And Empathy *

Empathy – the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation. Dictionary

This blog is about the political polarization of the liberal and conservative voters, not the politicians. Liberals and conservatives disagree because they have different moral values. Liberals tend to endorse values like equality, fairness, care and protection from harm more than conservatives. Conservatives tend to endorse values like loyalty, patriotism, respect for authority, and moral purity more than liberals do. Robb Willer

The above descriptions are one researcher’s opinion. You may have your own personal “research opinion”. However, I want to focus on one moral value, empathy, and see if it is a possible road to overcoming some political polarization.

Because people’s moral values are likely their most deeply held beliefs, they struggle to understand the perspective of someone with a fundamentally different sense of right and wrong. The adoption of empathy as a respected value, and the employment of it in their relationships with others, could be a first step toward unity and interconnectedness in American politics.

It turns out that when we go to persuade someone on a political issue, we talk like we’re speaking into a mirror.  We don’t persuade so much as we rehearse our reasons for why we believe something. Robb Willer. This reminds me of Stephen Covey’s 1989 book, 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People. Number 5: Seek First To Understand And Then To Be Understood. It is a habit toward interdependence. The fact that this popular recommended habit was established over 25 years ago, and the fact that it doesn’t seem to be a habit in political discussions today, makes me wonder if it ever will.

Empathy needs to become the agreed upon moral value of liberal and conservative voters, because I don’t believe it will be by politicians. And I have my doubts about voters. Clearly humans don’t agree on what is the right thing to do. As Mark Twain explains:  Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other.


*This blog is the result of my reading an article in Stanford News, 1 – 20 -17  “Empathy, respect for one another critical to ease political polarization” by Alex Shashkevich, of an interview with Robb Willer, Stanford sociology professor.




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  1. Eugene Unger says:

    Good intellectual exercise . Good ideals casting. Good writing . Wrong century, if ever possible. Tell me when this was ever practiced ? In world let alone in the USA. People? Humans? Selfish forever more. We must be selfish to survive at the basic levels of life. One must love others I order to have empathy for for them. We try at some level but self will overcome empathy. Only one person In history had true empathy for His fellow humans. He had true love for them all , the bad and the good. Politicians hung him from a cross for his empathy and love. Maybe mother Theresa was the closest to selfless love. Loving our fellow humans is the only way. Which camp loves their country more? More than Party? More than personal gain? More than self? Men who die for their country and for each other ? And yet do they die in a war of vanity! Is it all selfish vanity? Unconditional love, do we have it? Sent from my iPad


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