Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Lack of Empathy

When Barack Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, he was ridiculed by Republicans because he said one of the qualities that was important in a Supreme Court justice was empathy.

Empathy is the ability to understand other people's emotions, to anticipate how someone will feel. It is a quality few Republicans seem to possess, and one that most Republicans love to ridicule.

Nonetheless, it's important in politics to be able to understand how people will react; that is, how to empathize with them.

Donald Trump likes to pretend he empathizes with his supporters, but he doesn't have a clue what they're really feeling. He just knows they're angry, and says things to stoke their anger. That's not empathy.

The Republican inability to empathize with others was displayed in full force in the Comey affair:
After Trump decided to fire Comey, he was told by aides that Democrats would likely react positively to the news given the role many believe Comey played in Hillary Clinton's defeat last year. When the opposite occurred, Trump grew incensed — both at Democrats and his own communications staff for not quickly lining up more Republicans to defend him on television.
They thought Democrats would rejoice because they think Comey is viewed by Democrats as "the enemy" for screwing over Clinton. But they were thinking like Republicans.

Comey was certainly a major factor in Clinton's loss, but not the only one -- something that Clinton herself admitted. He tried to repair the damage he caused even before election day. He was also in a bad situation: New York FBI agents were leaking stories about Anthony Weiner's laptop, so Comey had to do something. If he said nothing it would look like he was helping in a coverup. Comey had been screwed by disloyal employees with an irrational hatred of Hillary Clinton.

Then, after the election, when the NSA and the CIA confirmed that Russia had hacked the election to get Trump elected, the FBI was hesitant to come to the same conclusion. But eventually Comey came around and admitted it was true.

In the end, if Obama didn't see fit to fire Comey for interfering with the election, it was utterly preposterous that Trump would fire Comey for hurting "Crooked Hillary's" chances. Democrats are not blinded by lust for vengeance. They believe in the rule of law.

The final straw for Trump seems to be when Comey testified before Congress that he was nauseated by the idea that he helped elect Trump. That must have really stuck in Trump's big fat craw.

Republicans and other autocrats are frequently driven by hatred and revenge, typified by people like Donald Trump and Richard Nixon. Democrats are more often driven by a desire for justice and truth.

That doesn't mean Democrats don't want to see Republicans humiliated: they do. But they don't want to see their opponents destroyed in the same way that Republicans do. Trump and men like him want to utterly crush their enemies and ruin their lives. Democrats want to see their opponents slink off into obscurity in disrepute, appearing occasionally as a cautionary tale. Like, say, George W. Bush and his painting hobby.

That's why Republicans watch Fox News hate-fests while Democrats watch late-night comedy like Colbert and the Daily Show.

The crazy thing is that Trump has already done the Democrats' job for them. To use one of Trump's favorite phrases, "everybody knows" Trump is a deranged whack-job. He spouts nonsense and lies at every turn. He lies to his aides, lies to his spokespeople, lies to the vice president, lies to the Republicans who have been supporting him in Congress, he lies to the press and he lies to the American people. He constantly disgraces himself with his stupidity and ignorance in all his tweets and speeches.

With Trump everything is a lie, an exaggeration or braggadocio, which he will soon contradict on a whim, or in the next 10 minutes, whichever comes first.

No one -- not even his blue-collar base -- really believes anything Trump says. They're just sure that he hates the same people that they hate (Muslims, blacks and Mexicans), and they hope his self-serving policies will hurt their objects of ire more than he'll hurt them.

Trump's employees are in a constant state of dread that they'll be blamed for his latest fuckup, that they'll be fired because this man-child can't control his temper or his big fat mouth or his stumpy Twitter fingers. His allies are in a constant state of despair because they have no clue what idiotic thing he'll do, and they have no idea which bizarre rat-hole he'll drag them down next.

With Trump, loyalty flows only up -- he feels no loyalty to the people who work for or help him. He'll throw anyone under the bus who isn't related to him by blood or who doesn't have any dirt on him.

Trump appears to have zero empathy. He's incapable of empathizing with any emotions other that hatred -- and he's probably just projecting his own hatred rather than sensing it in others. He acts like an emotional robot, spewing the same ridiculous catch-phrases and weasel words over and over and over again. It's like he's one of those bots on the Internet that just echo back the hate they see in others.

Trump thinks that he can rule through chaos and fear. It's worked for him in private business for 50 years, and he thinks that he can do the same thing governing. That works in dictatorships, but this is America. Republicans will put up with Trump for as long as he is useful, but over the long haul I have a feeling that even they can't stomach the idea of El Trumpo.

Trump has already thrown so many other Republicans under the bus, I hope they'll return the favor before it's too late.

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