Thursday, June 23, 2016

Quote of the day: Conservatives, politics, and the personal

(Updated below.)

I've written about this before: Conservatives' sense of empathy is similar to Tip O'Neill's take on politics: It's all local.
Conservatives tend not to have empathy until they’re personally impacted. When Arlen Specter got sick, he became a champion of the National Institute of Health, and when Rob Portman discovered he had a gay son, he suddenly saw the light on gay marriage. If Republicans think the Watch List only inconveniences Muslims from Dearborn, Michigan, they’ll never have any interest in fixing its flaws. But if it impacts one of their assault-rifle loving constituents who can’t figure out how to get taken off this list? That will interest them.

- Booman, in an aside from his discussion of the calculating use of the dreadfully flawed no-fly list as leverage to push congressional Republicans to finally take up basic gun control legislation.

I wish that there were some other way to get this leverage without paying lip-service to the due-process disaster that the no-fly list(s) represented from the earliest post-9/11 days, but I haven't figured out yet what it might be.

On my behalf, though, I didn't stumble onto the problem this week, like a lot of commentators. Here's my take on it from almost ten years ago – although, ironically, it was triggered by concern for the possible fate of a friend as much as by my respect for the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Maybe O'Neill was right.

To Booman's list I would add former Oregon Republican Senator Gordon's Smith's ephemeral epiphany that federal spending on social programs can play a positive role, such as in addressing the problem of youth suicide – an insight that didn't come to him until after his son took his own life, and seemed to depart again shortly thereafter.

I get no pleasure from the thought of the Smith family's terrible loss; I can't even imagine the pain of it. I just find it tiresome when conservatives' appreciation of the idea of a commonwealth, a political community existing for the common good, begins and ends – as it so often does – with the moment when disaster strikes them or their family directly.*

(I'm not aware of any other social program legislation Smith supported during his Senate career, but I'm willing to have my memory jogged. Most of his work is better exemplified by the 30,000 dead Coho salmon left behind in his 2002 re-election bid, and his tireless work for the end of Net Neutrality – a cause near and dear to the hearts of industry groups such as the National Association of Broadcasters, an organization he has been president and CEO of since shortly after he lost re-election in 2008.)

* Updated: And don't even get me started on Nancy Reagan.

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