For Liberals, empathy is our greatest strength. Only not this time.
As people whose entire world-philosophy is based upon empathy for others, we find the current Republican-controlled climate a strange, rocky, arid place for us to navigate. Because we have empathy, we believe in appealing to empathy to change minds.
Yeah, that’s not going to work anymore.
Not only does the current yield of GOP lack empathy, they view it as a weakness, not a virtue. A weakness to be exploited.
It’s in the way we’re trolled, mocking our sensitivities for others as though they’re bruises the troller enjoys pressing to up the pain; it’s in the way right-wing propaganda tries to turn our empathy against us, calling us intolerant of intolerance.
That’s a label I’m fine with, but I digress.
It’s even in the way stories are spun by the spinners, with likely vampire KellyAnne Conway imploring us to look at what’s in Donald Trump’s heart. As someone who isn’t a fan of horror movies, I’d prefer not, thanks. Some things cannot be unseen.
Appealing to empathy will get us nowhere with politicians who don’t have any, to whom the concept is as foreign as siding with their own country against a hostile foreign power. We need a new plan.
The only things that matter to the GOP are power, self-enrichment, and, to a large extent, sadism. Think about it: you cannot vow to dismantle Social Security, the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid and assistance programs without knowing that people are going to literally starve and literally die as a result.
If you look at the faces of the people aiming to do so, they appear to be enjoying themselves. Delighting in the suffering of others? Sadism.
The opposite of empathy.
These people are not good people. I don’t believe they have the wiring, the internal capacity, to be good people. We cannot expect them be influenced in the way good people are influenced. We cannot expect them to act in interests that are not their own.
So we’re going to need to find ways to make our interests their own. How?
Threaten the things they do care about. Money and power.
As constituents, we have to make it clear that gerrymandering doesn’t actually help when it comes to primaries. We need to contact their offices, not once, but constantly. If the aborted attempt to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics taught us anything, it’s that loud, public pressure threatens their security of power, and that works.
We need to threaten their outside sources of money. Congress has even argued that it’s exempt from insider trading laws. We may not be able to change the self-serving legislation of Congress, but every state has requirements regarding how people can get on the ballot and what they have to do to get there.
Start locally. Make sure your state politicians demand full financial disclosures, if they don’t already. Ask for laws mandating submission of full tax returns with all schedules and supporting documents. Demand conflict-of-interest statues. Make our leaders tell us where their financial interests lie.
So that we can leverage them to our advantage.
It’s the whole reason politicians aren’t supposed to have conflicts in the first place. If foreign governments can exploit them, shouldn’t we?
Pay attention to actions, not words. Their words are meaningless, truth an extraneous element that has no value. Words are calculated to mute you, subdue you, placate you.
Sound awful? Yes, in many ways. But we have to learn their language. We have to target their motivations, because those motivations certainly aren’t the best interests of the American people.
We need not lose our empathy. It’s a beautiful, wonderful aspect of humanity. But we need to recognize not everyone has it, and it’s not the only way to change the world.