Monday, July 13, 2009

Get Your Empathy Here

JedL makes a great catch here. Must have been a hit rather than a ball or strike.
Jed Lewison: Coburn: Empathy is okay if you're a white guy

IOKIYAW must be the new IOKIYAR:

digby: On Biased Umpires
The opening statements coming from the Judiciary Committee Republicans are predictably revolting, but Senator Whitehouse's is a thing of beauty. Here's just a short excerpt:

It is fair to inquire into a nominee's judicial philosophy, and we will have serious and fair inquiry. But the pretense that Republican nominees embody modesty and restraint, or that Democratic nominees must be activists, runs counter to recent history. I particularly reject the analogy of a judge to an "umpire" who merely calls "balls and strikes." If judging were that mechanical, we wouldn't need nine Supreme Court Justices. The task of an appellate judge, particularly on a court of final appeal, is often to define the strike zone, within a matrix of Constitutional principle, legislative intent, and statutory construction.

The "umpire" analogy is belied by Chief Justice Roberts, though he cast himself as an "umpire" during his confirmation hearings. Jeffrey Toobin, a well-respected legal commentator, has recently reported that "[i]n every major case since he became the nation's seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff." Some umpire. And is it a coincidence that this pattern, to continue Toobin's quote, "has served the interests, and reflected the values of the contemporary Republican party"? Some coincidence.

For all the talk of "modesty" and "restraint," the right wing Justices of the Court have a striking record of ignoring precedent, overturning congressional statutes, limiting constitutional protections, and discovering new constitutional rights: the infamous Ledbetter decision, for instance; the Louisville and Seattle integration cases, for example; the first limitation on Roe v. Wade that outright disregards the woman's health and safety; and the DC Heller decision, discovering a constitutional right to own guns that the Court had not previously noticed in 220 years. Over and over, news reporting discusses "fundamental changes in the law" wrought by the Roberts Court's right wing flank. The Roberts Court has not lived up to the promises of modesty or humility made when President Bush nominated Justices Roberts and Alito. Some "balls and strikes."

So, Judge Sotomayor, I'd like to avoid codewords, and look for a simple pledge: that you will decide cases on the law and the facts; that you will respect the role of Congress as representatives of the American people; that you will not prejudge any case, but listen to every party that comes before you; and that you will respect precedent and limit yourself to the issues that the Court must decide; in short, that you will use the broad discretion of a Supreme Court Justice wisely and in keeping with the Constitution.
read on ....

kos: The GOP's continued war on empathy

I expected Republicans to resort to race-baiting in their fruitless effort to stop the inevitable confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. The party of Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, and the old Dixiecrats simply can't help themselves. That's why only 7 percent of Latinos have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party.

More surprising has been the war on empathy. We polled that question back in mid-June.

Do you think empathy is an important characteristic for a Supreme Court Justice to possess or not?

Yes No
18-29 63 17
30-44 47 34
45-59 55 26
60+ 46 35

White 41 39
Black 81 4
Latino 79 4
Other 79 5

Men 48 34
Women 56 24

[...] Same question as above:

Do you think empathy is an important characteristic for a Supreme Court Justice to possess or not?

Yes No
Dem 73 12
GOP 18 56
Ind 54 28

Every demographic polled thought empathy was a good value to have except ... Republicans, while whites were fairly evenly split (not surprising given their heavy over-representation in the GOP). It is this very question that ultimately holds the answer to the GOP's current troubles.

Look closely at the crosstabs. What are the three groups that have abandoned the GOP in droves, costing them hugely at the polls? Youth voters, Latinos, and independents. And as Republicans spend the next weeks trashing the concept of "empathy", keep in mind that it is further alienating those very groups (as well as African Americans, Asians, and other rapidly growing non-white groups).

For the longest time, the GOP kept its hostility toward empathy fairly well-hidden. In fact, it pretended otherwise for the sake of electoral viability, as Jonah Goldberd complained in the National Review when assessing the root causes of Bush's failures:

But in the background there was an even larger problem: compassionate conservatism.

As countless writers have noted in National Review over the last five years, most conservatives never really understood what compassionate conservatism was, beyond a convenient marketing slogan to attract swing voters. The reality--as even some members of the Bush team will sheepishly concede--is that there was nothing behind the curtain. Sure, in the hands of Marvin Olasky and others, compassionate conservatism had some heft. But Karl Rove's translation of it into a political platform made it into a pseudo-intellectual rationale for constituent-pleasing and Nixonian "modern Republicanism."

Got that? As conservatives themselves note, Bush and Rove wielded compassionate conservatism as an empty political ploy to win "swing voters". And "compassion" is no different than "emapthy". So, the last Republican to have electoral success (even though he lost the popular vote) was a Republican who pretended to be emphatic. Now, his party has determined that Bush failed because he tried to be compassionate, and they've resorted to openly sneering at the word.

STEELE: ... Crazy nonsense empathetic. I’ll give you empathy. Empathize right on your behind. Craziness.

Problem is, people want empathy in their government. And if Republicans aren't going to provide it, they will cede the electoral battlefield to the one party who will. And really, who are we to complain about that?

Matt Yglesias has The Dream

Wouldn’t it be kind of great if the Senate GOP somehow did manage to trick Sotomayor into delivering a bitter tirade against whitey: “I took one look at Frank Rizzo’s pale, pale skin and unaccented speech and knew I would do whatever it takes to keep him down—that’s empathy in action!”

And just think of the gloating posts on the Corner.

UpdateEr... that should be Frank Ricci.

Sudbay: Ralph Reed claims he's going to be the GOP's cool, hip, younger Steve Jobs

Disgraced GOP/Religious Right activist Ralph Reed, a close associate of the now-imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is making a comeback. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution profiles Reed and his new group. A couple quotes from Reed stand-out. It sounds like he's having a mid-life crisis. And, he really has a very high opinion of himself.

First, the creepy, I'm having a mid-life crisis quote:

“This is not going to be your daddy’s Christian Coalition,” Reed said in an interview to describe his new venture, the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “It has to be younger, hipper, less strident, more inclusive and it has to harness the 21st century that will enable us to win in the future.”
But, Ralph is a daddy. Then, the "I'm the Messiah" quote:
“Even though I’ve been doing other things, this is kind of like Steve Jobs returning to Apple,” Reed said.
Yes, Ralph Reed said he'll do for the right wing what Jobs did for Apple. Somebody really loves himself.

Reed's sole foray into electoral politics didn't fare so well. In the GOP primary for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, back in 2006, Reed got thumped by a relatively unknown state senator. But, fear not, he's coming back. Hipper and cooler than ever.

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