Podhoretz violates a social norm here, because the social norm is that you are supposed to have at least a little empathy for everyone, even people you don’t like. Systems of social norms, whether you call them religions, spiritual systems, or legal and political systems, operate partly around ethics, or what the rules are, and partly around empathy, which is the understanding of a person’s subjective situation, and also sympathy, which is an understanding for a person’s subjective situation combined with compassion for them.
There are rules, but people don’t always follow them. Who, when they don’t follow the rules, gets empathy, sympathy and love? Who, when they don’t follow the rules, gets judgment, condemnation, and hate?
Most social systems feature mostly ethics for everyone, with some sympathy for everyone. People are supposed to follow the rules, if they break them they are punished, but not excessively. If the rules are difficult and strict, more people will break them, creating more need for empathy, but if the rules are hard the people making and enforcing the rules won’t be inclined to much empathy. This will alienate a lot of people. The rules have to be strict enough to allow society to function, but not so strict people will frequently violate them and lose respect for the rules and the rulers. Strict rules are great for the rulers, but tend to backfire in the long run.
The ethical system held by mainstream conservatives and libertarians mostly rules, with limited empathy, but the rules are not strict so empathy isn’t a big issue. You must not harm others. If you harm others, you will be punished, but only to the extent necessary to maintain order, not with hatred or anger. Conservatives expect traditional sexual mores to be respected. People unable to produce economically will get charity or welfare, to a limited extent, but they believe the economy can be organized so that it is easy to get a job and make a living.
Progressives have a quite different concept of ethics. Empathy and sympathy are extended virtually without limit to some groups and not at all to others. I think this goes back to Jesus’s admonition to “love your enemies”. Bible interpretation gets onto dangerous ground. The important point here is that progressives decided at some point that not only was it good to love your enemies in addition to loving your friends and relatives, it was good to love your enemies more than your friends or relatives. This to me is the Pharisaical sin of adding on to the law, but it allowed themselves to position themselves as morally superior, and moral superiority as power is the entire idea of the last 500 years.
Jesus also told people to care for the poor and oppressed, so progressives extend unlimited empathy- or demand that others extend unlimited empathy- to those they identify as poor and oppressed, and people regarded as bad. Progressives love criminals, and care deeply about their well-being, while having no empathy for crime victims, and subjecting them to a high ethical standard. They expect criminals will be treated with kindness and decency, love, and not punished but only given confinement and treatment such as needed to remove their defects of behavior, which are entirely understandable and only due to oppression. Crime victims are expected to not have any anger over their suffering and loss and expected not to hate the criminals who hurt them, but immediately forgive them, whether they show any remorse or repentance, and not demand any more punishment than a progressive criminal justice system would dole out.
The poor are by definition good, so they must receive a lot of money and aid from the government, and the non-poor must not object to paying for this.
Most people find homosexuals and transsexuals disgusting, but being different they are oppressed, and society must do whatever they want so they will feel comfortable, and normal people must not object to their presence or any of their behavior.
This upside-down system of ethics and empathy became more and more powerful up until the 1970′s, but then the massive crime problem it created caused a backlash and counter-revolution by normal people. The criminal justice system became a lot more strict. School busing was ended, so people were able to move away and keep their children away from badly behaving poor people. Gays didn’t move back legally, but they toned down their behavior somewhat and rather than acting like 60′s cultural rebels, have since tried to portray themselves as normal middle-class citizens.
The Pharisees took a fairly straight-forward system of law and ethics and added additional customs and rules to it, to make themselves look better and give themselves more authority. This frustrated and discouraged the population. If you are a city dweller with slaves who can go to a well close by, you can wash frequently but if you are a farmer or herder admonitions to wash frequently may be difficult or impossible to follow. Jesus only wanted to restore a reasonable system of ethics and empathy, tempered with humility. Only God is good, he reminded us.
Progressive Christians took the Pharisaical model of religion where well-behaved, outwardly religious people with money were good- very much like the pagan model- to one where the badly behaved poor and sexual deviants are the good people. You go from having Deuteronomy Pharisees, who are annoying, to Sermon on the Mount Pharisees, who are deadly.
Extending unlimited compassion to the badly behaved is really a Hindu or Buddhist concept- a theoretical one, since poor and badly behaved people aren’t treated too well in Asia. The reasoning here is a little better, because a murderer for example has to suffer many lifetimes, including murder himself before he is enlightened and enters a state of bliss, rather than getting a get-out-of-jail-free card. Extending unlimited compassion to a person who has harmed you is ethically questionable to me, because while you can discount the harm they have done to you, you can’t legitimately discount the harm they may do to others without punishment. But at least it’s your choice. Demanding other people extend unlimited compassion to people who have harmed them, while extending them no compassion yourself, is evil