why I left the Democratic Party in my early thirties. I just saw an incredible amount of knee-jerk liberal,trust fund I gave at the office B.S. and the truly compassionate people I met had a "Feed a man to fish...definition of compassion and would actually put their money and actions where there mouth is.
If Sharpton really wanted to solves issues he would expose all racism
http://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/2012/05/15/a_censored_race_war



How did the Tea Party hurt the country?
Excellent piece, Chauncey. On thing I cannot understand, thought, and which Iyer doesn't address is how poor whites consistently vote against their own interests. One would think that a poor white in Mississippi or would be interested in equality for all.

Maybe social issues trump economic ones down there.
You said it all. I would just add that they have turned Christianity inside out in which everything is backwards, so it's the poor man that can't get into Heaven unless he can squeeze through the eye of a needle.
Chauncey,

I know I'm a little late to the party. Read you essay when it first appeared on OS and have been tweeting links of it to all my friends.

It's fascinating and an absolutely brilliant analysis of how the psychological trait of empathy affects liberal and conservative thinking and involvement in politics.

Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I see from some of your other comments that you've roused the RWNJs.