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