Why Obama Won: The Empathy Factor

What is the common denominator, the central thread running through these policy choices? It’s not just compassion, defined as a sympathetic awareness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it; it’s empathy — the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experience of another.

In other words, empathy is not merely feeling sorry for those who are less fortunate and wanting to help them, but it’s being able to put oneself in another’s shoes and to imagine what they are experiencing…



Yet again, this was a function of the Republican Party’s failure to be empathic. They could not imagine why those at the margins — women, people of color, gays and lesbians, young people and immigrants — would not care foremost about taxes or about protecting their own wealth. They could not understand why women would object to outlawing abortion or why anyone would support government programs for children or the poor. They could not believe that despite the long lines, ID requirements and other tactics to impede voting that the most marginalized would make it a priority to cast a ballot.


By Tamar Birckhead