Compassionate conservatism failed America and cost Republicans control. Bush's guiding philosophy attempted to co-opt the liberal Democratic strategy of campaign to the right, and govern from the middle. To accomplish that feat one must pander to all interest groups, and hope the traditional base stays home on Election Day. If you recall, Bush's predecessor in the White House utilized the exact same strategy. He called it triangulation.
Conservative voters do not support moderate policy solutions, and they reject moderate Republicans who masquerade as conservative voices. Soon after Fox News declared Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. the victor over Republican Senator Rick Santorum, Fox election analysts called Santorum a "compassionate conservative" who looks for government solutions to issues. Republican In Name Only senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) were similarly ousted in the Tuesday Night Massacre. Moderate to conservative-leaning Democrats also replaced many Republican House members.
Republican candidates lose when the party apparatus, whose goal is to win elections, abandons the conservative base, whose goal is conservative policy solutions. Just two years ago Bush and Santorum unconscionably endorsed liberal Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), who was in a primary race with conservative Congressman Pat Toomey. Specter won the primary, but Santorum ultimately paid the price. In this year's Rhode Island Republican Senate primary, the RNC openly supported liberal Senator Lincoln Chafee against his more conservative opponent, Steve Laffey. Sen. Chafee is one of the most liberal members of the Senate and refused to vote for President Bush in 2004, writing in the president's father instead, yet the RNC still paid for ads in his primary race. Rhode Island voters were not likely to nominate or elect a conservative, but the RNC's actions were heard across the fruited conservative plain. Tap the brakes, Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman. You're not king makers.
Compassionate conservatism completely betrayed conservative voters and their decades of grassroots activism. Fortunately, all is not lost for the true conservative movement. Every House and Senate seat lost this year is an opportunity for conservatives to re-educate the public on true conservative policy solutions. The coming Republican presidential primary offers a similar chance for renewal and the possible emergence of a genuine successor to Ronald Reagan.
No voter turnout machine put in motion over a three-day pre-election period could have overcome this slap in the face to the Republican Party's base. Undoing compassionate conservatism's wreckage will take years, not 72 hours.
Herman Cain is the National Chairman of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute. He is the former president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Inc., and currently is CEO and president of T.H.E. New Voice, Inc., a business and leadership consulting company.
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