Below The Bottom Of The Barrel
Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court has revealed the ugly side of the Republican Party.
William Rivers Pitt:
Last week, the malady mutated into a whole new thing - Sotomayor Derangement Syndrome - and boy, but it's a doozy. Ranting incoherence, brazen racism and suicidal ideation swept through the ranks of the far right after Judge Sotomayor was nominated to replace Justice Souter on the high court, symptoms that became worse by orders of magnitude as the week wore on. By the weekend, those suffering from Sotomayor Derangement Syndrome had not only struck the bottom of the barrel in their attempts to tear the Sotomayor nomination down, but had plowed right through the wood and burrowed deep into the slime and ooze beneath. [...]
"After a week of escalating race and gender rhetoric from the right over the Sotomayor nomination, it's now looking like some in the Republican Party - those concerned with actually getting elected - have become alarmed by the political damage the more extreme members of their party may be doing and are moving to rein in the vitriol," reported Eric Kleefield of Talking Points Memo on Friday. "It's the starkest example yet of an interesting division within the right, one that has been apparent for some time, but which the Sotomayor nomination has not only crystallized but accelerated: the right-wing bomb-throwers obsessed with ideological purity versus the right-wing pragmatists who want the party to actually win election again some day."
By the end of last weekend, Sotomayor Derangement Syndrome had blown this rift within the GOP wide open. Establishment conservatives are now directly pitted against the vocal ideologues on their right flank and a GOP base that seems to be avidly listening to them. For a party already traumatized by arguments over immigration, two decisive routs in a row at the polls, and an absolute absence of any real leadership, the advent of this newest intra-party bloodbath is the worst possible situation.
Empathy, Sotomayor, and Democracy: The Conservative Stealth Strategy
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. [...]
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. [...]
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. [...]
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. [...]
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.