Have Conservatives Lost Their Compassion?

Lisa De Pasquale

7/30/2013 12:01:00 AM - Lisa De Pasquale

There is no shortage of material from the Left that deserves mocking. But I have to ask, is it working for us?

As I write this some group or comment by a liberal has spawned tweets from friends about minimum wage workers at fast food places. One friend tweeted “A minimum wage fast food job isn’t meant to be a career.”

That may be true for most, but perhaps we should put aside the snark and acknowledge that some people don’t know any other life. Maybe in their family or town or situation it’s enough. Those willing to be shills in an organized walk-out probably don’t fall in these categories. While I do think the “living wage” movement is a farce and will ultimately be a job-killer, I don’t think conservatives’ snarky responses are doing us any favors.

During the 2012 election the Obama campaign presented us with the “Life of Julia.” At several monumental points in her life – college, motherhood, sickness, retirement – Democrats had a big government solution for her. The Right took to Twitter and Facebook parodying Julia and her dependency. While I agree that telling women the only solutions available to them are programs and promises offered by Democrats is disgusting, I think the Right missed the opportunity to really connect with women. Ben Domenech wrote at Real Clear Politics, “The right mocked Julia when they met her – but she is the rising model for life, and that means the right needs a message for her, too.”

As conservatives, we tend to be overly confident in thinking that stating our case is enough to win over voters. We talk about lower taxes, freedom to choose your own health care, freedom to choose the best school for your child, and cheaper gas prices. The problem is that many people have heard decades of Democrats talking points that Republicans don’t care about the poor, women, blacks, gays and Hispanics. They might understand Republicans on the issues, they just don’t think our message applies to them. We need to do damage control. We’re so conditioned to hate “identity politics” that we’re not telling these various groups of people that our solutions will improve their lives, too. We should have a story for Julia, a story for blacks, a story for youths, and yes, a story for Adam and Steve.

Another recent example of snark over solutions was the response to the SNAP Challenge. Democrats demonstrated the supposed hardships with only using SNAP, the Supplemental (!) Nutrition Assistance Program. Predictably, in striving to prove their point that SNAP isn’t enough (and oblivious to the fact that it was never meant to be enough), Democrats’ campaign backfired when they showed how out of touch they are when it comes to purchasing food on a budget. SNAP allocates about $31.50 per person per week. Congressman Donald Payne showed his solidarity by lamenting that he had to spend $1.08 on a hard-boiled egg. This is obviously begging for ridicule given that in many areas you can get a dozen eggs for around the same amount. A little of that goes a long way and it gets old when we’re routinely talking about the Obama economy, but belittling the programs that the poor actually use.

There is no doubt that SNAP needs reforms, but I don’t think snark and ridicule are the right tools for winning people to our side. On another website I wrote an article questioning whether a fellow writer calling SNAP users “fat slobs” was a practice that would help us gain converts. She responded that she doesn’t care about using words that could hurt the “Republican brand.” Sure, I get it, we’re all conservatives disenfranchised by both parties. But given that our only short-term path to getting reforms to these programs is by getting Republicans elected, I do care. I also care about conservatives having a consistent message. She took issue with SNAP users buying junk food at grocery stores. Meanwhile, I’ve seen others complain that people can use SNAP benefits at farmer’s markets, saying that they’re living like yuppies on taxpayers’ dollars. Sorry, but a lecture about “fat slobs” taking government assistance while having no shame doesn’t do anything to inspire, particularly when we’re also attacking the Obama Administration for not caring about jobs. I know there are those who take advantage of government assistance, but insulting them isn’t going to change the mindset of permanent dependency on government. It just furthers the mindset that the conservative plan for success doesn’t apply to “them,” whomever they may be.

Then, there’s Detroit. A city that has been suffering under liberal polices filed for bankruptcy. Conservatives had a field day. Tired of the snark-infested response, I was surprised to see an unexpected ally in former “Congressbum” Thad McCotter. Not a stranger to well-placed snark, McCotter wrote in The Daily Caller, “[A]s a longstanding object of national derision, Detroit knows that in some quarters her bankruptcy has been met with gloating. Fine, but know this: if she does not rise from these ashes, Detroit will become an ominous milestone of American decline, from which no quarter will be spared.” McCotter is exactly right. Today some may be gloating or making snarky comments about the person in front of them using SNAP benefits. Or single mothers like “Julia” who turn to government programs they’re told are their only resource. But one day, possibly sooner than we think, it could be your cousin using SNAP. Your daughter who identifies with the struggles of Julia. Or your city that goes bankrupt. Or you who loses your job.

While it’s easy to mock the policies enacted by Democrats, let’s not forget that there are real people affected by these policies. Republicans and conservatives mocking the policies also mocks the people who are living in the Obama economy. Before someone got SNAP, they may have lost a job. Maybe a job that conservatives said would be lost because of Obama’s job-killing policies. And now we ridicule them? The policies and their enablers, not the people, deserve our ridicule. The Left already uses their policies to keep people down. Let’s offer solutions and reforms, not snark, to lift them back up.