I have heard it said several times by different sources that “They just don’t understand.” The “they” in this statement refers generally to those at the top of the income brackets, in particular the millionaires who now occupy positions of power and influence in Congress. The assumption here has to do with the fact that as they are millionaires they do not live “Lives of quiet desperation” like the rest of us. And as they do not they cannot possibly understand the problems we ordinary folk experience, the poverty, lack of employment and housing, health care, and etc. A variant on this theme is expressed as “They just don’t get it.” I don’t believe either of these statements, I believe they both “understand” and “get it.”
To believe they don’t understand or get it you have to believe any one of a number of quite unbelievable things. First, you might believe they are stupid. While I can think of a number of Congresspersons as almost certainly stupid, it is impossible to believe they are all stupid. Second, you might believe they are simply ignorant of what is happening, this is even more difficult than believing they are stupid. To believe they are ignorant of what is going on you have to believe they are uninformed. But how can they be uninformed? Presumably they watch television, listen to the radio, read newspapers, talk to their constituents, hear testimony from people, and are given briefings about governmental affairs. I find it impossible to believe they are ignorant of what is happening. Third, you might say they merely lack empathy. But empathy is a major characteristic of being human. There may be unique individuals who lack the capacity for empathy but they must be fairly rare.
As I cannot believe they are universally stupid, ignorant, or lack empathy, I am led to conclude they do understand and get it, but apparently they JUST DON’T CARE. If this is so, and I personally believe it is, one must ask, why do they not care? This leads me back to the question of empathy even though I find it difficult to believe they all truly lack this very basic human characteristic. It is possible, perhaps even likely that in some sense they do lack empathy. It could be that similar to morality, their empathy does not extend to others outside of their particular “tribe,” or “clan,” or circle of friends, in this case their fellow members in the Republican party and the upper echelons of the wealthy. This brings up the nature/nurture controversy. That is, it is unlikely any of these individuals were actually born without the capacity for empathy, but as they became enculturated into Republican culture (if we can speak of such a thing), this empathy (along with morality) is channeled only in certain directions. If you are outside the group, or collectivity, or party, or however you want to define it, different rules apply. Most Americans do not appear to be very empathetic or morally responsible for those in other countries, especially Arabs, Africans, Mexicans, and Asians, and especially if we are at “war” with them for some reason. In other words, as you are drawn into Republicanism you learn and adopt certain beliefs that are not characteristic of Democrats, Liberals, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, or whomever.
If this is so, what are the beliefs that Republicans in general seem to possess? As I rarely speak with a Republican, and if I do never about politics, I cannot say what they believe because of what they have told me. I can only surmise some of their beliefs from their behavior as represented on television, radio, newspapers, and fliers they mistakenly send to me from time to time. These indicate to me they believe that capitalism is the only viable economic system in the world, that individuals have little or no responsibility for others, that poor people are poor and out of work because they are lazy and prefer welfare to work, that health care should be only for those who can afford it, Social Security is somehow a bad thing that should be done away with, that a fertilized egg is actually a “person” who should be defended at all costs, but after it is born it is no longer a public concern, and that White Anglo-Saxon Protestants are the highest form of humans on earth, with other races and ethnic groups somewhere “lower” on a scale of worthiness, and that they know what is best for everyone in the world. Many of them also seem to believe that science is not always to be taken seriously, the United States Constitution is based on Christian principles as outlined in the Bible, Homosexuality is an unnatural abomination, Gay marriage is a threat to civilization, material possessions are more important than more modest comforts, government and taxes are bad and regulations should be abolished if they stand in the way of and hinder business in any way. They also seem to believe that short-term profits are more important than worrying about the future. It would seem obvious that if one is raised or otherwise adopts this “world view,” philosophy, platform, or however you want to describe it, they have also abandoned empathy in general and universal morality as well.
When you distill this down into fewer words it means businesses should be allowed to rape and pillage at will, inequality is fine, only the strong (read wealthy) should survive, and, in essence, greed is good. I fear that President Obama and most Democrats have refused to believe there could be people (Republicans or others) like this, and as a result they have allowed themselves to be duped and betrayed time after time. They apparently can’t believe it even when they are told point-blank by Republicans they want to destroy them and that is their major goal. I confess I, too, have found it hard to believe there are people like this but after observing their behavior for the past twenty years or so, I believe it.
Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right.
H. L. Mencken