In the current political climate, our nation is more polarized than it has ever been. People on the right are adamant that they are the only smart ones. People on the left are just as intolerant on a whole variety of issues. If you disagree with either side of the spectrum, you are classified as uninformed or just plain dumb.
During my years in politics, I have never applied a litmus test to determine which candidate I like. But, I confess that I do have a simple unscientific test.
When I look at any candidate of either party, I ask, “Do you feel my pain.” I don’t mean me personally, but rather do they have any genuine empathy for the people whose support they seek. One of former President Bill Clinton’s greatest qualities was that he could look you in the eye and say I understand who you are and what your issues are.
Clinton’s support arose out of the fact that he suffered in a dysfunctional family. His father was alleged to have been a serial wife abuser and an alcoholic. His early life was stressful and his mother did her very best to give him the love and sacrifice that he needed.
As we all know, despite many youthful setbacks, he went on to become a Rhodes Scholar and the rest is history.
As the Democratic presidential debates continue, I look to see which of the many candidates emerges as a person who can win the trust of voters because of their real compassion for others. Please don’t mistake compassion with passion, as they are two different things.
When I hear Sen. Elizabeth Warren announce some new program or is making a speech, she shows passion for everything she says. But when any of the other candidates disagrees with her she flashes signs of arrogance that I find distasteful.
As a former Harvard law professor, she is no doubt brilliant. She has more plans than any of her fellow candidates, but if you don’t like any of them and you challenge them, you are berated for not agreeing with her.
As for that feeling that she cares about you personally, I haven’t seen it yet and I doubt I ever will. Having many solutions to issues that impact on people’s lives does not make you an automatic winner.
When Sen. Corey Booker talks about the hardships of life in the inner city, he has lived it and cries out for your support. When Amy Klobuchar talks about the loss of the family farm, she exudes her own brand of compassion. She acknowledges that her father is and was an alcoholic, so she understands addiction.
Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana comes from the reddest of states but gets re-elected because the people back at home view him as truly one of them.
Kamala Harris has the ability to make you understand what challenges women face today because she has seen it and can talk about it.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg has sincere answers to tough questions but lacks that softness that says, “don’t worry.” In every one of his speeches, Bernie Sanders calls for a revolution, but I don’t feel like picking up a pitchfork when his remarks are over.
Julian Castro has a deep background on such issues as immigration and border crossings and at times shows flashes of caring.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has seen his share of tragedies, and occasional missteps aside, knows what personal pain is because he has lived it.
The only one of the two-tiered candidates that fails the Clinton test is Mrs. Warren. She won’t become the president by waging a war on the rich. You can’t get elected by being the candidate with the most solutions, without making people feel something warm and fuzzy.
Maybe time and the challenges of being one of the front-runners will soften her know everything attitude and she will figure out what is missing from her crusade to be at the top. But without showing that she feels your pain, she will never make it.