“Compassionate” Conservatism Has Always Been With Us

by Whitney Pitcher


Last weekend, President George W. Bush gave a rare interview with the Dallas Morning News in which he predicted that “compassionate conservatism” would make a comeback:

Asked what message he’s sending to the GOP, Bush reverted to broad descriptions of freedom. He steered clear of giving his party specifics on how to rebuild, but he said that he stands by “the principles that guided me when I was president.”

“These are principles that need to be articulated and defended as time goes on,” he said.

For Bush, “compassionate conservatism,” much derided by the party’s harder-edged tea party adherents, is still a powerful draw.

He predicted a renewed interest in the philosophy, which he described as “the idea that articulating and implementing conservative ideas leads to a better life for all.”

President Bush is wrong. This week has proven that compassionate conservatism isn’t poised for a comeback . It has always been with us, and it’s not found in big government programs like Medicare Part D, which Bush touts later in the interview. It is found in the American people.

Between the responses to the horrific bombing at the Boston marathon on Monday and the awful explosion at a fertilizer plant on Wednesday night, Americans have shown awe-inspiring true compassion—not because of big government, but because of big hearts.

So many stories of compassion have emerged from the Boston Marathon bombing. Carlos Arredondo, a Costa Rican immigrant who was handing out flags to spectators at the race helped the wounded injured by the blast and helped removed barricades so first responders could treat the injured. Physicians who were running the race stopped and helped the wounded. Some runners finished the race and kept running to the local hospitals to give blood.

Following the massive explosion last night in West, Texas, similar stories of compassion emerged. Some lost their lives in an ultimate display of compassion. An off-duty firefighter,who worked for the Dallas Fire Department, not even the West Fire Department, made the ultimate sacrifice in rushing to the scene to assist in fighting the blaze. Two West volunteers firefighters also gave their lives to save the lives of others. Hundreds of Texans donated blood, many waiting in lines that wrapped around the building, in nearby Waco to help the victims of the explosion.

Those are just a small cross section of the compassion seen in Americans just this week. Their response did not require a taxpayer funded government program, but simply a loving heart. As I wrote recently in post about Peter Schweizer’s expose on food stamps, by definition, compassion is not a product of policy:

 The very etymology of the word “compassion” indicates that it cannot be provided by government. The word, compassion, really means to suffer with. How much can government empathize with the poor when their campaign accounts are being padded while their cronies’ profits rise? Additionally, government cannot be compassionate with other people’s money. American is known for being very generous. A study published last August noted that Americans gave over $214 billion to charity in 2008. “Red” states comprised the top eight states for charitable giving, while “blue” states made up the seven least charitable states. This is what compassion is–giving of one’s own money to help those in need. It isn’t using taxpayer dollars to perpetuate poverty while politicians’ cronies profit.

Perhaps it is better said as a paraphrase of the LL Cool J’s song, ” don’t call it a [compassionate conservative] comeback; it’s been here for years”. True “compassionate conservatism” (that deserves the term, not the supposed “compassionate conservatism” of President Bush) has been around for years. It is organic and not coerced through taxation. It is powerful. Voluntary generosity and a heartfelt desire to help those in need is as American as apple pie and baseball, and they don’t require a government agency to distribute.

Note: This post has been updated for clarification.

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