The defining feature of modern Republicanism

It’s not small-government. It’s not anti-tax screeds or culture war crusades. It’s not being pro-big business or pro-gun. It’s not being anti-choice or anti-gay. It’s not suport of “traditional marriages” or of non-traditional “special interrogation”. It’s not being pro-Gitmo or anti-drone or pro-Keystone or anti-FEMA. It’s not even being sexist or being racist.

It’s a complete and utter lack of empathy, and an unhealthy disdain for the same in others.

How else do you explain the sudden 180=degree shifts in philosophy once the consequence of the party line hits home? Dick Cheney supports gay rights, because his daughter is a lesbian. Bob Portman now supports same-sex marriage, because his son has come out of the closet. Mark Kirk suddenly understands the value of government health care, once he has a brush with death. It’s how Republican governors can decry federal spending on disaster relief… right up until their state needs it.

Republicans like to claim that they’re the party of grown-ups, reining in those rascally irresponsible Democrats. But a hallmark of maturity is the development of empathy — the ability to think beyond the confines of your personal experiences and to imagine, however imperfectly, the life lived by people who are not you. On that measure, the Republican Party is a haven for toddlers and crybabies. I applaud Senator Portman for revisiting his philosophy in light of new evidence, but if we have to wait for a singular personal experience for each and every Republican, it’s going to be a long long slog.

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