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The Sotomayor nomination has given radical conservatives new life. They have launched an attack that is nominally aimed at Judge Sotomayor. But it is really a coordinated stealth attack — on President Obama’s central vision, on progressive thought itself, and on Republicans who might stray from the conservative hard line.

There are several fronts: Empathy, feelings, racism, activist judges. Each one has a hidden dimension. And if progressives think conservative attacks are just about Sotomayor, they may wind up helping conservatives regroup.

Conservatives believe that Sotomayor will be confirmed, and so their attacks may seem irrational to Democrats, a last gasp, a grasping at straws, a sign that the party is breaking up.

Actually, something sneakier and possibly dangerous is going on.

Let’s start with the attack on empathy. Why empathy? Isn’t empathy a good thing?

Empathy is at the heart of progressive thought.  It is the capacity to put oneself in the shoes of others — not just individuals, but whole categories of people: one’s countrymen, those in other countries, other living beings, especially those who are in some way oppressed, threatened, or harmed. Empathy is the capacity to care, to feel what others feel, to understand what others are facing and what their lives are like. Empathy extends well beyond feeling to understanding, and it extends beyond individuals to groups, communities, peoples, even species. Empathy is at the heart of real rationality, because it goes to the heart of our values, which are the basis of our sense of justice.

Progressives care about others as well as themselves. They have a moral obligation to act on their empathy — a social responsibility in addition to personal responsibility, a responsibility to make the world better by making themselves better. This leads to a view of a government that cares about its citizens and has a moral obligation to protect and empower them. Protection includes worker, consumer, and environmental protection as well as safety nets and health care. Empowerment includes what is in the President’s stimulus plan: infrastructure, education, communication, energy, the availability of credit from banks, a stock market that works. No one can earn anything at all in this country without protection and empowerment by the government.  All progressive legislation is made on this basis.

The president wrote of empathy in The Audacity of Hope, “It is at the heart of my moral code and it is how I understand the Golden Rule — not simply as a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.”

President Obama has argued that empathy is the basis of our democracy. Why do we promote freedom and fairness for everyone, not just ourselves or the rich and powerful? The answer is empathy. We care about our countrymen and have an obligation to act on that care and to set up a government for the protection and empowerment of all. That is at the heart of everything he does.

The link between empathy and democracy has been established historically by Professor Lynn Hunt of UCLA in her important book, Inventing Human Rights. To hear her speak, go to  http://www.youtube.com/...

The link between empathy and progressive thought is spelled out in my book Moral Politics and in my new book The Political Mind, just out in paperback.
( http://www.amazon.com/... )

In describing his ideal Supreme Court justice, President Obama cited empathy as a major desideratum. Why? Because that is what our democracy is about. A justice has to take empathy into account because his or her decisions will affect the lives of others. Before making a decision you have to put yourself in the shoes of those who your decision will affect. Similarly, in judging causation, fairness requires that social causes as well as individual causes be taken into account. Empathy forces you to notice what is crucial in so many Supreme Court cases: systemic and social causes and who a decision can harm. As such, empathy correctly understood is crucial to judgment.  A judge without empathy is a judge unfit for a democracy.

President Obama has described Justice Sotomayor in empathetic terms — a life
story that would lead her to understand people who live through         oppression and deprivation and what it does to them. In other words, a life story that would allow her to appreciate the consequences of judicial decisions and the causal effects of living in an unequal society.

Empathy in this sense is a threat to conservatism, which features individual, not social, responsibility and a strict, punitive form of “justice.” It is no surprise that empathy would be a major conservative target in the Sotomayor evaluation.

But the target is not empathy as it really exists. Instead, the conservatives are reframing empathy to make it attackable. Their “empathy” is idiosyncratic, personal feeling for an individual, presumably the defendant in a legal case. With “empathy” reframed in this way, Charles Krauthammer can say, echoing Karl Rove, “Justice is not about empathy.”  The argument goes like this: Empathy is a matter personal feelings. Personal feelings should not be the basis of a judicial decision of the Supreme Court. Therefore, “justice is not about empathy.” Reframe the word “empathy” and it not only disqualifies Sotomayor; it delegitimizes Obama’s central moral principle, his approach to government, his understanding of the nature of our democracy, and progressive politics in general.

We cannot let conservatives get away with redefining empathy as irrational and idiosyncratic personal feeling. Empathy is the basis of our democracy and its true meaning must be defended.

But the attack can be sneaky. Take David Brooks’ column in the NY Times (May 29, 2009). He frames what he calls “The Empathy Issue” in terms of the use of emotions in decision-making. He is doing a conservative reframing of the issue. What is sneaky is that he starts by saying a number of true things about emotions. As Antonio Damasio pointed out in Descartes’ Error, you can’t make rational decisions without emotions. If you have a brain injury that wipes out your emotional capacity, you don’t know what to want, since like and not-like mean nothing, and you can’t tell what others will think of you.  Here is Brooks:
People without emotions cannot make sensible decisions because they don’t know how much anything is worth. People without social emotions like empathy are not objective decision-makers. They are sociopaths who sometimes end up on death row.

Supreme Court justices, like all of us, are emotional intuitionists. They begin their decision-making processes with certain models in their heads. These are models of how the world works and should work, which have been idiosyncratically ingrained by genes, culture, education, parents and events. These models shape the way judges perceive the world

.

Note the mixture of truth and other.  Yes, sensible decisions require emotions. Yes, people without empathy are sociopaths. Yes, we all make decisions based on models in our head of how the world works.  That’s basic cognitive science. Mixed in with it is conservative reframing. No, empathy is a lot more than a “social emotion.” No, using models of the world in decision-making need not be a matter of emotion. It’s just how real reason works. Then the conclusion.

But because we’re emotional creatures in an idiosyncratic world, it’s prudent to have judges who are cautious, incrementalist and minimalist. It’s prudent to have judges who decide cases narrowly, who emphasize the specific context of each case, who value gradual change, small steps and modest self-restraint.

Right-leaning thinkers from Edmund Burke to Friedrich Hayek understood that emotion is prone to overshadow reason. They understood that emotion can be a wise guide in some circumstances and a dangerous deceiver in others. It’s not whether judges rely on emotion and empathy, it’s how they educate their sentiments within the discipline of manners and morals, tradition and practice.

Empathy here has been reframed as emotion that is “idiosyncratic” — personal — a danger to reason.  “Sentiments,” that is, emotions, must be “disciplined” to fit “manners and morals, tradition and practice”— in short, the existing social and political order.  This is perfect radical conservatism in the guise of sweet, moderate reasonableness. Where Rove and Krauthammer have the iron fists, Brooks has the velvet glove.

The attack on empathy becomes an attack on feelings, with feelings as not merely at odds with justice, but at odds with good sense. Where Brooks’ tone is sweetly reasonable, G. Gordon Liddy is outrageous:

Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then.
(http://thinkprogress.org/2009/05/29/liddy-sotoyamor-menstruating/)

Liddy is saying what Brooks is saying: Emotion is irrational and dangerous. Only Liddy is not nicely-nicely. The attack on feelings is of a piece with the old attack on “bleeding-heart liberals. And one step away from Cheney’s attack on Obama and defense of torture.

What about Newt Gingrich calling Sotomayor a racist? It is linked directly to the personal feeling argument: because of her personal feelings for her own kind — Latinos and women — she will discriminate against white men. It is to support that view that the New Haven firemen case keeps being brought up.

The real target here goes beyond Sotomayor. In the last election, conservative populists moved toward Obama. Conservative populists are working people, mostly white men, who have conservative views of the family, of masculinity, and of the military, and who have bought into the idea of the ‘liberal elite” as looking down on them. Right now, they are hurting economically, losing their jobs and their homes. Empathy is something they need. The racist card is an attempt to revive their fears of affirmative action, fears of their jobs — and their pride — being taken by minorities and women.  The racist attack has a political purpose, holding onto conservative populists. The overt form of the old conservative argument is made regularly these days: liberalism is identity politics.

Incidentally, Democrats are walking into the Gingrich trap. I heard Ed Schultz defending Sotomayor by saying over and over why she was “not a racist,” and using the word “racist” next to her name repeatedly. It was like Nixon saying, ”I am not a crook.” When Democrats make that mistake, I sometimes wonder why I bothered to write Don’t Think of an Elephant!

The attack on Sotomayor as an “activist judge” completes the pattern of radical conservative reasoning: Because of her empathy, which is personal feeling, which in turn is a form of racism, she will interpret the constitution not rationally, blindly, and objectively, but to suit her emotions.

It is vital at this point to understand how conservatives get away with the “activist judge” ploy. As any cognitive linguist knows, there is no such thing as “strict construction” of the Constitution. The reason was given by, of all people, David Brooks, as we discussed above.

Supreme Court justices, like all of us, … begin their decision-making processes with certain models in their heads. These are models of how the world works and should work… These models shape the way judges perceive the world.

These models also shape they way the most “strict constructionist” of judges read the Constitution. Such models are physically part of the brain and typically operate below the level of consciousness.  Conservatives are thus as much “judicial activists” as anyone else.

So how do conservative Republicans get away with the “activist judge” ploy? Democrats hand it to them. Why? Because most Democrats grew up with and still believe a view of reason that has been shown in cognitive science and neuroscience to be false. The sciences of mind have shown that real reason is largely unconscious, requires emotion, uses “models” (frames, metaphors, narratives) and so does not fit the world directly.

But Democrats tend to believe that reason is conscious, can fit the world directly, and works by logic, not frames or metaphors. They thus believe that words have fixed literal meanings that fit the world in itself, regardless of models, frames, metaphors, or narratives. If you believe this, then original meaning could make sense. Democrats don’t fight it when they should.

Democrats make another move that allows them to keep their view of reason. They adopt the view of the “living constitution,” which opens them up to charges of “judicial activism,” charges made by conservative judicial activists.  The source of the problem lies in the Democrats lack of understanding of their own unconscious reasoning processes. One of many Democrats deepest beliefs contradicts the facts about the brain and the mind and allows conservative judges to be activists while claiming to be strict constructionists.

Taken together, the attacks on Sotomayor work as attacks on Obama and progressive thought. They are also attacks on “moderate” conservatives, who think with progressives on many issues. The attacks activate radical conservative ideas in the brains of those who voted for Bush and the 47% of the voters who voted for McCain.

Radical conservatives know that Sotomayor will be confirmed. They also know that their very understanding of the world is being threatened by Obama’s success.  But they have a major strength. They have their message machine intact, with trained spokespeople booked on tv and radio shows all over the country. Attacking Sotomayor, even when they know she will win, allows them to rally their forces and get swing-voting conservatives thinking their way again.

How should Democrats respond?

Democrats should go on offense. They need to rally behind empathy— real empathy, not empathy reframed as emotion and personal feeling. They need to speak regularly about empathy as being the basis of our democracy. They need to point out that empathy leads one to notice real social and systemic causes of our troubles and to notice when and how judicial decisions and legislation can harm the most vulnerable of our countrymen. And finally that empathy is the reason that we have the principles of freedom and fairness — which are necessary components of justice.

Above all, Democrats should be aware that the attack on Sotomayor is not just about Sotomayor. It is an attack on the basis of our democracy and must be answered.

George Lakoff is Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. His latest book, The Political Mind, appears in paperback on June 2.

Originally posted to George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling on Sat May 30, 2009 at 01:25 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  I totally don't agree (23+ / 0-)

      Nor do I agree with much of this diary. It's entire feel is as if it were written 3-4 years ago. I'm tired of people STILL talking as if Republicans' frames were infinitely powerful and Democrats were a bunch of clueless stumblebums who were NEVER going to elect a president or get a majority un Congress until they better understood these staggeringly powerful Republican frames. This diary claims they STILL don't, and if they EVER expect to go toe-to-toe with President McCain and Speaker Boehn....oh wait.

      Yes, I know we are frustrated that we are not getting the instant explosion of wonderful progressive programs we dreamed about (although if we start to list everything we've accomplished in the last four months, the doomsters should be ashames). And I know that the Republicans get an inordinate amount of media time and space to babble their silly talking points and the mainstream media still gives them credence. BUT ... they aren't working very well anymore, because they've been played out and the Republicans have shown an inability to adjust them to changing  circumstances.

      Look, I think almost all of us "get" that this isn't about Sotomayor: The GOP wingnuts were ramping up to smear whoever Obama appointed. This isn't some big secret only a dedicated few know. And I think MOST people find the GOP attack on her "empathy" silly even if they can't exactly define why.

      It's really time to move beyond much of this stuff that was interesting  4 years ago, and really get aggressive. We AREN'T going to win over the right-wing media so we need to be louder, more persistent and more focused.

      Rob Portman: He sent your job to China.

      by anastasia p on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:19:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And I agree with you. (7+ / 0-)

        The whole "empathy" tempest began when Obama said the word and Republicans saw their reason to start screaming "judicial activism." That's the REAL meme they wanted to light up, because they've done a hell of a lot of work to set it up. The firestorm about "empathy" isn't some meta-attack on progressivism; if it wasn't that word, they would have found some other way to bring up judicial activism.

        This is the line that really puts my teeth on edge, though:

        Taken together, the attacks on Sotomayor work as attacks on Obama and progressive thought.

        Yeah, and the chances of that conflation happening no matter what Obama says or who he may have nominated is roughly 100%. So it's not like there's some particularly unique urgency to anything Republicans are spewing right now, other than it's just a normal day at their MSM meme factory. [Which isn't an excuse not to be fighting it, I should add . . . it's just that this diary makes it out to be some fairly unique episode.]

        •  Empathy is part of a much larger word. (8+ / 0-)

          From a 4/7/09 article in Bio-Medicine Pathway to Wisdom May Be Found in Brain Circuitry

          Wisdom appears to be more than a subjective concept, it may actually be contained in certain brain circuits and pathways, suggest U.S. researchers who compiled the first-ever review of the neurobiology of wisdom.

          ....

          It's widely agreed that wisdom includes six traits: empathy, compassion, altruism, self-understanding, emotional stability and pro-social attitudes, such as a tolerance for others' values,

          We've known for decades at least, that developing those brain circuits requires exposure to a heterogeneous community. Children who grow up in all white neighborhoods and schools are not as likely to learn those traits as those who have a mixed experience. The more homogenous the community, religion, socioeconomic class, the more conformist the thinking.

          Sotomayer, like Obama, grew up in a wealth of heterogeneous environments. It adds significantly to their ability to understand other viewpoints, which they can respect without agreeing or being swayed irrationally.

          One of the wonderful photographs in Edward Steichen's The Family of Man collection, is a white male judge, in robes at his bench, with a quote I don't quite remember. It was essentially that what we need most from judges is Wisdom. Would that a linguistic professor like Lakoff could practice what he preaches when writing. Based on Don't Think of an Elephant , I'm betting The Political Mind will not be any better, if as good, as  The Political Brain by Drew Westen.

          Now I'd like to spread the word on G. Gordon Liddy's absurd, sexist remark.

          The average age for menopause in the western world is 51. Sotomayer is 55. And diabetic.

          Too much sanity may be madness. The maddest of all is to see the world as it is and not as it should be. Don Quixote "Man of La Mancha"

          by Ginny in CO on Sat May 30, 2009 at 04:16:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Good points, but Lakoff's still right (24+ / 0-)

        Lakoff's takeaway isn't that the Republicans are winning this battle; his specific point is that they're trying to say empathy is a bad thing so that they can establish it as a future talking point that they can use in, say, seven years come 2016 (being optimistic that Obama's re-elected.) Don't forget that while President Clinton did an admirable job as President, the Republicans' successful framing of his administration meant that Al Gore had to run away from him, and that the progressive arguments about good government and the need for intelligent taxation hadn't sunk in at all to people who don't pay too much attention to politics.

        I had assumed the Republicans were just being their seemingly stupid selves with this, but Lakoff correctly points out that they're playing for 2010, and they're targeting a very specific group of people.

        Does this mean they'll be SUCCESSFUL? Definitely not. But it's good to have the real goal of these attacks defined.

        You're a writer. Words have shoebox.--Josh Olson.

        by StanBlather on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:51:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, but they successfully "framed" (4+ / 0-)

          Bill Clinton as someone who brought down the moral tone of D.C. with his sexual escapades because — of something he actually did! They were fortunate at that point that the "values" narrative was still functional and still a motivator for the religious right. They were able to use something Bill Clinton actually did — and frighten Gore into running away from him, lest he be painted as toelrant of loose morals. It had nothing to do with "empathy" or "good government" or "progressive arguments." It was all about sex — not unusual for the right at the time.

          Rob Portman: He sent your job to China.

          by anastasia p on Sat May 30, 2009 at 04:55:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  But they destroyed Gore and Kerry (11+ / 0-)

            using framing of things they didn't do. The fact that Clinton actually got head in the Oval Office isn't really the point. Gore never said he invented the Internet, and Kerry never did anything the Swiftboaters accused him of.

            Denny Crane: But if he supports a law, and then agrees to let it lapse … then that would make him …

            Shirley Schmidt: A Democrat.

            by Jyrinx on Sat May 30, 2009 at 05:54:27 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  And this is why it is so important to stay on (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mataliandy, Winnie

              the offensive with Republicans.  They lay down a basis of rhetoric on an issue so that when the time comes and events take place they know are coming they can take full advantage of all their "warnings".  Take Cheney's rhetoric about keeping America safe through torture and warfare under Bush.  At some point the terrorists will strike again, 100 percent certain.  When they do, the drumbeat of "Cheney told us so" will get pounded out endlessly and the Democrats will get hit, as usual, on the security aspect.  This time they know the Bush Depression will hit the working class hard, and so if they can convince the poor suckers that their plight is not from Republican Wall Streeters and K Streeters looting them blind by destroying regulatory regimes and institutions from the inside and outside, but from minority Democrats like Sotomayor and Obama favoring THEIR people against the poor whites, then WHEN the high unemployment rate peaks in 2010, an election year, folks, they will have a chance to use "send them a message" rhetoric to turn out the resentment vote against Democrats.  If they can win back a few House seats and stem their Senate losses, we will see an all out attack in 2012 against a second Obama term.  These Republicans are stupid like a Fox (yes, deliberate allusion to the FOX repetition ad nauseum of these themes).

        •  What hasn't been mentioned above (11+ / 0-)

          is what I feel to be a not-so-subtle sneer at empathy, often characterized as a feminine trait, as weak and secondary to some fictional, neutral intellect.

          It's an old classic put-down, from classroom to business to culture. "Where are the women philosphers?" someone once asked me at university, as if to proove that truth and insight were gendered. And as if women historically had had access to the same educational and societal support.

          There's a real disconnect here, and the issue is being framed in very personal,
          gender-specific terms that must play very well on the screen in contemporary equivalents of those "low dives on 52nd Street" - at the end of what W. H. Auden
          called "A low and dishonest decade."

      •  Wow (0+ / 0-)

        I'm not easy to impress but that's some seriously good stuff anastasia.

      •  Isn't this what Lakoff is saying? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hopeful, The Raven, Edgewater

        We AREN'T going to win over the right-wing media so we need to be louder, more persistent and more focused.

        Clearly, the right wing attacks aren't intended to affect how YOU think, or probably most of your friends and colleagues, like-minded progressives or independents, the "MOST people" you reference as finding their attacks "silly".

        Lakoff is pointing out the flaws in some of our "progressive" media players' falling into the cognitive traps they apparently don't want to understand, as in the Schulz reference to language usage.  Answering the charges by saying, "Sotomayor is not racist" merely juxtaposes "Sotomayor" and "racist" repeatedly for millions of people who aren't political junkies reading blogs like this every day.

        It has to do with the brain and syntax.  It's why you don't say to your kids, "Don't go in the street."  What they hear is Go. In. The. Street.
        What you tell them is, "Stay in the yard."

        He's not acting like he's got some "big secret".  And just because "this stuff" isn't news to you anymore doesn't mean it's not to the middle aged mother of three in Missouri who's only catching snippets of CNN or Fox blaring from some TV in the foyer of the dentist office where she's taken the youngest two.

        You know.  Have some empathy.  It's not about what YOU know.  He just wants Ed Schulz to play smarter on the talking picture machine.

        Q: Why does Grover Norquist want to drown the government in a bathtub? A: So he can replace it.

        by Snarky McAngus on Sun May 31, 2009 at 06:33:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Lakoff is absolutely right (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ARS, Edgewater

        It isn't about the minutiae regarding sex, race or judicial record, it's about two competing visions of what American government is. The conservatives see their vision is losing the battle of ideas and they are trying to bind the concept of "empathy" to "socialism" and cast it as un-American.

        Lakoff is correct that in fighting them on this point we can begin the process of winning in 2012. And, conversely, through inaction we might very well lose. The copy almost writes itself. Come fire-walk with me...

        In the past four years we've seen the Democrats transfer our wealth and our children's future to banks and automakers.

        They have been working to take over healthcare and rebuild it in the model of the DMV.

        Foreign leaders see us as weak and indecisive.

        Personal responsibility has fallen to calls for a nanny-state government that taxes everything and destroys freedom.

        This is what they are working on, and their champions, Palin, Gingrich, Romney, they'll have a competing vision of proud Americans who don't ask Washington for free goodies. A strong America that is feared by other nations. And low taxes - always low taxes.

        All of this is embedded in the Sotomayor confirmation and it's happening beneath the surface. Dr Lakoff is spot-on correct and this is an excellent essay; it's not dated at all, it's hyper-current.

        Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

        by The Raven on Sun May 31, 2009 at 07:25:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good luck to them with this (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          The Raven

          The conservatives see their vision is losing the battle of ideas and they are trying to bind the concept of "empathy" to "socialism" and cast it as un-American.

          I think most people are born with empathy hard-wired into their brain.  Some people are more empathetic than others but most people share, to some degree, in possessing this trait.

          Basically it's as if the GOP is trying to say being human is unAmerican if they're going to go after empathy this way.  Try telling someone it's unAmerican to feel distress when looking at a kid with their arms blown off.  Try telling someone it's unAmerican to feel some strange upwelling of joy when the underdog wins at the end of a movie.  Try telling someone it's unAmerican to view people sitting on the roof of their house as Katrina floods New Orleans and feel sorrow at their plight.  This isn't a meme that's going to work well IMO.

          Most people share in these empathetic feelings and can understand that someone who does not is a seriously flawed individual who has no business sitting in judgement on other people.

          "The time for justice is always right now!" - Samantha Booke, Wiley College debate team, 1935

          by Edgewater on Sun May 31, 2009 at 08:14:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Don't miss the forest (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Edgewater

            a seriously flawed individual who has no business sitting in judgement on other people

            You're talking about the Sotomayor thing, yes? I think the issue here is that this confirmation fight isn't about her at all.

            Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

            by The Raven on Sun May 31, 2009 at 08:22:49 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Definitely not missing the forest (0+ / 0-)

              How about this instead - Most people share in these empathetic feelings and can understand that someone who does not is a seriously flawed individual who has no business in a position of power over others.

              Placing people who lack empathy in power results in regimes that commit war-crimes, tank our economy, destroy our environment, and ignore the plight of average Americans who cannot find work, get health-care, or pay their mortgage.

              Placing people who lack empathy in power results in having people in power who just don't care about anyone except themselves.

              "The time for justice is always right now!" - Samantha Booke, Wiley College debate team, 1935

              by Edgewater on Sun May 31, 2009 at 08:30:54 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Lakoff was one of the first to call out Lieberman (21+ / 0-)

      For his propensity to use Republican frames, particularly 'tax relief.'

      You can read in this diary his great frustration with Democrats who have no sense of (and presumably little respect for) framing.

      Thank you for this diary, Dr. Lakoff.

      "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

      by BeninSC on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:28:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank, George. (8+ / 0-)

    This needs saying!  I just wish I had confidence that any talking heads are listening ...

  •  "Empathy" is just the latest incarnation (18+ / 0-)

    of "equal rights" "social justice" "equal opportunity" "the golden rule" etc.

    Fortunately, "empathy," as a word, is not a particularly charged one and they really are going to get nowhere on this.

    IMHO, of course.

    "Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed." General Buck Turgidson

    by muledriver on Sat May 30, 2009 at 01:39:07 PM PDT

    •  They are trying to make "empathy" (21+ / 0-)

      the new "liberal."  A big part of what makes conservatism problematic is their masterful hijacking of language to advance their own agenda. Take two words like "empathy" and "liberal" and turn them into words middle America wants to run away from. This is one of the reasons they win more often than they should, and we misunderestimate them at our peril.

      Fall seven times, stand up eight ---Japanese proverb

      by camlbacker on Sat May 30, 2009 at 02:10:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think you may be right, muledriver, because, (9+ / 0-)

      IMO, the average citizen does not usually use, talk, or think in the semantics of "empathy."  It is a word that is not an every day part of our daily vocabulary, therefore, many may not be familiar with it or its meaning.  

      Of course, most people do FEEL empathy, but it may be more frequently described or framed in other words or phrases-- for example:  Doing unto others as we would have them do unto us; Walking a mile in someone else's shoes; Putting ourselves in someone else's place....

      So the word "empathy" does not call forth the negative connotations that the GOP hopes that it will.  Empathy, after all, is not instantly inflammatory like...say...SOCIALIST, MARXIST, RACIST, FASCIST, LIBERAL (heh), etc.  

      And, yet the really weird thing is, even the majority of dittoheads spewing out those "terms of hate" couldn't define what they mean to save their lives.  They just know that Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, et. al. use them, ergo they must be really, really bad, er, GOOD to label liberals and progressives with.

      Now, EMPATHY just doesn't have that same FLAIR, you know.   It just doesn't have the same ring to it.  So, EPIC FAIL.

    •  Empathy in Confucianism (7+ / 0-)

      The Master said, "Shan! One thing runs all through my Way." Master Zeng said, "Indeed." When the Master left, the disciples asked, "What did he mean by that?" Master Zeng said, "Our Master's Way is loyalty and empathy -- nothing more." (Analects 4:15)

      Zi Gong asked, "Is there one word that can be carried out all one's life?" The Master said, "There's 'empathy,' isn't there? What you don't want done to you, don't do to others." (Analects 15:24)

      Yao and Shun led the world with selflessness, and the people followed them in that. Jie and Zhou led the world with cruelty, and the people followed them in that. When their commands ran contrary to their own inclinations, the people didn't obey. Therefore noble people develop qualities in themselves before they seek those qualities in others, and they eliminate faults in themselves before those faults are eliminated in others. There's never been anyone who lacked empathy yet could see in others the qualities he treasured in himself. (Higher Learning 9)

      "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

      by Geenius at Wrok on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:58:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  In a matter of hours, Brooks goes from saying (9+ / 0-)

    it’s prudent to have judges who are cautious, incrementalist and minimalist.

    as a positive, to saying it's a negative in Sotomayor's case

    JUDY WOODRUFF: {snip}
    But, David, we just heard the professor, professor Cassell, say she is not somebody with great intellectual firepower.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, I -- I don't think it's affirmative action. And Mark talked about her record. I think it's pretty clear she is certainly smart enough to be on the court, certainly has the record to be on the court. She has got more experience as a judge than most nominees, I think all but one, actually having trial experience.

    And so I don't think that's an issue.

    (snip}
    They are not broad, abstract, theoretical decisions. Now, from the White House the word that you hear is modest, modest, modest. She is a minimalist. She is cautious. Don't be scared. She is very careful.

    And that actually is very consistent with what you hear on the other side from some of her opponents, which we just heard from professor Cassell, which is, she is fine, but she's not a great theoretician.

    http://www.pbs.org/...

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Sat May 30, 2009 at 01:59:57 PM PDT

  •  Your post is great (13+ / 0-)

    as yours always are.  I wish Democrats listened to you more!  Thanks!

    Don't believe everything you think.

    by EJP in Maine on Sat May 30, 2009 at 02:40:00 PM PDT

  •  Congrats on the new book, too (4+ / 0-)

    I know that you brought this up, not to sell your book, but to further the discussion.  I look forward to soaking it up.

    Justice, mercy, tolerance, hope, love, grace, and redemption are all Judeo-Christian values.

    by Benintn on Sat May 30, 2009 at 02:48:03 PM PDT

  •  Historically effected consciousness (5+ / 0-)

    That's really what is meant by "empathy" in decision making - an understanding that you, like me, are a product of historical accident and a person with unique experiences based on gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, etc.

    What this consciousness means, specifically, is that we all have blind spots but that we also have unique and powerful insights into truth because of our backgrounds and experiences.

    The fact that Sotomayor is a product of the Bronx public housing projects is a much more telling biographical fact than her identity as a Latina or Newyorkrican, as she'd call herself.

    Justice, mercy, tolerance, hope, love, grace, and redemption are all Judeo-Christian values.

    by Benintn on Sat May 30, 2009 at 02:52:42 PM PDT

    •  Growing up in poverty does not necessarily (6+ / 0-)

      mean someone will be more sensitive toward poor people.  Take Clarence Thomas, for example.

      Clarence Thomas was born in Pin Point, Georgia, a small, impoverished African American community. His family are descendents of American Slaves in the American South. His father left his family when he was two years old. After a house fire left them homeless, Thomas and his younger brother Myers were taken to Savannah, Georgia, where their mother worked as a domestic employee.

      From Wikipedia.

      "Most fools don't understand my worldview." - Ignatius J. Reilly

      by impygirl on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:09:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I never said it did (6+ / 0-)

        My point was that growing up poor gives you an awareness of what it means to grow up poor.

        I don't think Judge Sotomayor would claim to understand the plight of being a single mom - but she does know what it's like to grow up without a dad in the house.

        The real issue is - are we able to look beyond our personal perspectives?

        For Sotomayor (and for that matter, for Clarence Thomas), the answer is yes.

        But one of the unique things that Sotomayor understands (and that Clarence Thomas or Michael Steele does not) is that economic injustice and creates an inequality of power, and that part of the work of justice is to level the playing field by creating equal opportunity, not merely through identical treatment of all, but also through respect for the individual case.

        Jurisprudence is about understanding how to apply the totality of the law to a specific situation.  Sotomayor's life experience and her judicial ability help her to be able to do that.

        Justice, mercy, tolerance, hope, love, grace, and redemption are all Judeo-Christian values.

        by Benintn on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:23:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent analysis (11+ / 0-)

    Turning virtues into vices seems to be a conservative pattern.  And vice versa.

    Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

    by barbwires on Sat May 30, 2009 at 02:53:12 PM PDT

  •  Here's why it doesn't work (8+ / 0-)

    "Only a sociopath completely lacks empathy; the question is how you direct and cultivate it."

    Anti-empathy is pro-sociopath

    •  part of the dictionary definition of empathy is (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      linkage, Matt Z, Egalitare, addisnana

      'the imaganitive projection of a subjective state onto an object' and for that reason alone I believe it is a very highly charged word or concept because basically it can be imagined to believe anything the person using it wishes it to mean.

      To many it begins to mean a sense of entitlement and believing one is better than others.  It is being used, I believe, in the same sense that the accusation of 'elitist' was used against Obama during the campaign.  In that interpretation it was used pejoratively to mean that the person being accused got where they are by means of entitlement and preference and didn't deserve the leg up.

      It's all part of the level playing fields argument made by those who are against preferential treatment and believe we are all equal and can raise ourselves by our efforts without help from external sources.  It is at the absolute core of the difference in how Americans feel about themselves, at least as a European that is how it seems to me.

      So that is why it triggers such violent rejections of affirmative action, of feeling superior, ie better.

      The fact that white males have histrically been used to that position in American society from the very beginning when they were the only ones allowed to vote and make the decisiosn is considered irrelevant and imaterial.

      So Sotomayor is guilty on all fronts, of being a woman, being a minority and being smart, aaaaaand maybe above all of being a threat to white male dominance of the culture.

      I agree with Lakoff's definition but I believe (maybe wishful thinking) that they will in fact shoot themselves in the mouth with this tactic and that it will boomerang and destroy what little credibility they have left.  It's just too damn blatant for people of goodwill to tolerate. Its grossly unfair, and in the main Americans are basically a fair people.

      We'll see.

    •  The Democratic Socialist Party (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lirtydies, Jlukes, Matt Z

      vs. the Republican Sociopath Party!

      "I want to know if the president knows what a fucking asshole Don Rumsfeld is."--Bush Adviser on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Fran Townsend

      by big spoiled baby on Sat May 30, 2009 at 05:08:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Here we go again (11+ / 0-)

    Empathy = Bleeding Heart Liberal; he/she feels your pain - wants to spread it around.

    Racist = threat to MY race, my social group, my class

    Activist = change in a direction I don't like

    Fear & Smear - for when you've got nothing else.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:03:00 PM PDT

  •  What Obama meant (11+ / 0-)

    So far as I can see, from his books, Obama is using it an anthropological sense. Not surprising given that his mother was an anthropologist. That means the capacity to get inside of another person's or culture's way of reasoning. I suspect that the main application he had in mind is that we ought to empathize better with Republicans and conservatives.  This is the fundamental Taoist virtue. It is what Paul had in mind when he said that of the three,faith hope and charity. Charity is the greatest. Recently it's been translated as love, but I think empathy might be the best word for what Paul meant. Take a Republican to lunch. That's empathy  

  •  Republicans better be careful what they wish for. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kingubu, linkage, Matt Z

    Sotomayer is by and large a moderate. While the Repubes try to make her look like a raging liberal the facts do not bear that out.

    If they manage to derail her nomination Obama will probably go with Kagan or Wood, both of whom are more "liberal" than Sotomayor.

    "Most fools don't understand my worldview." - Ignatius J. Reilly

    by impygirl on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:04:25 PM PDT

    •  Even more than that... (7+ / 0-)

      ... by screaming ZOMG TEH LIBRUUUUL over a a relatively moderate judge, they almost ensure that no one listens if and when Obama does pick a substantially more liberal justice.

      Assuming he's re-elected and given the ages of the current sitting justices, its not inconceivable that Pres. Obama could appoint up to 4 members to the court. It'll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

      The goal is not to bring your adversaries to their knees but to their senses. -- Mahatma Gandhi

      by kingubu on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:13:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  She's not that "moderate" (4+ / 0-)

      in their eyes; they have no ability to "derail" this; if by some wild happenstance they did, it wouldn't matter because they have already said they will "derail" ANYONE Obama appoints, which pretty much weakens their case. Ultimately, Rush and Newt have no vote, so she will be easily confirmed, and the gOP will have lost the Hispanic vote totally for another couple of decades.

      Rob Portman: He sent your job to China.

      by anastasia p on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:25:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not to mention driving away Hispanics n/t (4+ / 0-)

      Be good to each other. It matters.

      by AllisonInSeattle on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:58:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think all this fuss is about (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hopeful, AllisonInSeattle

      objecting to empathy. I think it is latent racism and sexism that exists in the minds of some folks. These talking heads are giving them the o.k. to express those feelings. How else can you explain Sam Alito saying almost the exact same thing during his confirmation hearings, and there was silence. When the Ricco case is discussed it is always about Sotomayor ruling against "white men" hardly ever is it mentioned that there was a hispanic firefighter suing as well.
      There is anger out there that Barack Obama is our President, anger that is difficult to express, since the last President screwed things up so badly and because Barack Obama was the Democratic nominee he was the only course anyone could take towards change. In ultra right wing conservative minds, an African American would never, ever be elected President of the U.S., he was, and they are blown away by this. You can hear it every day when you tune into Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, or Glenn Beck. Sure they try to cover it up by saying he is a socialist and much too liberal for America, but that is not what they really mean.
      Sonia Sotomayor is a wonderful target for them, she is Hispanic, and a female. They feel they can dump on her and get away with it and don't have to cover up their racism or sexism. The only thing that would make them feel even more justified was if she was Hispanic, female and gay. To bigoted people that is the trifecta.
      What angers me more than anything else is the way the media is picking up on this and playing on the concerns of a minority of people, as if this was a credible argument and a reason to question the competence of a Supreme Court justice. I find this even more frustrating than the remarks made by the Limbaughs, Hannitys and Becks. It takes their bullshit and makes it mainstream.

  •  Thanks so much for this (5+ / 0-)

    I hope Obama and others in his administration keep listening to you.
       What you say about Democrats not understanding the way the brain works is unfortunately true of most Americans who get so little education about the brain and mind, either in school or afterwards.

    You don't get to keep democracy unless you fight for it.

    by artebella on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:06:51 PM PDT

  •  Quoting yourself is lame but... (7+ / 0-)

    ... a comment I made in another thread earlier in the week seems relevant here:

    Empathy-- the ability put yourself in another's shoes (and the will, learning, and emotional resources to do so)-- is the beginning of human rights. The notion that humans matter and the ideas of justice, equality, and the common and individual good that flow from that notion are the very foundation of our political system.

    By showing themselves to be disdainful of empathy and its role as the mechanism the judicial keepers of the Constitution use to connect the abstractions of law with the practical realities of everyday life, conservatives reveal themselves to be fundamentally opposed to the very core of democracy.

    The goal is not to bring your adversaries to their knees but to their senses. -- Mahatma Gandhi

    by kingubu on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:07:21 PM PDT

  •  2 right wing... (12+ / 0-)

    ..talking points I don't get:

    1. Activist judge.  Does that mean Republicans prefer non-activist judges?  So what is the upside of being a non-activist judge?  Besides being an inert knot on a log who passively go along with the crowd?
    1. She'll legislate from the bench. Didn't  the Supreme Court "legislate from the bench" when they undermined Democracy & handed Herbert Walker Bush's little boy the 2001 election?  I would think that would be the ultimate example of legislating from the bench.  Plus, ironically,  that's an instance when legislating from the bench gave Republicans what they wanted.

    Dear no hearings on torture because of political theater: Sonia Sotomayor called & wants her "you've got to be fucking kidding me" back.

    by wyvern on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:08:10 PM PDT

  •  Our goal should be to (6+ / 0-)

    Shrink the size of radical conservatism so much that we can drown it in the bathtub.
    I want to feel their pain.

  •  Empathy - a character trait (9+ / 0-)

    that was recently promoted in our local schools and community.

    In Mediation empathy is essential for the process to be effective.  It does not mean agreeing with someone, but rather understanding the basis of the other's feelings, thoughts and actions.

    I can see why some Republicans argue against empathy... they have no concept of it!

    I have found that it is very difficult for folks who have no experience of other peoples' cultures or backgrounds to be able to understand their point of view, but rather judge it. Too often the "majority society" does not have empathy toward those of minority groups, yet to live in our society the minority must develop empathy in order to survive.

    In this case however, I believe that the Republicans are deliberately attacking the virtue (shades of Karl Rove) simply to promote their own agenda.

    One Washington-Gregoire! One Country-Obama!

    by yakimagrama on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:12:34 PM PDT

  •  attacks (15+ / 0-)

    And if progressives think conservative attacks are just about Sotomayor, they may wind up helping conservatives regroup.

    Actually, I think the opposite is occuring:  Progressives know the conservative attacks have virtually nothing to do with Sotomayor.

    "To hell with the rich. They made me sick." - Philip Marlowe

    by Roddy McCorley on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:25:04 PM PDT

  •  Empathy is (7+ / 0-)

    the very thing Hannah Arendt accused Adolf Eichmann of lacking. It is, essentially, the inability to think. A must read, in this sense is Arendt's The Life of the Mind.

    "Americans wish to be settled. Only so far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them" -Emerson.

    by kfd313 on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:32:34 PM PDT

  •  Conservative attacks alienate women & Latinos (6+ / 0-)

    So far the conservative attacks have backfired because they appeal to the base but they don't appeal to the middle and to the fastest growing ethnic group in America.

    "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:41:54 PM PDT

  •  Shown often to be true: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Garrett, sockpuppet, linkage, Pris from LA

    most Democrats grew up with and still believe a view of reason that has been shown [...] to be false. The sciences of mind have shown that real reason is largely unconscious, requires emotion, uses "models" (frames, metaphors, narratives)

    There is usually a large following that keeps saying to the effect of "just put the truth out there" and we'll win. I truly believe people are a bit more complicated than that.

    -- We are just regular people informed on issues

    by mike101 on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:46:47 PM PDT

  •  I'd been thinking about the golden rule recently (10+ / 0-)

    It seems to me that simply doing unto others as you would have others do unto is not sufficient. Rather, we should strive not to allow others to have done unto them what we wouldn't allow be done unto ourselves. I like to think that's what progressivism is really about.

    Well Dave, I'm sorry that I'm not as enlightened as you are. I can't love my enemies. And gay-bashers are my enemies, as are racists. That's that.

    by PLCOT on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:51:27 PM PDT

  •  What's missing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    canyonrat, linkage

    to me is the concept of limited governmental powers largely lined out in the bill of rights.  In the last 20-30 years or so we have lost that dichotomy entirely mostly due to the focus on Roe v. Wade.   There has been enormous encroachment of Federal Government in areas best left to the states (e.g. Biggest activity of our local Fed DA is in the area of sex crimes -- an area certainly better left to local jurisdictions.)

    Ron Paul for SCOTUS

  •  Liddy thinks 54-year-old women menstruate? (7+ / 0-)

    Whoa, buddy, how about joining the real world?

    That's scary in and of itself.

    Be good to each other. It matters.

    by AllisonInSeattle on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:57:52 PM PDT

    •  Any woman menstruates (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      linkage, Pris from LA

      Hence, all are polluted.

      Liddy's not an original thinker on this score, sad to say...

      Radarlady

    •  Is that the only thing (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      linkage, Matt Z, Pris from LA

      you picked up out of this diary?  You are not very well informed.  I'm 55 and I still menstruate, the average age for menopause is 54.  Now read that diary again and see if you can learn something worthwhile.

      "Life is a tragedy for those who feel, a comedy for those who think" - Jean de la Bruyere

      by Tinuviel on Sat May 30, 2009 at 04:16:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for my instructions to go back (0+ / 0-)

        and read again. It's rare that comments come with instructions as to what to do with your next few minutes.

        Instead I googled "menopause onset":

        Five sites said "51". One said "50 or 51".

        A study in Italy of 3,000 women noted that birth month had an actual effect on when women entered menopause. (Go figure.) Women in that study average age for entering was 48 years 9 months for March birthday, and 50 years, 3 months, if born in October. Average of all: 49.2 years.
        http://www.seattlepi.com/...

        National Institute of Health:

        The average age of a woman having her last period, menopause, is 51.

        However, a study in India found:

        The age at onset of menopause in northern India is 48 years which is about 3 years earlier than the west. Socio-demographic and reproductive factors did not affect the age at onset of menopause in our study.

        http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/...

        With all that out of the way, the comment should have said, "Liddy thinks all 54-yr-old women menstruate?"

        Be good to each other. It matters.

        by AllisonInSeattle on Sat May 30, 2009 at 11:48:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  What's really bizarre (4+ / 0-)

      is that this is on his mind at all. We might as well say that guys might get distracted because they have erections. The right needs to get sex off their minds which I know is difficult since they have to repress so many aspects of it to line up with their professed "family values."

      Rob Portman: He sent your job to China.

      by anastasia p on Sat May 30, 2009 at 04:57:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It doesn't matter... (3+ / 0-)

      Truth isn't the issue.  Nor is rationality.  The goal is, as Lakoff points out, to illegitimize the progressive agenda.  

      Liddy is using a misogyny and racism to attack empathy, to characterize it as emotion.  It doesn't matter if she menstruates or not.  He's attacking her for being an emotional Latina, and the truth of that attack is not the point.  

      •  Well said. (more) (0+ / 0-)

        I was going to say "The women are coming, The women are coming, Run for your lives!!!"... but that seemed so sexually tinged.

        I agree, it's framing all right. But I also think they are scared out of their fruit of the looms (or boxers) about losing their white male privilege.

        Be good to each other. It matters.

        by AllisonInSeattle on Sat May 30, 2009 at 11:51:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  great diary. highly recommended ! thanks. nt. (4+ / 0-)
  •  Sotomayour will be confirmed (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, linkage, Pris from LA, mrchumchum

    that I think is envietable.

    If for no other reason then Republicans in Arizona, NV, Colorado, FL, Texas and else where want to stay in office.

    And pissing off hispanics is not good for that.

    That said, I fundmentally disagree, we do not need to attack.

    The GOP is so ridiculous that it is destroying itself.

    A song about life
    Why aren't you more like Gandhi? Why aren't I?

    by drache on Sat May 30, 2009 at 04:27:17 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for posting this (5+ / 0-)

    My response got a little out of hand since I'm into cog-sci myself so I killed it and will just go with the the thanks.

    ---
    Fight the stupid! Boycott BREAKING diaries!

    by VelvetElvis on Sat May 30, 2009 at 04:31:35 PM PDT

  •  Thank You - N/T (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pris from LA, Words In Action, mollyk

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Sat May 30, 2009 at 04:57:54 PM PDT

  •  This is about corporate rule vs popular rule (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pris from LA, Words In Action

    It's also about manipulation. We don't have a liberal or conservative media; we have a corporate media. That's not to say that the media isn't almost 100% ruled by conservative people. They are.

    "Incidentally, Democrats are walking into the Gingrich trap. I heard Ed Schultz defending Sotomayor by saying over and over why she was “not a racist,” and using the word “racist” next to her name repeatedly. It was like Nixon saying, ”I am not a crook.” When Democrats make that mistake, I sometimes wonder why I bothered to write Don’t Think of an Elephant!"

    Does the author think Ed Schultz didn't repeat the word racist and the name Sotomayor together on purpose? That's exactly what he did.

  •  Um, sure, but there's nothing REMOTELY... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pris from LA

    new about this.

    It's not sneaky. Everybody is well aware of it.

  •  These attacks seem highly uncoordinated (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pris from LA, eean

    There has been a lot of screaming, but not the message discipline I used to associate with Republicans. Empathy, racist, intellectually weak, scary woman, ... some are almost mutually exclusive and others are head scratchers. I see mostly the old guard of Republicans just seeing a chance to get airtime and keep themselves in people's minds in case no leader emerges.

    •  It's the frame... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pris from LA, addisnana

      The message may not be disciplined, but the consistency of the frame is the danger for progressives.  

      Democrats consistently allow the Conservatives to frame the issues ("Pro-Life" or the closing of Gitmo, for example).  The Sotomayor debate is another case of Conservatives controlling the frame, and allowing their memes (Activist Judges, for example) to infuse the body politic.  

    •  I don't know about this (0+ / 0-)

      I think it is extremely disiplined, I think they are playing, "good cop/bad cop". They are letting the non-elected officials do all the screaming while those Senators who are to come up for re-election appear to be the calm minds here. However, I doubt many will vote to confirm Sotomayor, they dare not or they will face the rath of Limbaugh. I think if we are wise, we will force these elected officials to denounce Limbaugh, Gingrich and all the rest of these screaming heads. They will not do that, just as they will never vote to confirm Sotomayor.

  •  GOP frames w/a nail gun- dems have rocks (4+ / 0-)

    the reference to limbaugh by obama, what gore and kerry should have done, has  split things a bit in the GOP because their main media operatives are being associated with him now, though that relationship used to be invisible.

    but the 1000 station strong radio monopoly is left largely undisturbed to do one hell of a lot of framing. prof lakoff lays out their strategy but the only way the GOP  actually has an advantage  is with their talk radio monopoly. it should be a priority of dems/liberals/environmentalists/unions/health care activists if they want  to get much done without serious compromise.

    ignoring the talk radio monopoly continues to be the biggest political blunder in decades

    by certainot on Sat May 30, 2009 at 05:36:43 PM PDT

    •  Amen. Why dealing with media consolidation (0+ / 0-)

      and lack of doing so is so important.

      But of course that would mean embracing anti-trust regulation and FCC regulation, which DLC-types are loathe to do. And Obama has cast his lot with the DLC-types. (I say DLC-types because the DLC has many more adherents than members.)

      They tortured people to get false confessions to fraudulently justify their fraudulent invasion of Iraq.

      by Words In Action on Sun May 31, 2009 at 08:54:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  'DLC types' = limbaugh dems? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Words In Action

        do you mean corporate, 'free market', conservative dems, blue dogs?

        But of course that would mean embracing anti-trust regulation and FCC regulation, which DLC-types are loathe to do.

        because these are also dems who i think are greatly effected by the talk radio monopoly and the disinformed 'constituency' it can mobilize to pressure and intimidate and enable those politicians and their friends- especially in teh red states.

        the enabling part is a big factor- the instantaneous popularizing and making acceptable of framing, talking points and one-liners related to  particular momentary issues through sheer volume dominance in red states especially, piggy backing on long term framing set up by years of uncontested repetition by limbaugh and sons, sets up a red velvet bandwagon for the lazy free marketeers and others trying to keep up the funding.

        it may be that when progressives realize the important role talk radio has played in getting us into this mess they might start seeing their local RW talk radio stations as the centers of local, state, and national GOP power and the places to call complain boycott and picket, along with their local sponsors, when they want to send a message to their limbaugh (blue dog) dems, as well as GOP politicians.

        those invisible radio stations have done the groundwork deception and disinformation and swiftboating for getting us into this mess and when they become visible, as limbaugh has become, the politicians they enable- including those 'DLC types' might have to choose between their real constituents and limbaugh/hannity/beck..

        ignoring the talk radio monopoly continues to be the biggest political blunder in decades

        by certainot on Sun May 31, 2009 at 09:27:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Empathy is not a quality that is relevant to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    canyonrat

    being a Supreme Court Justice.  It's not.  

    The door needs to be held open for excellence, not tender hearted judges.  The door needs to be shut for empathy and racially biased favoritism.   Judge judges on the content of their recorda of impartiality, not on the empathetic nature of their decisions.  
    I am a lawyer.  A white, Irish Catholic lawyer.  I am sick and tired of judges who think that I or my adversary need help because of what we or our clients look like.  I don't need any help.  

    Judge, if you are fair, I can kick my adversaries ass with one hand tied behind my back.  

    The scales of justice should not be weighed down by anything other than the merit of the parties' respective positions, no matter how much a judge sympathizes with either litigant.  Empathy is irrelevant and a quality that impairs good judging.

    Having credibility when making an argument is the straightest path to persuasion.

    by SpamNunn on Sat May 30, 2009 at 05:45:51 PM PDT

    •  INAL, but it seems to me (0+ / 0-)

      that what you're referring to is more sympathy than empathy.  Empathy is not about tenderhearted compassion.  Empathy is the ability to understand another person's motivation and feelings. . .the sort of thing that enables us to understand the difference between, say, premeditated murder and a crime of passion.  

      "I want to know if the president knows what a fucking asshole Don Rumsfeld is."--Bush Adviser on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Fran Townsend

      by big spoiled baby on Sat May 30, 2009 at 07:20:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Appellate Court judges don't make findings of (0+ / 0-)

        fact.   They rule on procedural issues and the proper application of the law.   Empathy has no role in that process.  

        Having credibility when making an argument is the straightest path to persuasion.

        by SpamNunn on Sat May 30, 2009 at 07:39:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Just trying to point out (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kingubu

          that there is a difference between empathy and sympathy because you mentioned judges that sympathize with litigants.  

          I really think that the Republicans who are pushing this meme are hoping that many Americans won't know the difference between the two words and will think that empathy = bleeding heart liberalism.

          "I want to know if the president knows what a fucking asshole Don Rumsfeld is."--Bush Adviser on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Fran Townsend

          by big spoiled baby on Sat May 30, 2009 at 07:50:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  If you view of the law were correct... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sybil Liberty

      ... if it were simply a matter of Is dotted and Ts crossed, we wouldn't need appellate judges in the first place. The whole system could be automated.

      Yes, procedural matters do come before appellate courts but very often the cases involves questions of legal interpretation, edge-cases not explicitly anticipated by (but arguably relevant to) the controlling law, application of a given law in view of precedent, etc, etc. Matters that require human judgment.

      The goal is not to bring your adversaries to their knees but to their senses. -- Mahatma Gandhi

      by kingubu on Sat May 30, 2009 at 08:35:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The empathy Obama spoke for in Sotomayer is not (0+ / 0-)

      personal feeling like the Republican frame you're concerned about, but rather empathy for average working people... as opposed to the empathy for the rich that the current court majority holds.

      That's been stated repeatedly by Obama that he's seeking the empathy that comes from not forgetting where you came from.

      Children in the U.S... detained [against] intl. & domestic standards." --Amnesty Internati

      by doinaheckuvanutjob on Sat May 30, 2009 at 11:50:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's not the point (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Leftcandid

      The crux of this argument is not that a Supreme Court justice must have empathy, but rather the fact that right wingers are attempting to demonize empathy altogether - which, if successful, would bring with it implications far beyond our political discourse.

      Empathy is a critical component of a healthy democracy. Interpeting the law as it is written is not what is at stake here - progressives and conservatives both agree on that principle (it is just a matter of how they actually perceive the law itself).

      But if we have a citizenery opposed to the concept of empathy - perhaps the ultimate goal of conservatives - then, we give licenses to lawmakers to write laws that institutional tyranny.

      The right wingers aren't opposed to judges with empathy. They are opposed to empathy itself.

    •  Empathy is supremely relevant to judging. (0+ / 0-)

      It'd be hard to propose that any judge could be fair without empathy.  Lawyers shouldn't have empathy for their legal adversary, but lawyers are supposed to do anything legal to win.  Judges are supposed to deliver a fair ruling, not simply compute facts via legal formulas.  They're not computers, and thank God for that.

      Empathy is not equivalent to a sympathy that emerges as some unpredictable counterweight to a stronger legal argument.  They are related but not synonymous.

      I think you have a stronger point about appellate court rulings specifically, but on the Supreme Court, empathy is a major plus in envisioning the spirit of law in addition to its letter.

  •  Smart article (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pris from LA, Words In Action

    Professor Lakoff is correct.  President Obama's highlighting of empathy is dangerous, since there is still great residual belief that democrats are by nature squishy on matters of criminal justice, and since there is the continuing meme that the dems are a party of rich urban snobs united with nasty, dark "others" who want to steal jobs from the imperiled white male.  That's why the right wingers can use the word "empathic" to describe Alito or Thomas (!!!):  nobody thinks they are pro-criminal and nobody believes they are on the side of minorities or women, so nobody reads their "empathy" as a threat to the establishment.  

    I suspect that by "empathic", Obama was thinking of judges who wouldn't vote to strike down equal pay laws, or OSHA regulations protecting working class people from injuries. And probably judges who would not vote to uphold sodomy laws and do so in gratuitiously cruel language (as White did in Hardwick v Bowers in 1986, or Scalia in 2004).  I doubt he was thinking of empathy toward murderers.

  •  They don't have a problem with empathy... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pris from LA

    They are simply advancing their core racist ideas and code talking to their base. Empathy is this time around wrong because Democrats are empathetic with minorities. Of course, it isn't about minorities but about average America, we know that. But they need to redefine it so as to survive. Having empathy thus means being for affirmative action, favoring migrants over Lou Dobbs, and so forth. So they are talking to their base, and probably thinking they might perhaps raise some support from peripheral white Americans.

    In doing this they are of course digging themselves deeper into the historic hole they inhabit.

  •  I am less empathetic (0+ / 0-)

    now to the people on the  Right Wing than I have ever been. Does this mean they win? Have they destroyed the ability for people to feel their pain, and therefore destroyed empathy as a liberal value?

    Childish games. They are asking us, "Really, how much do you care?" They won't like my answer. This is like sibling rivalry....

    Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

    by OregonOak on Sat May 30, 2009 at 06:42:12 PM PDT

    •  It is interesting, but I remember when (0+ / 0-)

      Limbaugh had his bout with drug abuse, and as much of a shithead as he was, he did receive empathy from progressives, an empathy he was never able to feel for anyone. You might be on to something here, these people are so hateful, it makes it really difficult to feel empathy for them, not only so hateful, but calculated and everything they do seems to target simply seizing power and not necessarily doing the right thing.

  •  She has empathy...for insurance companies (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    White Buffalo, Words In Action

    Christ, no wonder we never get anywhere these days.
    Another middle of the roader who just fine with the corporate-labor status quo.

    Unless this woman changes in a big way, the Court continues to drift right.

    Obama used to be for single payer before he came out against it.

    by formernadervoter on Sat May 30, 2009 at 06:48:47 PM PDT

  •  Yes I agree that the danger, as seen by the (0+ / 0-)

    right wing, is that empathy will trump the sociopathy that is used to take us to war for profit and incarcerate people to fill up for profit jails and to run the machinery of a super power which benefits the very wealthy.

    I wrote a short diary recently that said that if anyone can turn Justice (Pinoccio) Roberts into a real boy with a heart sypathetic to the concerns of average people over the powerful corporate interests, it would be Sonia Sotomayer.
    http://www.dailykos.com/...

  •  Funny ... it all comes down to Goldern Rule (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    417els, Words In Action

    I'm not religious. I probably wander between atheist and agnostic.

    But about one religious teaching, my views are passionate and absolute. The Golden Rule. I learned it in Sunday School. I have tried to live it to the best of my ability.

    It is arguably the most fundamental common teaching of all the worlds' religions. As far as I'm concerned, you can take the 10 Commandments and label them extraneous and verbose.

    Strip them down and aren't they all just the Golden Rule.

    Yet the Golden Rule is the one tenent most frequently and most utterly desecrated by the Limbaugh/Liddy/Hannity wing of the Republican party - and by the base that supports them.

    -2.38 -4.87: Damn, I love the smell of competence in the morning!

    by grapes on Sat May 30, 2009 at 08:24:56 PM PDT

  •  Anita Hill on Sotomayor....very cool...adult. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, mollyk

    There's a great interview in Essence with Anita Hill on the Sotomayor nomination. Hill specifically addresses the real content of Sotomayor's comment about her background making her more aware of consequences of the law than a white male who has never confronted bias, his own or anyone else's.

    "It means she's going to be aware of who she is and understand how that plays in her decision-making, but she is also going to be quite aware of the rule of law and have great respect for the rule of law, and be able to apply it. We are enriched in the judiciary by having both those concepts in one person, and so what some people have found troubling about her I actually find refreshingly candid and self-aware."

  •  I love the Sotomayor selection!!! m. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Vera Lofaro

    She is a no-nonsense judge who sticks up for every day people.

    I hope she is conformed.

    My daughter is a United States Marine.

    by sylvien on Sat May 30, 2009 at 08:35:34 PM PDT

    •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sylvien

      she seems so regular, I feel as if I had her knowledge of the law and experience, I would make similar decisions. That is what I love most about this selection by Obama, she is everyman on the Supreme court. He is our advocate in the White House, she will be our advocate in the courts. I think you mean confirmed, not conformed, we don't want her to conform, but stay herself.

  •  PLEASE Hire Someone To Do Soundbites for your (0+ / 0-)

    stuff.

    I do NOT understand how you can tear their fucking lies apart,

    BUT you can't OR you won't get

    EASY to say EASY to remember counter-soundbites?

    One of the key components of their fucking lies is that they make things easy and simple

    cuz easy and simple WORK.

    we need the same AND we need our blankies ... I mean our grad school goddam tomes.

    rmm.

    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

    by seabos84 on Sat May 30, 2009 at 08:54:14 PM PDT

    •  Clearly, it is more complicated than this (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mollyk

      if you believe in "the truth" (which is on "our" side) and "lies" (which are on "their" side), you are advocating a repetition of the same mistakes Prof. Lakoff is trying to remedy.

      •  You ARE completely wrong. soundbites do NOT (0+ / 0-)

        have to be lies.

        when the fascists use them, they're lies.

        so fucking what.

        EVERYTHING they do is a goddam lie, get over it.

        Effective Soundbites WORK because

        they are easy to remember,
        they are easy to repeat.

        A certain subset of the educated, relatively affluent, involved non-fascist voting crowd is never going to vote fascist. Unfortuneately, part of their identity is wrapped up in their I-shoulda-been-a-Professor 'intellectual' superiority complex where they think politics is some kind of George Kennan / Teddy White Great Game - the biggest tome is the baddest tome and the bestest tome.

        We need MORE than the NPR holier than everyone else crowd to vote anti-fascist to beat the fascists.  Given that I've lived in Boston or Seattle for the last 30 years AND have been a working stiff, NOT someone living in a nice neighborhood with my professional job and my subsidized by grampa housing, I'm a VERY familiar with the subset I speak of.

        Politics is NEVER going to be "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington", grow up.  Save your daydreaming for your salons and parlor games and your grad school seminars. While it is critical to understand the multiple levels their fucking lies operate on, in order to beat their fucking lies, I want to kick their fucking asses, which requires more than TOMES detailing how their soundbites are a bunch of fucking lies, YAWN, again.  

        rmm.

        Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

        by seabos84 on Sun May 31, 2009 at 06:24:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It is not always about soundbites and easy (0+ / 0-)

      sometimes it is about truth and sometimes it takes more than simply soundbites to get the truth out. Barack Obama never employed soundbites, he never talked down to people, he explains his position, and respects people, in turn people respect him for doing this. I think we are moving beyond sound bite politics.

      •  he SPEAKS in soundbites, listen, it is NOT (0+ / 0-)

        the way it is written.

        he breaks complex stuff into easy to digest pieces.

        listen to his speeches, don't read the inept transcriptions written to appease the grad school clueless propellerhead audience.

        rmm.

        Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

        by seabos84 on Sun May 31, 2009 at 09:04:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think he speaks in less sound bites than (0+ / 0-)

          any other politician. I think he doesn't really talk down to people, he expects they will understand what he is saying without an interperter. When I think back to the Inaugration speech and the commentary before, all the talking heads expected some one liner they could associate with Obama, he didn't really give them one, just a bunch of stuff that made sense and spoke to all of us. They were looking for sound bites, he was giving a well thought out speech. "yes we can" was simply a campaign slogan, sure he incorporated it into one of his speeches, but the speech was more meaningful than the sound bite of "yes we can".
          This morning I was channel surfing the early morning talk shows, they all come on the same time in So. California. I caught David Brooks on Face the Nation, of course they were talking about Judge Sotomayor, and he said he researched some of her opinions, he also said over the 100 cases she had on discrimination she ruled against them. In his opinion he thought she was interperting the law and none of her life experiences effected her decisions. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't, I didn't take the time to review all her cases, but what he was saying was she is no racist, or "reverse racisist". So although it might sound like a sound bite, it has no basis in fact, and one would think in order for a sound bite to be the least bit effective, it needs to be grounded in fact.
          These idiots on the right are just manufacturing excuses for racism and sexism, it is as simple as that, and the sooner they are exposed for doing just that the better off we will all be.

          •  exposing them with TOMES does NOT f'ing work (0+ / 0-)

            and if it did willie horton would have beaten dukakis. gore OBVIOUSLY would have been a better president than that asshole bush, as would have kerry - what did THE TRUTH do for them beating the liars?

            so, if people use easy to understand phrases and easy to understand phrasing, THEN they're talking down to their audience. bullshit.

            by the way, here is an EDITED version of how barack delivers his speeches - and it NOT in grad school application kerry-esque bullshit.

            "The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity

            and the still waters of peace.
            Yet, every so often

            the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.

            At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office,

            but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears,

            and true to our founding documents.

            So it has been.

            So it must be with this generation of Americans.

            That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood.

            Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.

            Our economy is badly weakened,

            a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some

            but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

            Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered.

            Our health care is too costly,

            our schools fail too many,

            and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

            These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics.

            Less measurable, but no less profound,

            is a sapping of confidence across our land;

            a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable,

            that the next generation must lower its sights.

            Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real,

            they are serious and they are many.

            They will not be met easily or in a short span of time.

            But know this America: They will be met.

            Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

            by seabos84 on Sun May 31, 2009 at 02:57:27 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Why did Obama frame the empathy argument? (0+ / 0-)

    He usually doesn't make stupid mistakes. And instead of backing off on it. he re-emphasized it.
    Why did he do that. I thought it was because he wanted to get the American people thinking differently than the Cons do. Did it backfire?

  •  I suspect that Obama will give a major speech (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doinaheckuvanutjob, pamelabrown, ARS

    sometime this summer, just before the confirmation hearings begin, about justice, democracy and the American dream, and how empathy is one of the threads that connects and holds it all together. This is how he operates, first putting something out there for both sides to debate, then jumping in and putting his unique and increasingly authoritative stamp on it, reframing it according to his view, and not allowing others to do it for him, according to their view. He did this with his Philadelphia speech on race in America, and with his recent speech on national security.

    He generally doesn't make rhetorical mistakes, and I believe that when he used the word "empathy", it was purposeful, deliberate and strategic. He knew that the right would attack it, and he intended for them to attack it. Then, having once again defined themselves as anti-empathy, in case we needed to be reminded of it after 8 years of non-empathy, he will embarrass them and define them as being outside the American traditions of justice, democracy, fairness and community. He will hoist them on their own petard, and they will have helped him do this: draw them out, cut them off.

    Also, I don't believe that empathy is at the heart of democracy, per se. At the heart of liberal democracy, the kind that we aspire to and which this country was founded on (in theory at least) and expanded upon over the years, yes. But not democracy in general, which has many forms, not all of which are necessarily liberal and empathic, e.g. Greek or Roman democracy, which were elitist, or even our original form of democracy, which was basically by and for rich landed white Christian men. But we have moved in the direction of liberal democracy over the years, in fits and starts, and many reversals, and liberal democracy is definitely about empathy, in many ways.

    Anyway, I think that Obama is slowly trying to tranform how this country thinks of itself and operates, in a more generally liberal direction, but still captalistic, and has a long-term strategy for making it happen. And part of that involves reframing how we talk and think about ourselves, our values, our goals, our heritage and history and shared experiences, and, yes, our feelings. He's suckering the right into this, and they're falling for it, just as Reagan suckered the left into adopting the right's frames 25 years ago. He's making it harder and harder to oppose liberalism and its values, and easier and easier to embrace them. It won't happen overnight, but it's happening.

    Of course, I could be totally wrong, or this could all fail. We'll see.

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president!" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Sat May 30, 2009 at 09:37:13 PM PDT

  •  If judges can't have personal feelings... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MagisterLudi, cactusflinthead

    ... why not do away with judges and just use computers?

    Evolution IS Intelligent Design!

    by msirt on Sat May 30, 2009 at 10:20:55 PM PDT

    •  Spok would agree (0+ / 0-)

      until Kirk showed him how valuable emotions were in the logical decision making process.

      :-)

      "When we begin relying on the Internet for all of our news and information we will turn into a nation of zombies." -Neil Postman

      by ARS on Sun May 31, 2009 at 09:17:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I read it all (0+ / 0-)

    and was pretty underwhelmed.

  •  Sotomayor, Reagan and democracy (0+ / 0-)

    The buried nugget of a Jed Lewison research project is a must see video of Reagan promising to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court and doing it as promised with O'Connor.

    The current right wing GOP which worships at the feet of clay statues of Reagan would, by their current standards, be accusing Reagan of same "reverse sexism" they accuse Obama of practicing.

    While I don't forgive Reagan the multiple disasters his idiotic policies created and which we are living with today, in retrospect I do give him credit for carving out a Court seat for a woman judge and then following through with O'Connor who turned out to be pretty good, especially and putting a short leash on the right wingers who she was supposed to be partners with.

    •  Why? He did this to make conservatism look more (0+ / 0-)

      friendly and diverse, not because he believed in or supported women ... what you are saying makes no sense and is historically inaccurate. You need to look at the whole picture of why Reagan chose her, not what he said the reasons were.

  •  "The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, (2+ / 0-)

    Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States...". So states Article III of the Constitution. While we discuss rule of law, settled law, and so-called judicial activism, we seldom discuss cases of equity, or fairness, that the Courts are also supposed to decide. Courts of equity had their roots in the English Court of the Chancery, which rendered decisions based upon equity and fairness rather than the letter of the law. Courts of equity provided citizens with some recourse to harsh or unfair laws. These courts were expected to be understanding and merciful, dare I say empathetic to those who appeared before them. Portia's empassioned plea ("The quality of mercy is not strained...") to the court for mercy in The Merchant of Venice is an example of such a case. The saying, "to throw oneself on the mercy of the court" has it roots in the courts of equity, for the courts had not only the power to condemn, but also to forgive. There has been a relentless campaign to limit this aspect of the Court's powers by requiring mandatory sentences for crimes and by charges of judicial activism.

    When Republicans complain of activist judges, they wish to construe the Court's duty to see that justice is done, with political activism. Our tradition of English law and the Constitution have charged the judiciary not only with determining whether the law has been broken, but with seeing that justice is tempered with mercy and fairness. In other words, we must have empathetic, activist judges who do not merely hand down sentences, but who make decisions that advance our concepts of a fair society. The Founders understood that our system of laws is imperfect and that following the letter of the law was not necessarily the same thing as following the spirit of the law. And so they gave the judiciary the power to deal with cases of law and equity without stating a preference for either. Their intent was to see that justice was done.

    Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers:

    It has also been asked, what need of the word "equity"? What equitable causes can grow out of the Constitution and laws of the United States? There is hardly a subject of litigation between individuals, which may not involve those ingredients of FRAUD, ACCIDENT, TRUST, or HARDSHIP, which would render the matter an object of equitable rather than of legal jurisdiction, as the distinction is known and established in several of the States. It is the peculiar province, for instance, of a court of equity to relieve against what are called hard bargains: these are contracts in which, though there may have been no direct fraud or deceit, sufficient to invalidate them in a court of law, yet there may have been some undue and unconscionable advantage taken of the necessities or misfortunes of one of the parties, which a court of equity would not tolerate.

    We must not let the Republicans subvert the intent of the Founders to allow the judiciary to act to ensure fairness under our system of laws.

  •  Thanks for saying this. I often despair that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    amk for obama, mollyk

    progressives will ever learn these lessons. Whether it is justice, reason, truth, or image, the Dems consistently believe in a world that does not (materially) exist.

  •  We should act instead of reacting. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cactusflinthead

    Are we actually going to leave the brightest hopes of our weakened nemesis viable until they grow strong enough to beat us?

    The most helpful thing liberals and progressives can do right now with their time and money is to neutralize GOP attackers so that our President and legislators can heal our economy, workforce, and environment.

    We should neutralize key elected Rightists by doing enough op-res to expose and render them unelectable with substantive, well-managed efforts.  Then expose the best fruits of op-res against the Right's more influential pundits, rising stars, and "business experts."

    Take it to influential Rightists instead of debating their next low and divisive punch. Meanwhile, our President and legislators will rebuild America safer, fairer, healthier, and more prosperous.

    OUR AGENDA, NOT THEIRS.  OFFENSE, NOT DEFENSE.

    As tempting as it would be to demolish the public personae of Limbaugh, Liddy, Bachman, and perhaps one or two more, let us leave the criminally-insane elite of the Right right in front of news cameras.

    Cheney?  

    Try him publicly for war-crimes here in the United States.  Mete out full and just punishment publicly to re-establish the rule of law, not Executives.

    The meanest portion of the GOP is on the ropes.  We now need to expose how morally and legally craven even its brightest lights are.  We need to publicize any and all criminality and harmful personal hypocrisy of this GOP subset's most credible and influential voices.  

    These Rightists are chipping away at progress and Obama and every electoral advantage we currently enjoy, and I for one am tired of wasting time discussing what these anti-Americans sink to next.

    This is both politically smart and patriotic, as these few far-Right leaders clearly do not want to join our nation in working its way back from the brink of economic and environmental catastrophe.

  •  I got flipped off ... (3+ / 0-)

    ... at a rally for single-payer health insurance yesterday. She was probably late-50's, driving a late-model BMW. She must not have liked my sign that read "Equal Health Care for All". She leaned toward me as she drove by and shot me the finger.

    Now I've been wondering what it is about the idea of equal health care she doesn't like. Does she worry that she'll lose her better, privileged health care if others got the same as she does? Does she think we already have equal health care and my advocating change jeopardizes that? And that made her really angry. Not likely.

    Well, I understand why our representatives are willing to act against our interests when it comes to health insurance. They're acting for what they see as their own interests. They want the insurance co campaign contributions. They're also afraid of the companies' propaganda machine. So for most of them, it's not personal, just bidness.

    But the bird lady yesterday? There was something deep there. She wasn't just lacking empathy. The idea of empathy made her really, really mad.  

    •  Nah, she's just a rep for a pharmaceutical (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cactusflinthead, mrchumchum

      company who read Atlas Shrugged her sophomore year and assumed you were some sort of socialist/collectivist.  your rally interfered with her materially self-interested smugness. :)

      Q: Why does Grover Norquist want to drown the government in a bathtub? A: So he can replace it.

      by Snarky McAngus on Sun May 31, 2009 at 06:44:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Aristotle (or was it Socrates?) said: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wolf10

    Law is reason free from passion. I like to say that law is passion, within reason.

    Tonight I'm going to party like it's 1929.

    by Bensdad on Sun May 31, 2009 at 07:21:31 AM PDT

  •  Empathy is no rallying cry (0+ / 0-)

    A rallying cry needs a tangible link.  Empathy, for all of it's virtue, is vague and subjective.  

  •  Joan Of Arc (0+ / 0-)

    An advocate for left wing causes is desperately needed on the highest court. Sotomayer has the potential to fill that need. Her humble background gives her the empathy to champion the battles of all the underdogs in America.  Hopefully she will be another Joan Of Arc.

  •  Video of Obama talking about Empathy (0+ / 0-)

    I've put together a video of Obama talking about empathy. It gives a good sence of his views on empathy. See the link below.

    http://progressivespirit.com/...

    Barack Obama and a New Spirit of Empathy -  Rough Cut 2   (1hr 49 min)

    A Chronological Video of Barack on Empathy. Compiled from about 38 of his speeches and interviews, etc. on the topic of empathy. (1hr 49 min)

    Michelle Obama on Empathy - Rough Cut 2   (30 min)
    A chronological video of Michelle Obama on Empathy. Compiled from 12 of her speeches and interviews. .

    edwin rutsch
    http://progressivespirit.com/Empathy

       

    Edwin Rutsch What Are Progressive Values? Documentary Project http://ProgressiveSpirit.com and Study Group http://www.dfalink.com/group.php?id=2285

    by WhatAre Progressive Values on Sun May 31, 2009 at 11:36:57 AM PDT

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