Writing for the Wall Street Journal, American Enterprise Institute president Arthur C. Brooks recently suggested that the G.O.P. is way off base in their assumptions about the moral arguments that resonate most with the American people. Their focus on the economic advantages of capitalism and "values-voter" issues like abortion and gay marriage miss the mark, Brooks suggests. Instead, Republicans must convince the electorate that they are just as concerned about the plight of the poor and downtrodden as Progressives, and further that Republican policies are more effective at addressing these problems than those implemented by the Liberal nanny state.
Mr. Brooks cites several statistics indicating that the American people by and large reject the notion of compassionate conservatism. Right or wrong, Brooks writes, the perception is that Republicans don't care about the poor, and when it comes to politics, perception is reality. He is absolutely correct. But how can the G.O.P. change this narrative? How can they combat the perception that the only people they care about are Wall Street fat cats and upwardly mobile suburban yuppies?
The answer, Brooks suggests, lies in making "improving the lives of vulnerable people the primary focus of authentically conservative policies." He explains:
"For example, the core problem with out-of-control entitlements is not that they are costly – it is that the impending insolvency of Social Security and Medicare imperils the social safety net for the neediest citizens. Education innovation and school choice are not needed to fight rapacious unions and bureaucrats – too often the most prominent focus of conservative education concerns – but because poor children and their parents deserve better schools. Defending a healthy culture of family, community and work does not mean imposing an alien "bourgeois" morality on others. It is to recognize what people need to be happy and successful – and what is most missing today in the lives of too many poor people."