The Compassionate Left and the Coldhearted Right
Feeling good versus doing good.
Shortly after Ronald Reagan first moved into the White House in 1981, a single-panel cartoon appeared in The New Yorker depicting an older, wealthy, white couple strolling down a sidewalk past a homeless man begging for change. Referring to the beggar, the female half of the couple – stereotypically wrapped in a fur coat, dripping in jewels, and nose in the air – said to her equally haughty husband something like, “To hell with him. There’s a Republican in the White House now.” I’m probably butchering the punch line but it wasn’t any funnier in the original, and in any case it wasn’t intended so much to be funny as it was to reinforce the left’s bigoted perception of Republicans as rich, old, white, and most significantly, heartless.
I was reminded of this old cartoon by a rather pathetic recent Huffington Post essay called, “I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People,” which embodied this common misperception of conservatives as unfeeling, greedy monsters who hate the poor, the sick, the underprivileged, the nonwhite.
The writer of the article – Kayla Chadwick, described as an Emmy Award-winning video editor in New York – began by expressing her exasperation over trying to explain to conservatives “why they should care about other people.” I am skeptical that she has ever actually had a conversation with a conservative about this except perhaps with strangers in the disputatious realm of social media, but she clearly assumes that she, like her fellow Progressives, is a normal, decent, compassionate human being; that the right is inhumanly and incomprehensibly cruel, almost a completely different species; and that struggling to thaw a conservative’s frozen heart is a lost cause.
Huffington Post is bloated with such frankly stupid blog posts demonizing conservatives, and the writer of this one is hardly a widely-known or influential political commentator. So why bother addressing her article? Because her self-satisfied, contemptuous perspective on conservatives reflects the left’s most common false assumption about us – that we are all heartless, selfish bastards – and thus her article is worth deconstructing and debunking.
It isn’t that conservatives are heartless, of course; we simply have a different (not to mention effective) philosophy about solving such ills as poverty, joblessness, and lack of affordable health care. Unlike the left, we look for solutions that actually help instead of just compulsively throwing more of other people’s money into failed programs with compassionate-sounding names, and we also look for solutions that encourage the needy to help themselves instead of keeping them trapped in demeaning cycles of dependency. It’s the difference between the proverbial giving a man a fish and teaching him how to fish.
But the left cannot grasp this perspective, and there are two reasons why: one is that they have demonized us as unfeeling monsters for so long that they are incapable of seeing us as decent human beings; and two is that they are so convinced of their feelings-based moral superiority that they cannot conceive that anyone, much less evil Republicans, could possibly be as saintly and compassionate as they are.
George W. Bush didn’t help the right’s image by championing what he called “compassionate conservatism,” which made plain old conservatism sound heartless. The fact is that conservatism is compassionate. But because it emphasizes real-world results for those in need instead of showy displays of compassion, the left is able to spin our practicality into cruelty.
Here are some examples from the article of how very compassionate and selfless Kayla Chadwick is, and how those who don’t feel as deeply as she does about these issues are guilty of “unimaginable callousness” and need to have heart transplants:
Personally, I’m happy to pay an extra 4.3 percent for my fast food burger if it means the person making it for me can afford to feed their own family. If you aren’t willing to fork over an extra 17 cents for a Big Mac, you’re a fundamentally different person than I am.
I’m perfectly content to pay taxes that go toward public schools, even though I’m childless and intend to stay that way, because all children deserve a quality, free education. If this seems unfair or unreasonable to you, we are never going to see eye to eye.
If I have to pay a little more with each paycheck to ensure my fellow Americans can access health care? SIGN ME UP. Poverty should not be a death sentence in the richest country in the world. If you’re okay with thousands of people dying of treatable diseases just so the wealthiest among us can hoard still more wealth, there is a divide between our worldviews that can never be bridged.
“I don’t know how to convince someone how to experience the basic human emotion of empathy,” she continues whining. “Our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters.”
It’s true, there is a fundamental divide between Democrats and Republicans today, but the problem lies not in opening up a conservative’s hard heart but opening up a Progressive’s hard head.
Let’s look at just one of the examples she provided earlier from a conservative perspective. She, like other Progressives, believes that giving fast-food workers a living wage will save their family from poverty, and thus we should all happily make the minor sacrifice of paying for more expensive Big Macs to make that happen. This makes Democrats feel good and morally superior to conservatives who think this is a bad idea. The indisputable economic reality, however, which conservatives understand, is that the left’s feel-good “solution” ultimately drives those workers into either fewer hours (and thus smaller paychecks) or out of a job altogether. So Chadwick’s misguided empathy and generosity are demonstrably harmful, not helpful.
Conservatives, on the other hand, think entry-level, minimum-wage jobs should be exactly that – entry-level – and that their purpose is to get unskilled people like young teens into the workforce so they can begin to work their way out of fast-food joints and into positions which offer higher pay and a greater sense of self-worth. It’s a solution that encourages employees to grow and employers to keep hiring instead of replacing workers with automated kiosks.
But Chadwick cares less about solutions than about signaling what a good, caring person she is. “I can’t debate someone into caring about what happens to their fellow human beings,” she says, ignoring the fact that conservative solutions are better for our fellow human beings than empty virtue-signaling. “I’m done trying to convince these hoards [sic] of selfish, cruel people to look beyond themselves.”
It’s actually so-called liberals like Kayla Chadwick who cannot look beyond themselves to notice that their conspicuous compassion is not helping. But hey, at least it makes them feel good.