Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Can Caring Change an Election?

Cable networks, Fox included, fill up with images of people rescuing or helping one another, a media sea change from last week’s pictures of political hate and discord.

How will such a psychic shift affect Tuesday’s voting? Will Romney gain as poor people are cut off from voting access or Obama benefit from being seen as more dedicated to people than politicking?

The Christie crossover offers a clue. As pundits parse his motives, the Governor’s change of heart is nonetheless a reminder that, when it counts, the contingency of human life can trump politics.

It also calls to mind the wisdom of psychoanalyst-philosopher Erich Fromm who in the turbulent 1960s was preoccupied with what he called "The Myth of Care." Amid comparable social upheaval and rage about Vietnam back then, the author of "The Art of Loving" and "The Sane Society" kept searching newspapers and TV screens for images of people reaching out, helping and comforting one another.

His thesis was that such impulses are deeply ingrained in all humans and waiting to come to the surface when circumstances call them up, that they are their true feelings below a surface of selfish discord.

This week’s storm has brought with it to the surface of American life a new surge of caring. Will it be enough to overwhelm the Tea Party tides of selfishness and Romney-Ryan appeals to class division that have brought America to a turning point?

Can caring make the difference between whether we all sink or swim together?


Update:  In the storm's aftermath, caring about climate change brings Barack Obama another key endorsement, of New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg:

“We need leadership from the White House--and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants...which are estimated to kill 13,000 Americans a year...

The independent billionaire Mayor notes that Mitt Romney has “taken sensible positions on immigration, illegal guns, abortion rights and health care. But he has reversed course on all of them, and is even running against the health-care model he signed into law in Massachusetts.

“If the 1994 or 2003 version of Mitt Romney were running for president, I may well have voted for him...”

“Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan both found success while their parties were out of power in Congress--and President Obama can, too. If he listens to people on both sides of the aisle, and builds the trust of moderates, he can fulfill the hope he inspired four years ago and lead our country toward a better future for my children and yours. And that’s why I will be voting for him.”

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