Mr. Compassionate Conservatism
by Naomi Schaffer Riley - October 21st, 2006 - Wall Street Journal (Opinion Journal)
Amid the cut and thrust of the midterm elections, two questions have frothed up within the recesses of the GOP--almost as an arcane distraction from the squalid business of holding on to House and Senate: Has compassionate conservatism worked? And should Republicans try it again?
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey has made his position plain. In a recent open letter from his organization, Freedomworks, he assailed some leaders of the religious right, suggesting that if Republicans lose in November it would be because they have abandoned the principle of limited government in favor of embracing government for supposedly conservative ends.
This is a very important part of the current political dialog. The coalition of supporters which made George W. Bush President are primarily composed of those who bought into the concept of compassionate conservatism along with the group known as neoconservatives. Both are idealists. In this article Ms Riley describes some of the views of Michael Gerson, a speechwriter for George Bush who was key in helping Bush create the compassionate conservative movement.
I think an important question for both compassionate conseravatives and neoconservatives, "what is the proper role of government?" The result of their efforts so far has been (like the efforts of liberals before them) to expand the size and power of government. They have thus done more evil than good in many cases. It is the basis of the attacks from paleo conservatives like Pat Buchanan. It is even the basis of the attack of many liberals who can see the evil being done by goverment in the name of compassionate conservatism but who never could see the evil they caused. Ironic, no?
George Bush has NEVER vetoed any bill except a couple of bills that had provisions to fund embryonic stem cell efforts. There has never been any attempt to control or limit goverment. As noted, an ironic twist has been that liberals have assailed Bush efforts to expand government, simultaneously saying they are not enough and yet too much of the wrong kind of government (though they have never given any specifics about what they mean by "wrong kind" leaving me with the suspicion that it is simply political posturing).
A question that I would like addressed by the parts of both groups (compassionate conservatives and neoconservatives) that are in Washington is whether they do not need some rational form of limitation on their desire to expand government? The religious right is a major element of the compassionate conservative movement. It seems to me they have set aside their belief in the moral goals of the church by the simple step of embracing government forcing people to be good by law. Does Jesus or God really support having the state make it a legal requirement to be moral? Has the church really abandoned the concept of free will in its desire to see morality be a matter of persuasion rather than a requirment of law?
Laws are enforced by the gun. Compassionate conservatives and neoconservatives need to embrace a clarification of their governing philosphy which returns to limited government as a key element. Otherwise they will wind up as evil and tyrannical as liberals.