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Republicans are perceived as uncaring and aloof. That obviously has to change.
There has been a lot of discussion since Election Day about what went wrong for Republicans, and what they need to do to win again in the future. In my view, Republicans’ challenge is captured in one word: empathy, the act of understanding and being sensitive to the feelings and experiences of others.
While Republicans are not necessarily less empathetic than Democrats, they are perceived that way by voters. And in politics, perception is reality.
Mitt Romney brought many qualities to the campaign. He exuded competence and had a keen grasp of the issues and a plausible plan to fix the nation’s problems. He had a proven record of business accomplishment and had shown the ability to bring disparate political factions together. One quality that eluded him was empathy.
Polls throughout the campaign showed Romney behind President Obama by sizeable margins on empathy-related issues — on which candidate cared about average people; which would represent ordinary Americans; which was more likeable.
On Election Day, exit polls found more voters shared Romney’s values and felt he’d be a better steward of the economy. But Obama won the empathy vote going away.
Voters had a more favorable view of Obama, and he won by 10 points on the question, “Who is more in touch with people like you?”
And for voters whose top attribute in a candidate was that he “cares about people like me,” Obama won by a mind-blowing 63 points.
Of course, it wasn’t just Romney but the entire Republican Party that suffered from an empathy deficit. At pivotal moments throughout the campaign Republicans came across as uncaring and insensitive. Many of those moments came during the Republican primaries, just as voters were getting their first glimpses of the candidates.
On September 7, 2011, Republican debate audience members cheered when Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he had “never struggled” with the idea that one of his state’s record 234 executed death row inmates might have been innocent.
Five days later, A Republican audience cheered a debate moderator’s question about whether a hypothetical 30-year-old who suddenly needs urgent care should be allowed to die because he lacks insurance.
The perception of Republicans as heartless was reinforced when Republican Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Murdock made inept and uncompassionate remarks about rape and abortion.
It was further reinforced when a video went viral of Mitt Romney claiming that 47 percent of Americans see themselves as victims and don’t “take responsibility and care for their lives.”
More generally, this perception is reinforced whenever conservatives use “illegal” as a noun or use the word “alien” to talk about illegal immigrants, and whenever they advise, as Romney did during the primaries, that illegal immigrants “self deport.”
Democrats do not have a monopoly on empathy, of course. Obama often shows an appalling lack of compassion and understanding toward entire groups of people — for example, unborn babies and those who don’t want to be complicit in their demise.
Many conservatives also point out that government compassion cannot and should not displace personal compassion. It’s no wonder that numerous surveys have found conservatives are likelier than liberals to give their time and money to charity.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?