Skip to comments.The Rise of Uncompassionate Conservatism
Posted on 06/21/2011 9:23:31 AM PDT by Servant of the Cross
The Republican noncandidate flavor of the week is Texas governor Rick Perry. If you squint just right, you could mistake him at a podium for his predecessor, George W. Bush. Except for his message.
There might be no more powerful symbol of the death of compassionate conservatism in the Republican party than Bushs successor and former running mate in Texas stomping all over it with cowboy boots emblazoned with the words Freedom and Liberty.
Bush rose from Texas to the national stage in 1999 talking of his federal education agenda, the courage of single mothers, the power of drug and alcohol recovery programs, and the need for government to forge partnerships with faith organizations. Perry is emerging from Texas talking of the 10th Amendment, cutting government, defending freedom and defending freedom some more.
Bush spoke in dulcet tones. He separated himself from the firebrand politics of Newt Gingrich and even took a swipe at the insufficiently cheerful Robert Bork. Perry is telling Republicans to stop apologizing and elect more conservatives. Hes Rick Perry, and hes from the Republican wing of the Republican party.
The backlash against Bush has long been brewing. Compassionate conservatism was a product of the moment when Bush began to run for president in the late 1990s. The congressional wing of the party had immolated itself in the government-shutdown fights and then the impeachment of Bill Clinton. A rebranding was in order, and Bush wanted to signal to general-election voters that they neednt fear him.
Bush-style conservatism never really took with the broader party, although it gained acquiescence. The president usually gets his way with his congressional majority, so Bush could push through No Child Left Behind and the prescription-drug benefit. The war on terror and the Lefts hatred for him bonded conservatives to Bush whatever their misgivings. The nomination of John McCain himself no down-the-line conservative obscured the anti-Bush feeling.
Now, its in full flower and evident on all fronts, from spending and immigration to foreign policy, as Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns point out in Politico. Running on his message circa 1999, George W. Bush would be hard-pressed to gain traction in the current Republican party. Running on his record circa 2008 the spending programs, the bailouts, the attempted amnesty and the two ongoing hearts and minds wars of counterinsurgency hed be booed from the stage. If Michele Bachmann didnt drop-kick him off it first.
The Bush Republican party had grown flaccid and deserved to be trounced and built anew. But Bush had two insights. He realized that the party had to win over the center as well as the right, and that unadulterated doctrine would appeal most only to the doctrinaire. If Rick Perry thinks the 10th Amendment is going to have cachet with voters worried about their jobs, their wages, and the value of their homes, hes been spending too much time at Federalist Society seminars.
On top of everything else, compassionate conservatism reflected the prosperity of the 1990s. As a candidate, Bush sometimes seemed to forget that economic self-interest trumps all else. In this economy, Republicans would be suicidal ever to forget that. Even as he preaches the old-time religion, Perry in his protostump speech returns again and again to a highly practical theme: his success in fostering a pro-jobs environment in Texas. Republicans may feel no need to be compassionate in the Bush sense defensively vouching for their own good intentions but they need to connect their agenda to their solicitude for the livelihoods of voters.
As the press clues into the new anti-Bush drift of the GOP, we can expect a revival in Bushs reputation. He will be portrayed as more reasonable, more internationalist, and altogether more statesmanlike than his benighted compatriots. If only it were still the party of George W. Bush will be the lament. And it will make the party even more glad that its not.
If it isn’t napping, then what?
I think Perry’s running right against the “new tone” and against “compassionate conservatism” is a great thing. I frankly don’t trust Perry as such a super tough conservative, but it’s a great idea and if he were to win and then to govern the way he is talking now, that’s a good thing.
I firmly believe the new tone and the compassionate conservatism is what ruined the Republican brand and what gave us Obama. So firmly, I have written about it at length:
On election night: p://www.americanthinker.com/2008/11/gop_defeat_and_the_new_tone.html
And near inauguration:
Gee whiz...the National Review celebrating the spineless, aisle crossing tactics of the Bush administration. What a shock.
I’ll assign a son to deal with it. However, napping among the vegetables is a major cat activity, so I assume it’s that. Nothing can sleep like a hot cat, except a cold reptile.
And with that, to the library we go. It’s a favorite haunt of the eponymous baby.
Where did you get that from this article?
Compassionate conservatism is a PC term for progressive Republican. It’s all ice cream, cake and sugar, laughs and good feelings until the cavities and diabetes begin. Years down the road we will blame the debt and social spending on liberal Democrats, as though progressive Republicans had nothing to do with it. No thanks! We’ve had enough of our progressive intelligentsia and the destruction it brings.
this whole article must be a lie, because I have been informed many times on this board that Perry is a RINO... seems to be a disconnect somewhere in the information chain.
“Bush spoke in dulcet tones. He separated himself from the firebrand politics of Newt Gingrich and even took a swipe at the insufficiently cheerful Robert Bork.”
I never met a single leftist who thought that Bush was “compassionate”. He was “Bushitler” to every one of them- despite all the pandering.
This is where a leader steps up and explains why giving government handouts is neither compassionate or conservative. GOVERNMENT IS NOT COMPASSIONATE!
Remember Reagan's quote? Government is not the solution to problems, it IS the problem. GW's damnable "compassionate conservative" bunk tricked a lot of us into voting for him while totally ceding the conservative arguments against government interference.
“But Bush had two insights. He realized that the party had to win over the center as well as the right, and that unadulterated doctrine would appeal most only to the doctrinaire.”
Pah. This is absolutely the wrong way to deal with people in the so-called center. The right conception is that they are people you want to convert to your way of thinking, not you converting to theirs. Instead of trying to moderate your way to the middle, you convince them to immoderate and tilt to the right. Measures such as the prescription drug benefit and No Child Left Behind were absolutely the wrong sort of thing to do- trying to out-Democrat the Democrats failed.
I look forward to them having the rug yanked out from under them
As do I!
In this area, we should do what the Democrats do: Lie to the mush-brained middle, then do what we really intended when we get elected. In our case, though, we should do what is good for the USA.
Exactly right! The only people that this pandering appealed to were the idiot establishment squishy non-conservative 'moderates' in OLD party like Rove, Norquist and Flowry ... Bush spoke in dulcet tones." ... "He separated himself from the firebrand politics" ....
Oh ... PUKE. RETCH. DRY HEAVE!
That makes me think of David Brooks and 0bama's f'ing pantleg (or is that pantload?!)
In the name of Bill Buckley, fire Flowry.
Sorry. Deep breath. Rant over.
If Rick Perry thinks the 10th Amendment is going to have cachet with voters worried about their jobs, their wages, and the value of their homes, hes been spending too much time at Federalist Society seminars.
. . .
I wouldn’t bet on that. Rick Perry can clearly testify to how the over-reaching FedGov has tried to steamroll Texas.
People were fed up with the GOP and started kicking them to the curb in ‘06 because of the obscene spending and growth of government. They really thought they were going to get something better when they ushered in a Dem. congress and then Obama and more even more Dems in ‘08.
Now people aren’t just miffed, they’re pissed off.
Great articles! Thanks for those links. You were prophetic.
The spin in the liberal media is that tax cuts amounts to the government giving money away to those who least need it (depriving those that need the government's money the most). The liberal media spin entirely ignores the fact that tax cuts allow those earning money to retain more of it. This type of misrepresentation and misinformation is rampant throughout the lamestream media.
BRING IT ON!
[If Rick Perry thinks the 10th Amendment is going to have cachet with voters worried about their jobs, their wages, and the value of their homes, hes been spending too much time at Federalist Society seminars.]
NRO ain’t what it used to be. The David Brooks wing.
Jonah Goldberg via NRO had a great article about this topic:
It dives deeper into your point. Definitely worth the read.