Obama's Empathy Card
June 23, 2010
Obama's Empathy Card
By Miguel A. Guanipa
Behold Barack H. Obama, the ambitious, "in your face" young man who shrewdly campaigned and cruised to victory on the auspiciously timed "change the old way of doing things" motif.
Far more competent predecessors have endured less hospitable tenures than what has been lavished upon this favored son by the disheartened masses, whose nearly unconditional approval he did garner with much greater ease than at present.
Indeed, from his meagerly documented Harvard Law School days to his remarkably (to say the least) brief senatorial debut and eventual presidential election, Obama seems to have providentially benefited, again and again, from his followers' peculiar dependence on fleeting emotional impulses -- in particular the mystifying, near-invincible pathos of empathy, which liberals rank as the most reliable gauge for making life-altering decisions.
Politics is, after all, a sport where competence does not always dictate who is chosen, where not everything is always what it seems, and where raw emotions play a very significant role in victory. Liberals usually excel in all three arenas, as they are often guided by image, rarely giving much weight to qualifications or substance. They routinely operate on a theoretical plateau rather than a practical one, and they are consistently governed by emotions.
But the peculiar brand of empathy which propelled Barack Obama to stardom was really more of a wager with a distinct patronizing flair from his liberal base, designed to empower the "oppressed" hordes by extrapolation -- the oppressed minorities who have, presumably since time immemorial, been engaged in a battle against the racially intolerant mentality of an elitist establishment, of which liberals are loath to count themselves the necessary, yet most reluctant of participants.
It is this empathy -- an emotion that is either sustained or depleted in proportion to the receiving party's investment in suggested corrective measures toward personal maturity -- that may also prove to be Obama's undoing. This is precisely because when the recipient of empathy is more focused on conjuring new scapegoats to bear the brunt of his foibles, and when he habitually responds to criticism with a casual contempt for the grace that has been extended in view of his inexperience and shortcomings, the well of empathy quickly dries up, leaving only the muddy trails of disillusionment and resentment of those whose trust has been betrayed.
And so reality has a funny way of unraveling, forcing the one who was furiously advertised as a world-changer to shed his bogus imperial robes, revealing that which many willingly ignored: an alarming lack of preparedness and -- to use a favorite word of Obama's -- an unprecedented level of incompetence, all adding up to a steady erosion of credibility, even down to his most faithful acolytes, who are already considering the arguable virtues of defection.
However, if there is one thing we have learned from this administration, it is that we can never underestimate its ability to find ways to capitalize from its ringleader's sinking approval ratings.
Indeed, Obama has already crossed the threshold beyond depreciation of his once-charismatic appeal. But this new station may be cleverly recast into the compelling narrative of a tenacious leader swimming against the cruel current of opposition. A well-orchestrated damage control maneuver has the potential to instantly transform a crisis -- which this administration never likes to waste -- into an opportunity, and to help assuage the public's growing frustration with Obama's chronic mishaps. This anger could then be laid at the doorstep of expediently created adversaries, who can be easily portrayed as consumed by an unfounded hatred for the president. Such a strategy might, once again, make him eminently worthy of the puerile empathy from his die-hard fans, who believe that ultimately, it is intentions -- rather than results -- that really count. This is a mainstay in the worldview of most liberals.
This approach also has the exciting potential to galvanize a vigorous alliance of fresh supporters under Obama's renewed status as underdog. And it presents a most provocative narrative, in which Obama -- with the willing arm of the long-suffering media -- would eagerly accept the role of main protagonist; not to mention one he has appealed to in the past, whenever there's the need to rouse his most gullible followers into action.
Yet this same Obama Cult of Personality who helped him get elected should bear most of the responsibility for his -- hence our -- current predicament. Their mistake was to forget that misguided empathy only further enables the arrogant soul to presume upon the kindness of others. And they are now learning that once forbearance reaches the stage where it will no longer underwrite ineptitude, a corrupt leadership is not ashamed to profit even from low expectations.