Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw |

Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw

Andy Stone
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

One of the great advantages of politics as currently practiced here in the good old U.S. of A. is all the time and effort it saves. That’s the time and effort that might otherwise be required for the annoying process of thinking.

It might make an excellent marketing slogan for either political party ” indeed, for all political parties. “Politics practiced here: No thinking required.”

That, by the way, is why politics can be defined as “a process that makes smart people say stupid things.” Not thinking does save time, but occasionally it makes you sound like an idiot.

Hopeless liberal that I am ” museum-quality liberal, some have said ” I most easily see those stupidities when they are flagrantly practiced by those on the political right.

But I know, way down deep in my empathetic liberal heart, that we fuzzy-minded moon-bat liberals can be every bit as bleeping stupid as those wing-nuts on the right.

That said, I have to point to the current brouhaha over the nomination of Federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court as a prime example of how politics neatly circumvents the thinking process.

As soon as the nomination was announced, the right-wing cheerleaders (if that’s the proper term, perhaps “jeerleaders” would be better) spewed a wave of outrage.

Perhaps the almost instantaneous nature of the reaction should have been a dead giveaway.

Did anyone stop to think, to ponder, to consider whether Judge Sotomayor will make a good Supreme Court justice?

No. Of course not. They knew ” knew instantly ” that she was bad, terrible, awful. They knew it without wasting any time because they were on the right and she was nominated by a president on the other side of the aisle.

And, having saved all that time by jumping to an instant conclusion, they could circle back and figure out the reasons later.

It is, as a rule, easier to find the reasons once you know the answer.

Note: This is not quite so true for math tests, which is why teachers so often include the phrase “Show your work” on exams. In math, you have to show a series of valid steps leading to the correct answer.

Politics is more like throwing rocks than solving math problems. If the rock hits flesh and draws blood … what more proof could possibly be needed?

So, with Sotomayor we had the outrage about Obama’s comment that he was looking for a Supreme Court justice with “empathy.”


Empathy is terrible. It’s soft, it’s squishy, it’s … liberal. Justices must rule on the basis of the law, not their emotions!

Once that wave of outrage had crashed on the beach of political discourse, sweeping over the reef of punditry, depositing the seaweed of … of … oh the heck with it. Fill in your own metaphors.

Anyway, a few brave souls have ventured to point out that, when nominating Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court, President George H.W. Bush said, “He is a delightful and warm, intelligent person who has great empathy and a wonderful sense of humor.”

Whether Bush was right or wrong about any of those qualities is for history to judge (as a later Bush loved to say). But I think we can certainly note that Bush’s comments were not followed by any vast wave of conservative outrage at the thought of a Supreme Court justice with empathy.

Of course not. He was on “their” side.

Some have declared that this is a clear example of “Republican hypocrisy.” But I don’t think so. Hypocrisy requires a little more thought than that. To really be hypocritical, the anti-empathy forces would have had to remember (and care?) that Bush the First had called Thomas empathetic.

But they didn’t stop to think ” that’s the whole point: No thinking necessary. They just grabbed the nearest rock and threw it. They knew their cause was just because they knew Obama was wrong.

And they knew Obama was wrong because … because … because he was from the other party!

See how easy that is.

And just for the record, we should also remember Judge Samuel Alito’s testimony that “When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.”

Repeat: He does take that into account.

Once again, a statement that would have driven the right wing into a frenzy if Sotomayor had made it.

And ” let me try to be even-handed here ” it is a statement that would draw waves of praise from liberals if Sotomayor had made it.

But I do not recall hearing my compatriots on the left singing the praises of Judge Sam for saying that his experience with discrimination affected his view of the law when he decided difficult cases.

Empathy on our side: good. Empathy on your side: bad.

Grab a rock and chuck it.

But here’s the difficult part: We actually need politics to function exactly the way it does ” as a substitute on a day-to-day basis for deep thought.

Who has time for all that thinking?

That’s why we have a representative democracy, rather than a true democracy. In a true democracy, every citizen who cares votes on every question. Think of Ancient Greece or the old New England town meetings. Democratic, but unwieldy.

In a representative democracy, we elect representatives and trust them (ha!) to make the wise (ha!) decisions that we would make for ourselves (ha!) if we could take the time and trouble.

In short, representative democracy saves us from having to think too deeply or too often.

And, in the same way, our “left vs. right” politics saves us from that same pesky need to think.

If Bush did it, it’s bad! (Or good!)

If Obama does it, it’s good! (Or bad!)

Step right up, check your brains at the door, grab a rock and let it fly.

Say what you will, it does save time and trouble.

And that’s the American Way. Right?

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