Most people know what pathos is. It is a form of pity that descends into unwarranted emotionality. Bathos takes this a step lower. It seizes upon our concern for the welfare of others and corrupts it into a mockery of human compassion. Instead of genuine caring, it offers a caricature of kindness.

Closely related to this is the logical fallacy called the argumentum ad misericordiam. This occurs when a person attempts to win an argument by appealing to pity rather than sound reasons. It seeks to win by manipulating our emotions, rather than appealing to facts.

Contemporary politics are now awash with bathos and argumentums ad misericordiam. Instead of politicians carefully explaining why their policies would be beneficial, they go straight to emotional exploitation. They do not care if what they claim is right as long as they can persuade voters that it is.

Although all politicians are prone to this tactic, the Democrats are turning it into an art form. They descend into bathos so easily because so much of what they favor is unattainable. Rather than admit this, they seek to win through the backdoor of illegitimate emotionality.

Consider what is happening at our southern border. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants seeking asylum have overwhelmed our ability to cope with this tide. Federal officials have neither the manpower nor the facilities to keep up with growing numbers of families and unattached children.

So what do the Democrats say in the face of this deluge? First, they denied that there was a problem. They told us that it was a manufactured crisis. Then they insisted that there was a crisis, but it was a humanitarian one.

Nowadays, as regular as clockwork, we are told that children are being ripped from their parents’ arms and then shunted into cages. Donald Trump and his minions are so heartless that they do not even provide mattresses or toothbrushes.

Almost any issue that comes up, be it court-ordered deportations or sanctuary cities, sooner or later the children are trotted out to defend the liberal position. They have become the equivalent of hostages that are pushed out in front of the line of march so as to ward off counterattacks.

Thus not long ago, several Democratic congresspersons ventured to south Florida to observe that was happening at a detention facility for children. They concluded that the crowding was disgraceful. It could not be tolerated.

These cries about “the children, the children,” are shameful. Why then do they persist? It is because progressives pride themselves on being compassionate. If the policies they support are not actually helping people, they must nonetheless pretend that they care.

In fact, compassion is compassion only when it seeks genuine solutions to human problems. Merely trying to wring tears out of the eyes of voters is no substitute for actually doing good. While this may fool many people in the short term, in the long term it is apt to be found out.

Liberalism is failing. It has not solved the problems it promised to solve. Nor does it have any ideas other than those that have been tried and failed. Someone should tell them that socialism has never improved social conditions anywhere that it has been implemented.

By now, millions of Americans have grown cynical. They keep being subjected to bathos on a daily basis. Whatever their political loyalties, observers of this chaos must eventually realize that this will probably not lead to progress. It is, in truth, public theater and little more.

Almost everyone knows that we are at a political impasse. Nevertheless, no one wants to lose. As the result of being intellectually bankrupt, those on the left have found no alternative except raw emotion. They scream, they shout, they bring out the crying towel — all to no avail.

It is time for people caught in this political drama to dry their eyes. Rather than listen to the boy who cried wolf, they need to face the facts. The bathos has become tiresome. If its promoters have not yet grown weary of it, they may rest assured that a significant portion of the electorate have.

Melvyn Fein is professor emeritus of sociology at Kennesaw State University. He lives in Canton.

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