..is when people attribute differences of opinion on policy issues to the other side "not caring."
I could cite a million examples a day but the one I will grab today is from Daniel Drezner and Kevin Drum. They argue that people with establishment jobs just don't care about jobs for the little people. Specifically Drum writes:
Dan Drezner points out today that in the latest poll from the Council on Foreign Relations, the opinions of foreign policy elites have converged quite a bit with the opinions of the general public. But among the top five items in the poll, there's still one big difference that sticks out like a fire alarm: ordinary people care about American jobs and elites don't. Funny how that works, isn't it?
Here are the specific poll results he sites. Not that this is a foreign policy survey
The first thing to note is that respondents are being asked about top priorities, not what issues are important. So it is possible, even likely, the people surveyed thought that domestic employment issues were important but not a priority for our foreign policy efforts. Respondents would likely also have said that (say) protecting domestic free speech rights was not a foreign policy priority, but I bet they would still think that free speech was an important thing they care about. The best analogy I can think of is if someone criticized a Phoenix mayoral candidate for not making Supreme Court Justice selection one of her top priorities. Certainly the candidate might consider the identity of SCOTUS judges to be important, but she could reasonably argue that the Phoenix mayor doesn't have much leverage on that process and so it should not be a job-focus priority.
But the second thing to note is that there is an implied policy bias involved here. The Left tends to take as a bedrock principle that activist and restrictive trade policy is sometimes (even often) necessary to protect American jobs. On the other hand many folks, including me and perhaps a plurality of economists, believe that protectionist trade policy actually reduces total American employment and wealth, benefiting a few politically connected and visible industries at the expense of consumers and consumer industries (Bastiat's "unseen"). Because of the word "protecting", which pretty clearly seems to imply protectionist trade policy, many folks answering this survey who might consider employment and economic growth to be valid foreign policy priorities might still have ranked this one low because they don't agree with the protectionist / restrictionist trade theory. Had the question said instead, say, "Improving American Economic Well-Being" my guess would be the survey results would have been higher.
Whichever the case, there is absolutely no basis for using this study to try to create yet another ad hominem attack out there in the political space. People who disagree with you generally do not have evil motives, they likely have different assumptions about the nature of the problem and relevant policy solutions. Treating them as bad-intentioned is the #1 tendency that drags down political discourse today.
Postscript: This is not an isolated problem of the Left, I just happened to see this one when I was thinking about the issue. There likely is a Conservative site out there taking the drug policy number at the bottom and blogging something like "Obama state department doesn't care about kids dying of drug overdoses." This of course would share all the same problems as Drum's statement, attributing the survey results to bad motives rather than a sincere policy difference (e.g. those of us who understand that drugs can be destructive but see the war on drugs and drug trafficking to be even more destructive).