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Joseph Kaminski

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October 18, 2019

Compassionate Conservatism is Dying

Compassionate conservatism is a bit of a contradicting philosophy, if you really think about it. It’s the same traditional mindset that all conservatism is with a bit of a shining smile to it. The concept is that conservative techniques, when stressed, can improve the general welfare of society. Back up for a moment and realize that our modern day inception of conservatism in the Republican Party hates conservatism. Even though Red States are the ones that take in the most federal aid and welfare, your typical Republican scoffs at welfare as an idea.

Compassionate conservatism was coined and is oftentimes credited to US historian Doug Wead, who used it as a title in a speech of his which he gave in 1979. The label was big from the eighties all the way to the early thousands. In recent modern history, we associate compassionate conservatism with George W. Bush — our 43rd President who was in the White House from 2000 – 2009.

George W. Bush strongly asserted that his personal political views could be narrowed down to compassionate conservatism to a key. Looking back at the Bush presidency — from the unconstitutional torture of innocent people and the war crimes committed in Iraq to the horrendous economic laissez-faire policies of yesteryear — we can basically all but prove that compassionate conservatism must mean absolutely nothing.

Compassionate conservatism basically saw the limelight between compassionate idealism and conservative traditionalism. People within this mindset saw social problems such as health care and immigration as issues that must be easier to solve through cooperation of private companies and religious institutions rather than the government itself — your stereotypical failure of a small government which allowed the stock crash to occur in the early 20th century. But don’t take my word on it! Take it from former Bush chief speechwriter Michael Gerson, who wrote that “Compassionate conservatism is the theory that the government should encourage the effective provision of social services without providing the service itself.”

Compassionate conservatives offer a new way of thinking about the poor. They know that telling the poor that they are mere passive victims, whether of racism or of vast economic forces, is not only false but also destructive, paralyzing the poor with thoughts of their own helplessness and inadequacy.

The poor need the larger society’s moral support; they need to hear the message of personal responsibility and self-reliance, the optimistic assurance that if they try – as they must – they will make it. They need to know, too, that they can’t blame “the system” for their own wrongdoing.

— Myron Magnet, The Wall Street Journal
From traditional families, welfare reform, and individual responsibility — the mindsets of compassionate conservatives focuses on many of the problems that are left within America’s traditional right wing. The horrendous No Child Left Behind Act, for example, is the perfect way to show the hypocrisy of federal small governments intervening in ways that only shape up to be good for the compassionate conservative base themselves. It is a terrible attempt to show how a Republican government can “help people out” while “staying out of it” at the same time.

“It is compassionate to actively help our citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on accountability and results.”

— President George W. Bush
While George W. Bush began his presidency with compassionate conservatism as the centerpiece of his campaign, the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center completely destroyed Bush’s fundamental platforms. Instead, the Bush administration turned its attention to the War on Terrorism in the Middle East.
With the end of George W. Bush’s campaign came the decline of American compassionate conservatism. Many Republicans now focus harshly on how poor people and immigrants are the “problem” with the country. The presidential nominees from both 2012 and 2016 are completely against what the Republican base was for in 2000 and 2004. We’ve entered a new age of politics, and with it exists the mindset birthed in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Compassionate conservatives are officially an endangered species in our modern day Republican party. Conservatives no longer want to help people while staying out of affairs — they want to destroy those who need help while staying out of everything. That’s one of the main reasons why the Republican Party is practically defunct.

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