Scratch the surface of leftist complaint and you always seem to find resentment, whether about the general unfairness of society or the indifference to the harm done to the powerless. While unfairness and harm exist, the almost exclusive focus by the left on these perspectives stems from a psychology of resentment and learned powerlessness. Because most Americans are self-reliant and optimistic, the left does not usually win elections. 2008 was an anomaly, because the blatant unfairness of the bailouts and Republican duplicity made it logical for Americans to turn to the Democrats.
Look at a few issues as illustration.
Left: These poor immigrants are lured here almost against their will by the vile conditions in Mexico and are enticed by employment that only becomes exploitation. Compassion demands that we allow them to stay and become citizens to protect them from predations that are not their fault. Only a racist would think otherwise.
Tea Party: Amnesty undermines the rule of law, which is necessary for the smooth functioning of society. If we have a second amnesty, where does it end? How do we maintain national sovereignty which is necessary to protect everyone in the nation?
Bridging the gap: Securing the border is actually more compassionate to the would-be immigrants, because they won't die making the trek. Then we can have an expanded policy that allows immigrants who can get jobs to come to America. Bringing in those who don't have jobs and will be on welfare isn't compassionate, because it condemns them and their offspring to a life in poverty.
Left. The rich are undeserving of their wealth, they mostly stole it by exploiting the workers and the resources of the third world (notice the resentment). Those who studied comparative dance deserve as much income as those who studied electronic engineering or finance. Taxes should be used to reverse income inequalities or socialism imposed to make sure we are all equal. The poor haven't shared in the country's success.
Tea Party. Punishing success is itself unfair. Further, efforts to redistribute wealth attack the foundations of liberty, which include economic liberty. We are all better off when those who work hard or are clever and innovative succeed and are rewarded. The purpose of the tax code is to collect revenue for the legitimate functions of government, not to redistribute income. Redistribution also undermines the social order necessary for a successful society.
Bridging the gap. When we look at the actual income of the poor and middle class to include the effects of taxation and benefits of health insurance, the gap in income growth is not very wide. Further, by any measure the rich pay their fair share of taxes. Providing the opportunity for everyone in society to advance is the fairest way to help the poor.
Left. Minorities and women have always suffered in America since the founding. Prejudice is baked into the DNA of the nation. As long as one person harbors racist thoughts, no minority person can feel safe in Amerika. Only a regime that consistently and perpetually tilts the playing field in the favor of the aggrieved groups is acceptable if we are to care for those who will be forever harmed by our racist history. (Note the call for perpetual resentment.)
Tea Party. Fairness is served by actual color-blind policies that do not take race into account. Further, moving our society away from racism is best served by color blind policies. Finally, we should consider ourselves Americans first and foremost. It offends our sense of justice to not apply all government policies even handedly.
Bridging the Gap. President Barack Obama himself asked Americans to come together and not think of themselves as black or white first, but as Americans first. A concept that condemns whites because of their race is just as harmful and unfair as the racism that it is supposedly responding to.
Those are just a few examples of ways I have been thinking to persuade those on the left to look at our point of view differently. I admit that my characterization of leftist thinking is broad and over-generalized, and of Tea Party thinking as well, just trying to show some examples. I would like to thank my youngest son, who is taking his required general courses at SDSU for providing insight as to the thinking of his leftist professors. I also am drawing on the writing of Jonathan Haidt for inspiration in how to bridge the gap of discussion.
Ultimately, I think that Obama has chosen the politics of resentment as the key to electoral success. I may be wrong, but since he has launched attacks on Paul Ryan and on the rich with the Buffett rule, his poll numbers already seem to be slipping. I believe that it is important to defeat him, but more important to educate Americans on the virtues of our positions.