Compassionless Conservatives

When taking the time to retro fit your political idealogical in a more attractive guise, care must be taken.  Wouldn’t want your future actions contradicting your message (or confirming an opponents!).  Apparently the so called political genius Rove and the team behind Bush’s run for office neglected to consider how their “Compassionate Conservative” tagline might play out over the years.  Austin Cline has taken a look, and the body under the tarp is not decomposing nicely:

Deeds are more important than words, so rather than pretend that conservatism can be made compassionate by a mere rhetorical flourish, we should instead ask how the Bush administration has acquitted itself over the past years. It’s hard to see anything remotely “compassionate” in a single policy, proposal, signing statement, or any other action taken by the Bush administration. Indeed, there are so many actions that seem to be the opposite of compassionate that it would be difficult to single any one out as truly emblematic of the Bush administration’s true character.

Austin takes a look at Bush’s response regarding health insurance for children (emphasis mine):

In explaining why he opposed any expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, George Bush made it clear that his position was purely ideological. It’s not the S-CHIP fails to work or fails to be efficient, but it’s a government program and that’s enough. In response to suggestions that children need access to adequate health care, Bush insisted that everyone has access to health care: “you just go to an emergency room.”

This is more than a “let them eat cake” moment for Bush.  It is a rhetorical stab right into the heart of conservatism.  As Austin points out:

Something had to be deeply wrong with conservatism if anyone imagined that the public needed to be told that it was possible to be conservative and compassionate at the same time, or that conservatism was being transformed into an ideology more compassionate than in the past.

If this is how compassionate “Compassionate Conservatism” is, what must so called “real” or “classical” conservatism be like?  In fact if you look at the current crop of Republican candidates for 2008, is there a single one who would take the compassionate road of ensuring children have health insurance?  Would any of them oppose any federal effort just on the basis of idealogical opposition to federal law?

Austin is absolutely right.  There is a huge opportunity here.

Let’s ensure that “conservative” is welded hard and fast to the government response to Katrina, to denying medical insurance to children, to wars based on lies, to denying gays equality under the law, to religious extremism, and so forth.

The phrase “bleeding heart” liberal has been thrown around for ages.  But it is a very instructive insult.  The opposite is the stone heart.  The ruthless corporatist who is so obsessed with small government and tax reform that they are willing to let people die and lives be ruined so long as the wheels of industry keep turning.  In conservative America, for all the harping on the individual, the individual does not matter.  The conservative position is that everyone has the potential to become or remain an individual who matters and has rights. It is this potential and the definition of who matters that they are so set on defending.  So much so that they have no compassion for those who for one reason or another fail to become someone who matters (and therefore someone who deserves even the most basic rights).

Conservatism represents a fundamentally broken approach to government.  One that ignores the heart.

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5 Responses

  1. It’s a hollow word that means nothing anymore. What is it that they are conserving? Government power?

    What they ought to be conserving is the Constitution, and our Republic, and with them our Liberty and Freedom.

    But they’re not interested in any of that – they’re interested in aggregating power in a centralized state, and applying that power to whatever ends they fancy at the moment on the grand global chessboard. Yawn.

  2. It does have a meaning. To the conservatives who bandy it about, it carries a Ronald Reagan glow. To everyone watching what conservatism has become it means Bush. It means Iraq. It means Katrina. It means power hungry authoritarianism.

  3. Children don’t need insurance. They do need health care. Insurance just adds a huge expense to the system.

    And no, I do not think the government should provide health care, because the government will then ration health care.

    It’s terrible that drugs cost so much, but it will be worse when the FDA refuses approval to avoid the governmen expenditures.

  4. Alexia,
    So you are saying private organizations and people should provide health care. Ok. That won’t cover everybody.

    Who counts?

    Which children don’t get health care?

  5. Ask the people who own the money? And no, the government doesn’t 🙂

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