I'll take a stereotypical white straight male, perhaps 58 years old, or maybe 36, a man who righteously prides himself on his gender, color, social class, and maybe even his religion. He is from Carlsbad or La Jolla or even Long Island. He owns property, pays property taxes - and is less considerate of non-property owners, although he may not often voice his disapproval.He is a Republican at heart and by his intellect, and he knows that because as long as he is white and educated, he will succeed as long as big government doesn't tax him to death first. He is conscious of the fact that he has no empathy for people who are not just like him, people of the wrong color, gender, religion, or social class, perhaps even someone who was born in the wrong geographical region of the country, and takes it as a source of pride. The only people who he feels comfortable with are straight white males of similar social status and political persuasion.
He honestly believes he is a self-made man, even though he may have been born wealthy, gone to the finest schools, and gotten every job in his life through family connections. And he honestly believes that everyone else had the same opportunity, and having chosen not to be like him, therefore are victims of the misery that they themselves caused, of life's unfortunate roll of the dice because something they did wrong.
As far as he's concerned, the fact that he is rich or comfortable is the way it is supposed to be, just as much as that he is white or male. The reason that Hispanics or blacks or women or poor people are not like him is because they aren't supposed to be. They don't matter, and they aren't supposed to. The only folks who matter are the older rich white guys. He may not be an overtly vocal racist, sexist, or homophobe - but certainly he is an expressive proud white male, who simply identifies with other "successful" white male lives - because they're in power, and they're in power because they are supposed to be in power.
Guys like this do not have empathy. They don't believe in having empathy. To do so is a weakness. To even want to learn about anyone else's life experience is a character flaw, which could taint them. It could embarass them, too, to admit that everything they believed in is wrong.
They believe that the elite/rich/suburban or urban male experience is the only one that matters. It is the default, and it is the natural order of things. To fail to accept this is, well, racist. Not to vote for a rich white male is racist, or "reverse racist". To presume that a woman, a black man, or even (God forbid!) a non-white woman or gay or lesbian could be the best, or even good enough for a top position is absurd to their thinking. To them it is obvious that women and minorities who have achieved success would never have done it without affirmative action, by playing the 'race card', or by cheating. Their qualifications are empty, meaningless. If there is only one elite white male who wants the job, even if he is not as qualified on paper, he believes he automatically should have it, because he will perform better at it, naturally.
A man like this has no idea what happens to a poor woman who gets pregnant and realizes she can't afford to raise another child, or to a disabled person or minority who is discriminated against. He cares superficially, but actually doesn't care internally. He thinks gay men should simply go back into the closet. For sure, while women and minorities are intellectually inferior, gays are morally inferior.
An educated Latina like Judge Sotomayor, on the other hand, knows all about the rich white male experience, because she has run into it all her life. She has had it hammered into her all her life as the default experience, the only way to be, which is a lot more than Newt Gingrich can understand what women or minorities or gays experience. He has no idea what it is like to be a Latina, whether poor and struggling in and around the Yankee Stadium ghettos; or, even the flip side - highly educated, successful nominee to the Supreme Court with a stellar judicial record. He doesn't understand the latter because a smart latina on the Supreme Court deviates from the natural order of man and god. While he understands John Roberts, he can't figure out Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But as long as women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Sandra Day O’Connor kept their mouths shut like good girls, they have been tolerated.
But what it comes down to is the need for people on the Supreme Court who care about Americans. Obama said that the “quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles” is “an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.” In fact, the world actually does not evolve around the white straight male experience. Why do I, as a white male, think this way? It is because I was, at one time, that white straight male from Long Island.
I would like to thank Angela Quattrano of the Daily Kos for allowing me to re-print this with my own edits and ideas, while providing me the framework and words written herein. As a result, this piece is a co-author between the two of us.