Friday, November 16, 2012

Jonah Goldberg's Take on Compassionate Conservatism

Moreover, according to exit polls, Romney decisively beat Obama on the questions of leadership, values and economic expertise, but was crushed by more than 60 points on the question of which candidate "cares about people like me."

I still don't like compassionate conservatism or its conception of the role of government. But given the election results, I have to acknowledge that Bush was more prescient than I appreciated at the time.

I could not agree more with Goldberg's assessment. Our leaders have to evince a sense that they care about the people whom they are called to represent.

"Limited Government is good for the Little Guy" would be a better message.  The power of local control over federal overreach is key.

One local party leader suggested that Republicans have to invest their actions in the community. Not tax money, not regulations, but good, old fashioned outreach that meets the needs of those who are looking for answers, who want to be free of the handout, but do not know how to get their hands out to work.

George Will documented the efforts of conservative parliamentarians during the 1840's and 1850's. They were appalled at the untenable tenement conditions in which the rising number of city migrants were contending with. Most historians neglect to point out that excessive regulations and poor planning prevented contractors from setting up better housing. In this example, less government permits more opportunity for growth and innovation. This argument would carry the day for prospective voters who do not like the Democratic party, but view the Republican brand as an extension of country club property owners who are looking out for their own interests.

George W. Bush exploded government in order to "keep us safe", when the expansion of government likely contributed to the miscommunications between different departments in Washington. Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, the Terry Schiavo intervention all demonstrate the improper, unconstitutional investment of government power in the lives of Americans.

Even though  President Bill Clinton did very little to stop, neutralize, or kill Osama bin Laden. George W. Bush cannot justify his Johnsonian insistence on more state power. Government should not be moving in to fix problems, but rather to provide more opportunities. Protecting the rights of current citizens, easing the transition from poverty to prosperity, engaging immigrants to integrate into this wonderful country: all of these programs can be achieved more effectively  under a program of limited (not "No") government and individual liberty.

Conservatism by nature is compassionate. No need to defend free markets for free people; but simply assuming that new voters will make this connection will only deny that the conservative brand still  has some selling to do.

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