Ken Connor

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans have long appealed to the moral concerns of these middle-state voters prior to each election, but their failure to come through on their promises (because their real agenda seems to be to advance the interest of the moneyed elites) has undercut much of their previous support among the small town conservatives. These voters are truly conservative, believing in the importance of limited government, low spending, local control and public morality. Their understanding of faith, morality and liberty informs their daily lives and political beliefs. These ideas compose the core of small town conservative communities—they are not merely a result of lost jobs.

The view of the middle class presented by Obama is not new or unique to him—it traces back to the prominent American progressives of the early 20th century. Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "Not only our future economic soundness but the very soundness of our democratic institutions depends on the determination of our government to give employment to idle men." Progressives have long thought that the fundamental factor determining cultural virtue was the economic stability of the American people.

Unfortunately, many Republicans have come to share this misunderstanding of rural conservatives. While they hold to different economic principles than Democrats (though increasingly less-so), Republicans today see culture in terms of dollars and cents. They believe culture will function smoothly and virtuously if everyone is allowed to participate freely in the market. While these economic principles are important, they still miss the true cultural foundation of America.

Wilhelm Röpke was a firm believer in the free market, but he also saw the vital importance of principles of morality in society. He said in A Humane Economy, "The free world will prevail only if it succeeds in filling the emptiness of the soul in its own manner and with its own values…. What we need is to bethink ourselves quietly and soberly of truth, freedom, justice, human dignity and respect of human life and the ultimate values." Röpke understood that economic standing is not the basis of a sound culture. Ultimate values are far more important to the well-being and success of a nation than the condition of its markets.

Sadly, neither Mr. Obama nor the elites of the dominant political parties grasp these traditional conservative truths. Obama lumps together religion, xenophobia, the right to bear arms and prejudice—thereby displaying his liberal view of culture. The political elites, on the other hand, ignore traditional small-town conservatives in favor of their big donors whose primary concern is their own personal economic gain. The real hope for America, however, lies in the deeply-held faith and moral principles of these "simple" small-town folks. That faith and those principles will enable them to remain steadfast in their ways despite the politicians and the media who treat them so dismissively.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.