Democrats & Liberals Archives

Revisiting Compassion and Conservatism

This is the week, four years ago, when we were finally introduced to George W. Bush. The Republican convention of 2000 was his coming out party, as are most conventions these days. He seemed personable, down to earth, strong, a guy who could appreciate a little horseplay. He certainly seemed more lively than Al Gore, though the intelligence gap between them, even then, was clearly a chasm.

I'd vote for Gore on his record and his intelligence, his grasp of the issues, his experience in the upper echelons of power. But I didn't think any less of Bush than I think of most children of privilege - a little sheltered from the real world, a measure of naievete borne in the protection of wealth, perhaps a bit frightened by their own sweat. In fact, I found his message of compassionate conservatism intruguing and a worthy ideal to which to aspire.

Four years later, it's time to reassess.

In the midst of the Republican convention of 2004, I find myself wondering aloud what happened to that ideal. A man who has spent nearly a hundred million dollars on advertising that accomplishes little more than to paint his opponent as a "flip-flopper" should be clear and consistent on every issue, shouldn't he? Wouldn't we view an adulterous minister, railing to his congregation on the evils of the flesh, as a hypocrite? If a man preaches compassion, shouldn't he truly be compassionate? If he speaks in lowered and respectful tones about the virtues of conservatism, shouldn't he actually be conservative? Personally, I wonder about a man's view of those around him when he talks the talk but refuses to walk the walk. Does he think we're just not watching?

A truly compassionate president would be driven unerringly to assure that those with the least are properly looked after. The poor would be given the hand they need, the hand they desperately crave, to pull themselves from poverty, and only for as long as it took to make that happen. That's all they want. The sick and infirm would be given every assurance that the vast wealth of the United States is behind the research that will ease their pain and prevent it in their grandchildren. That's their respite. Those on the edges of society would sleep well at night knowing that their lives and lifestyles were meaningful to the overall fabric of society. That recognition is their greatest aspiration.

The Gap Widens

In each of the past four years, the number of American citizens living in poverty has increased. Those in the top ten percent of income have gotten disproportionately wealthier.

Americans Back Stem Cell Research Funds

Is there any public entity engaged in sussing out the ethical questions surrounding stem cell research? These questions are, after all, the reason for the limitation on research that could change the life of everyone in America. Are we really looking for the answers?

GOP platform seeks gay marriage ban

For the first time in American history, a president has gone on record in support of a constitutional amendment that will ban an entire class of American citizens from the full and equal protection of the law.

Regardless of what you may hear from New York this week, this isn't compassion. It's cruelty, plain and simple.

I was raised in a conservative Republican household. Long before I even knew what a liberal was, I had a solid grasp of the core principles of the Republican party and conservatism. Remember the convention many now refer to as the "last with any meaning," the 1976 Republican convention in Kansas City? I was in Kemper Arena when Ronald Reagan and George Bush stood on the stage with Gerald Ford, nominated by his party less than a day before. Conservatism, as I was taught, was about spending less than you bring in. In time and with diligence, that could lead to a tax cut. Conservatism was about making the Federal government smaller and less intrusive. This while still providing the states with funding and services that would keep them strong - truly a republic. Conservatism was about prudence on the world stage and strength in diplomacy. To win hearts and minds with the fruits of our wealth but to always, always protect us from the real enemies.

Federal budget deficit hits record $395.8 billion

How can we possibly spend so much more than we take in? To paraphrase a well-known quote, by "spending like a drunken Guardsman."

Rules of court limit who can challenge Patriot Act provision

Only those old enough to remember the McCarthy era have ever seen the government so deeply in our business.

Republicans Again Link Iraq War to War on Terror

There must be a connection because they keep telling us so.

This clearly isn't conservatism. It's an utter and absolute lack of both fiscal and moral responsibility.

I'm not sure how much if at all we'll hear the phrase "compassionate conservatism" over the course of the next few nights, though it was the rallying cry just four years ago. I'm sure we will, however, hear the phrase "flip-flop" ad nauseum. If that phrase means "to deviate from one's stated position," well, then it's really all just a matter of perspective, now, isn't it?

Posted by Tony Steidler-Dennison at August 31, 2004 11:58 PM