Compassionate conservatism’s starting point had merit. The essential argument that Republicans should orient policy around how our ideas will affect the poor, the widow, the orphan, the forgotten and the “other” is indisputable – particularly for those who claim, as I do, to submit to an authority higher than government. Yet conservatives are conservatives because our policies promote deliverance from poverty rather than dependence on government.
Compassionate conservatism’s next step – its implicit claim that charity or compassion translates into a particular style of activist government involving massive spending increases and entitlement expansion – was its undoing. Common sense and the Scriptures show that true giving and compassion require sacrifice by the giver. This is why Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell his possessions, not his neighbor’s possessions. Spending other people’s money is not compassionate.
That’s right folks, all that disgust with the George W. Bush and the Republican party these days is based on their being too compassionate. Shame on Mark Foley and his “compassion” towards his interns. Shame on the compassion of Jack Abramoff. Shame on the president for killing tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, thousands of American soldiers, and trillions of dollars out of his blind compassion.
And according to Coburn, politicians need to be governed by the principles given from “a higher authority,” a “Scriptural” Christian higher authority that should determine our legislation. And what is the message of this Christian Gospel? Apparently the sole Gospel truth that should be guiding our government is “Thou shalt not force thy rich neighbor to sacrifice for his fellow man.”
Now that’s what I call creative hermeneutics!
I used to consider myself a conservative. I have a whole lot of sympathies with libertarians like Ron Paul. On social matters I’m almost extremely libertarian. On fiscal matters, I’d be one if it weren’t that I thought markets are too capricious to be just or stable when unfettered and totally deregulated; if I didn’t believe that some government regulation is needed as a check and balance that prevents de facto oligarchies of undemocratically controlled multinational corporations that threaten liberty and safety in comparable ways to government’s threats to these things; and if I didn’t think that since health insurance arrangements are already by their nature socialistic arrangements, they’d might as well be run as a not-for-profit by a just government and include everyone. So, those caveats restrain my libertarianism. But at the core of classic libertarian conservative principles of small government, promotion of competition, and personal independence appeal to me.
But simply nothing about the present day Republican party appeals to me. Its combination of theocratic longings, pandering to ignorance, antipathy to science, homophobia, racism, contempt for civil and privacy rights, self-righteous hypocritical religiosity, materialism, arrogant jingoistic chest-thumping imperialism, and obscene corporate corruption make the party as repulsive as toxic waste.
And none of this has to do with the party’s “compassion!”