Compassionate Conservatism 2.0
Victoria Lewis has volunteered and/or worked in Republican politics for 25 years. She began in 1992 at the age of 17 when she actively volunteered on the Bush/Quayle campaign. She continued volunteering on presidential, congressional, and state races throughout the years. She was and is a Republican, and believes a home for a compassionate voice in the GOP is worth fighting for.
For over 35 years, compassionate conservatism has been a term embraced by many moderate Republicans, doubted by those on both the right and the left, and dismissed by the far left as nothing more than good PR. There was a time not too long ago when we had Republican leaders who exemplified this political trait. George H. W. Bush established the Points of Life Foundation bringing millions of volunteers and those in need together. And most recently, George W. Bush established the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, an organization that has saved the lives of millions in Africa.
What these compassionate conservatives understood is that helping the greater good and maintaining your status as a small government fiscal conservative are not mutually exclusive. They understood that providing human beings with the most basic of needs — lifesaving medicine, education for girls, and volunteers with the desire and time to help others create a solid foundation upon which we can best build Republican ideals.
It seems today that we have very few Republicans, both elected and appointed policy makers, who are what we traditionally know as a compassionate conservative. Party leaders have placed the importance of a free-market economy far above the needs of the least of us. As a party, we now seem to be encouraging individuals to tailor their lives around government policy. What does this mean for our communities? Are we now telling a hometown entrepreneur who is creating local jobs and has a child with a pre-existing condition to move to a new state to obtain health care?
With GOP leaders and members fully embracing their newfound power and strong focus on capitalism, is there still room for compassion in the Republican party? I believe that not only is there room in the party for compassion, but it is needed now more than ever. It’s time for a compassionate conservatism redux: Compassionate Conservatism 2.0, if you will.
If we learned anything in 2016, it was that Middle America has a loud voice and they demand to be heard. But what about those who don’t have a platform, or whose voice is too quiet to hear? Can the GOP lend a voice and provide a platform for them? We absolutely can — and more importantly, we must. It is imperative that we tackle issues that concern each of us, such as generational poverty, immigration, and health care.
All too often I hear conservatives say that the poor “…just need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps!” I used to utter these words myself until my time volunteering helped me learn about the trap that is generational poverty. This is defined by having lived in poverty for two generations or more. When your grandparents and parents have grown up in poverty with inadequate education, the knowledge and hope for escaping are lost. In other words, there are no straps on the boots, or worse, no boots at all. Asking someone to exercise a skill set they were never given the opportunity to learn won’t solve the problem. Empathetic solutions will.
Immigration was a topic first and foremost on the lips of American voters in 2016. Whether it was the wall, deportations, or a ban, it was clear that U.S. citizens were demanding a solution. The President and his advisors thus far have offered two bans on immigration from a few majority Muslim countries, the immediate deportation of criminal illegal aliens, and a wall/fence that may or may not be built. While accomplished through executive orders, which Republican officials decried during the prior administration, Republican distractors have been mostly silent regarding these attempts.
Cold hard facts and statistics about the seven/six countries and citizens included in the ban were overlooked, along with fathers reuniting with their family and children in urgent need of medical care. This absence of compassion has done nothing more than fuel the evil engines of our enemies. A promise to only deport criminals during illegal alien round-ups has been suspect and has led to entire communities cowering in fear. Contributing members of society who overwhelmingly provide the needed manual labor for the US have withdrawn from their communities and stopped reporting crimes; these are actions that often lead to an increase in crime and further marginalization.
An obsession with repealing legislation forced through by an opponent has created a House bill that has come under fire by doctors, hospitals, and patient advocates alike. The desire to be the scoreboard leader at half-time, and fixation on making capitalism the primary concern, created a scenario in which the old, the sick, and women are disproportionately affected. A population without access to affordable preventative care and lifesaving treatment is an unhealthy population. And an unhealthy population makes for a critically ill country and marketplace by increasing work absenteeism, unemployment, poverty, and turning treatable diseases into death sentences.
As a party, we must educate ourselves on the adversities faced by all those who call our country home, whether natural-born citizens, immigrants, rich, poor, black, white, LGBTQ, straight, male, or female. We are all human beings with the same basic needs. These issues and more are not insignificant and solutions will not come easy. But the Republican party is capable of formulating solutions that hold true to our beliefs in fiscal responsibility and less government, while still incorporating a compassionate approach to those in need.
For those of us who still understand and embrace the belief that helping to build a safe and strong foundation for everyone is essential to creating a successful marketplace and nation, we must speak up. We must get and remain involved with organizations and like-minded advocates. It is up to us to introduce Compassionate Conservatism 2.0 to the Republican party and the American people. For they must know that there are Republicans who believe compassion does not come at the expense of ideology.