The Case Against The Case Against Empathy


Dahlia Lithwick had a great piece earlier this week knocking down the ridiculous notion that seeking Supreme Court justices with empathy is “code” or somehow insidious:

Now, if the GOP really wants to run out on a rail anyone with empathy or anyone who values it, far be it from me to object. Democrats will be more than happy to feel their pain. But to the extent that the debate over empathy may shape every Supreme Court discussion we are going to have this summer, let’s just be clear that the opposite of empathy isn’t rigor. It’s pretty close to solipsism, or the certain conviction that everything you’ll ever need to know about judging you learned from your own fine self.

Empathy is not a substitute for legal judgment or policy expertise. But I do think it’s a crucially important political value. I think back to the 2008 campaign when Sarah Palin was running as a hard-core conservative who believed in low taxes, low spending, and therefore low levels of government services. Except for “special needs” children. Why? Well, because as the parent of a special needs child herself, she understood the issues facing such families and felt a strong desire to help them out.

But what about children whose needs weren’t “special” but whose families just didn’t have that much money? Palin wanted a “spending freeze” for them. No food stamps. No S-CHIP expansion. Per capita cuts in title one funding for schools. Fewer Section 8 housing vouchers. No empathy.