The Dillard Doctrine

Urban Conservative Commentary on Politics & Life

The Myth of “Compassionate” Conservatism

Friend of mine sent me the following article in a email with the subject, “What Happened to “Compassionate Conservatism” My Republican Colleagues?” An excerpt:

The cozy Plantation apartment where Jennifer Benitez and her family live is so neatly put together that friends joke they want to borrow the interior decorator — her mother, Aida Perez.

But a closer look at the dining-room set, the entertainment center, the beds and window treatments shows the family’s desperate financial situation — and their determination to make the best of what they have.

Much of the furniture was donated by family. Most of the rest was salvaged from dump sites. The curtains in one bedroom were fashioned from bed coverings, and both mattresses are broken.

Benitez works as many hours as she can at her $7.50-an-hour job as the front-desk manager at a Fort Lauderdale motel to provide for her mother and her two kids, 9-year-old Destiny and 2-year-old Dylan, who have health problems. She moved with her mom and children to Plantation from Tampa about a year ago after Dylan’s father broke off their relationship.

On her own, she struggles to buy food and pay $883 in monthly rent for the two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment, sometimes having to take out a loan if money is short. And money is about to get tighter: Benitez just found out that her rent will go up to $978 a month starting in January.

My few loyal readers know that I believe that the very essence of conservatism is its call to action; either work to succeed, or work to pull yourself up from failure. Another tenet of conservatism that I hold is the preeminence of the individual; your successes and failures are the result of your own actions, or lack thereof.

Because of these beliefs, I’ve never brought into the theme of “compassionate” conservatism. No, the conservative movement isn’t the “nasty, brutish, and short” world of philosphers past, but it doesn’t extend to the belief that conservatives should feel compelled to stop along the road of life to help every downtrodden person they come across.

That sounds harsh. And I recognize that most people in the conservative movement, myself included, would stop to assist just about anyone who’s fallen on hard times…whether that assistance is emotional, fiscal, physical, or educational. Ms. Benitez’s story is being repeated across the nation, and her situation transcends political ideology.

But how can we, as a movement, continue to promote the meme of “compassionate” conservatism when our beliefs, in some ways, counter the very nature of being conservative?

The creed for the Republican Party of Virginia says (with my emphasis):

“We Believe…

That the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice

That all individuals are entitled to equal rights, justice, and opportunities and should assume their responsibilities as citizens in a free society

That fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints must be exercised at all levels of government

That the Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing constitutional limitations

That peace is best preserved through a strong national defense

That faith in God, as recognized by our Founding Fathers, is essential to the moral fiber of the Nation”

“Assume their responsibilities.” “Preserve.” “Exercise” restraint.

That puts a lot of responsibility back on the individual…and very little on the government.

So, are we the problem? By acting on our compassion, are we betraying our core beliefs?

We’ve seen the stigma that comes from not being compassionate, not understanding the “common man’s” perspective…but is that what we, as conservatives, really are? Does a hold to our ideology require turning our backs on some elements of society?



Written by Coby Dillard

December 13, 2008 at 9:00 am

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