Thursday, May 28, 2009

Liberals and Empathy

We know conservatives are outraged by the question of Empathy vs. Justice. But what about liberals? After all, it was Candidate Obama who brought "empathy" onto the national radar when he talked about the importance of empathy in a Supreme Court Justice.

Feminist Wendy Kaminer wrestles with the question over at The Atlantic.

Sonia Sotomayor is either an injudicious advocate of identity politics or candidly realistic about the possibility of entirely objective decision-making.

You are not really supposed to admit that you have biases. But then we all have them.

Admitting such a bias goes against the life-work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you see.

In the early 1970s, as founding director of the ACLU Women's Rights Project, Ginsburg led a groundbreaking battle against discriminatory laws that meted out rights or entitlements on the basis of sex and assumptions about characterological, temperamental, and intellectual differences between men and women.

But, as we conservatives have complained, the problem that feminists immediately ran into is that women really are different and really do have special needs in law. So they smuggled discrimination back into the law through the back door. Only now, of course, the new discriminations would have a liberal secular cast rather than the cultural assumptions of a the white patriarchal culture that produced Anglo-Saxon law.

But Kaminer sees a problem in the excitement of the sisterhood over a second woman on the court.

Does the chauvinistic reaction to Sotomayor's nomination represent a repudiation of Ginsburg's fight for equality?

But it's ok. She notes that even Ginsburg has often railed against the insensitivity of the males on the court to feminine sensibilities.

[It took a] Ginsburg to decry the evident inability of her male colleagues to recognize the shame a junior high school girl feels when strip-searched by school administrators who suspect her of hiding advil in her underwear.

The problem is, though, that conservatives don't trust liberals when it comes to "empathy," the special shame that teenage girls may have over strip searching. In our hearts we agree with Ann Coulter when she says:

But all liberals only have empathy for the exact same victims -- always the ones that are represented by powerful liberal interest groups. As Joe Sobran says, it takes a lot of clout to be a victim.

And that means, writes Coulter, that for liberals, "'Empathy'... is nothing but raw political power."

That's because the further you travel from the notion of blindfolded Justice balancing the scales with no thumbs in sight, the closer you inevitably come to simple patronage politics and raw power. Because that's the natural political instinct: to take care of your own.

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