Is “Reform Conservatism” Compassionate Conservatism Redux?

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Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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  1. Avatar BlaiseP
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    says:

    It’s beyond cliché and gone to truism: the Republicans need to change. Perhaps they do in some respects. In others, they can rely on the Tried and True appeals to fear, ignorance and doubt which have been their staff of life for many decades.

    If I was in charge of GOP outreach efforts to Hispanics in the USA, I’d tell those Cubanos Rubio and Ted Cruz to STFU and speak English. Every time they open their mouths to speak Spanish, they sound like Cubanos, already within the GOP camp for many years.

    Hispanos are not united: they aren’t even united as expatriates: elite Guatemalans have nothing to do with the poor native peoples whom they vigorously oppressed for four decades in a Dirty War which beggars description. Millions of landmines are still in the soil of Guatemala, they’re still digging them out and the nastiest dictator in living memory, José Efraín Ríos Montt, was a great hero to Ronald Reagan, who called him a Freedom Fighter. The Guatemalans remember that fact. The GOP has never recante its support for the worst dictators, ever.

    The Hispanic American community enjoys speaking Spanish among themselves but they want their own kids to speak English and they’re quite adamant on this subject. I wouldn’t attempt to put out ads in Spanish. I’d write those ads in simple English, showing a student learning English, teaching his abuela English. Be American. Vote GOP. That would bring ’em in like flies to a dog turd but the GOP is far too stupid to know what Hispanos want. They’re in the same predicament the Democrats were in years ago, not really knowing how to appeal to minorities. The minorities reached out to the Democrats, not the other way round.

    It’s unbecoming a conservative to be too compassionate. Smacks of pity and condescending. No, a Conservative, if he’s to make any headway, must appeal to Kantian Duty. It’s our duty as a nation to respect the law, to respect the government, to respect each other, to respect ourselves. Yes, you too can join the Great American Experiment: become part of something greater. Be American. What does it mean? That’s up to you: every generation must define American for itself. Be a Conservative, we believe in something. See, that approach gains converts. This line of rhetoric might even convince me — but then, conservatism stopped preaching this sermon long ago.

    The current crop of Young Conservative Comment Taters are worthless, to a boy. I would say “to a man” but they clearly are nothing of the sort. They do have a point, though: compassionate conservatism is an iffy proposition.

    Larry Taunton debated Christopher Hitchens on the subject of atheism many times. An unlikely friendship developed. Taunton:

    Following our 2010 debate in Billings, Montana, I asked Christopher Hitchens why he didn’t try to savage me on stage the way he had so many others. His reply was immediate and emphatic: “Because you believe it.”

    Later, Hitchens, clearly quite ill in this video said of Taunton: If everyone in the United States had the same qualities of loyalty and care and concern for others Larry Taunton had, we would be living in a much better society than we do

    The Conservatives need to quit trying to pander. If there’s any validity in their worldview, it will start with believing in something worth believing in. Thus far, I am not encouraged by what I have seen coming from their camp. They do not care for others. They are not loyal, not even to their own.Report

  2. Avatar zic
    Ignored
    says:

    Elias, you might want to look at this piece on Monkey Cage by John Sides.

    He presents data for this conclusion:

    But when I hear people telling the GOP to “re-brand” or “re-boot,” I hear them advocating something more than just tacking to the center on a few issues. Advocates seem to want a more thorough renovation of the party’s platform. Could that help the party regain the White House? Possibly. Is it necessary for them to do so in order to win? I doubt it. After all, the parties have changed a lot in the past 40 years, but voters don’t really seem to have noticed.

    Report

  3. Avatar Pinky
    Ignored
    says:

    Utterly pointless article. I guess it was supposed to identify the differences between reform conservatism, compassionate conservatism, moderate Republicanism, and conservative Republicanism, but it didn’t mention specifics – or, rather, it only mentioned them in passing. For example, it coughed about, rather than explained, the problems with No Child Left Behind. That’s probably the single most identified piece of compassionate conservative legislation, and not something you can mention in parentheses in an article on the subject.

    It made a lot of assumptions about our current state of politics and government without explaining them, I guess assuming that the average Slate reader would agree with them. It didn’t even bother fleshing out the “Republicans need to change” cliche – while identifying it as a cliche. Shouldn’t that be a warning? I also got a kick out of the names which were identified with conservatism, even referring to Douthat as “influential”. The sprinkle of cinnamon on the top, however, was the declaration that Paul Ryan is doctrinaire, uncompassionate, and completely different from George W. Bush – the same Paul Ryan who voted for No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and TARP. I suppose it’s a good thing that the article didn’t go into specifics, because they would have revealed how flawed its broad strokes really were.Report

  4. Avatar Pinky
    Ignored
    says:

    I just heard the unreasonably doctrinaire Paul Ryan spend a half hour on The Mark Levin Show arguing on behalf of immigration reform. Or, I guess, I didn’t, because clearly he’d never be so compassionate.

    I’m telling you, keep your powder dry, and hone your arguments. There are times you can win by offering up bad caricatures of your opponents, but those times don’t last. The voting public is fickle.Report

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