Thursday, January 28, 2016

"Compassionate Conservativism" Has Disappeared from the GOP

Personally, I always found George W. Bush's preaching of "compassionate conservatism" to be bogus - bullshit might be more on point - given the hate and bigotry that flowed from his administration.  And that's not even venturing into the issue of the lies and deceit used by Bush/Cheney to take America to war in Iraq and ultimately set the stage for the rise of ISIS.  Yet, compared to the misrule of Bush/Cheney, today's slate of GOP presidential candidates make George W. Bush look like a veritable Mother Theresa.  A column in the New York Times looks at the ugliness that is now the norm in the Republican Party and its base.  Here are excerpts:
Back in 2000, George W. Bush did something fascinating: On the campaign trail he preached “compassionate conservatism,” telling wealthy Republicans about the travails of Mexican-American immigrants and declaring to women in pearls that “the hardest job in America” is that of a single mother.  Those well-heeled audiences looked baffled, but applauded.

That instinct to show a little heart helped elect Bush but then largely disappeared from Republican playbooks and policy. Yet now, amid the Republican Party’s civil war, there are intriguing initiatives by the House speaker, Paul Ryan, and some other conservatives to revive an interest in the needy.

Liberals like myself may be tempted to dismiss these new efforts as mere marketing gestures, meant to whitewash what one of the initiatives acknowledges is “the longstanding view of a meanspirited conservatism.”
[U]ltimately whether the poor get help may depend less on Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders than on Republicans at every level. Whether Medicaid is expanded, whether we get high-quality pre-K, whether we tackle addiction, family planning and job training, whether lead continues to poison American children — all these will depend mostly on Republicans who control Congress and most states.

I’d be thrilled if Republicans participated in debates about poverty, rather than forfeited the terrain. A real debate would also elevate issues that now are largely neglected, and it would create an opening to hold politicians’ feet to the fire: If Ryan cares, then why did he try to slash budgets for evidence-based programs that help children?

One reason for skepticism that any of this will get traction: Among the candidates who skipped the forum were the front-runners, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Neither seems interested in this arena.
The sad truth is that neither party has done enough to address the shame of deep-rooted poverty in America. So let’s hope for a real contest in this area, because everybody loses — above all, America’s neediest — when most of the time one party doesn’t even bother to show up.

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