Why Obama Won Empathy: Compassionate Conservatism Redux

Compassionate conservatism always struck me as a philosophical surrender to liberal assumptions about the role of the government in our lives. A hallmark of Great Society liberalism is the idea that an individual’s worth as a human being is correlated to his support for massive expansions of the entitlement state. Conservatives are not uncompassionate. (Indeed, the data show that conservatives are more charitable with their own money and more generous with their time than liberals). But, barring something like a natural disaster, they believe that government is not the best and certainly not the first resort for acting on one’s compassion….

 

But, as a political matter, it has become clear that he was on to something important….

 

Moreover, according to exit polls, Romney decisively beat Obama on the questions of leadership, values and economic expertise, but was crushed by more than 60 points on the question of which candidate “cares about people like me.”

 

I still don’t like compassionate conservatism or its conception of the role of government. But given the election results, I have to acknowledge that Bush was more prescient than I appreciated at the time.

 

By Jonah Goldberg