Compassionate Conservatism is no more
Looking at the GOP of today one might forget they once relished in the fact that they held the title of a “compassionate conservative.” In fact, former President George W. Bush used it several times to describe his particular brand of conservatism. But, this branch of conservatism is dying. With the pugilism of Trump and the strict ideology of Cruz; compassionate conservatism is no more. The state of the GOP lies with a fierce demagogue and a cunning ideologue.
Let us start with Donald Trump. I would argue that he has not introduced a new branch of the GOP, but has revealed a forgotten and often disenfranchised section. Trump has forced America to acknowledge the following of Governor George Wallace and former Congressman David Duke. In addition to the racist, the sexist, and the xenophobic, Trump has also reached those forgotten by the GOP. The lower and working class Republicans, who largely feel ignored by Republicans in office, see Trump as their voice. His authoritarianism attracts them and his lack of political experience has proven to be more a plus than a vice. They want someone different than the prototypical Republican. His economic populism, that has eluded them for so long, is what they desire. Trump can be described as a populist: promoting a liberal economic platform while feeding the xenophobic and racist infection that has plagued this country since its founding. He’d govern on the fears and prejudices of Americans rather than following a strict ideology like his opponent Senator Ted Cruz.
Ted Cruz, on the other hand, epitomizes a conservative ideologue. He advocates only for the most conservative policies at every given point. He brand of conservatism is uncompromising and dogmatic. From abolishing the IRS to his opposition to gay and womens’ rights; Cruz truly believes that what he preaches is the truth. Hence his unfavorable standing in the U.S. Senate. His colleagues despise his methods and how he goes about promoting them. His unapologetic defense of his platform has proven to be more disruptive rather than productive in the Senate. Yet his opposition the Republican establishment, coupled with his staunch Christian influences, have attracted many who feel the country is moving too fast. The evangelical and über-conservative communities see Cruz as their savior, their chance at relevancy once again.
Then leaves Governor John Kasich, who is definition of a compassionate conservative. With pro-life and pro-traditional marriage policies he is most definitely conservative, but what makes him a compassionate is his willingness to accept the current state of both of those issues today. For example, he is pro-traditional marriage, but has made it clear he has no intent on fighting the SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage. This branch of conservatism has lost the popularity it once held. It remains popular within the Beltway and with those in the establishment, but no longer resonates with a majority of conservatives. President Bush’s legacy in the GOP is fading with Kasich’s platform loss of significance.
As compassionate conservatism takes its last dying breath, the politics of Trump and Cruz grow stronger. As they encroach upon engulfing the Republican platform of former President Bush, the GOP is changing before our eyes. The politics of fear, prejudice and intransigence will rule the party of Lincoln.