In the countless hours I spent in Romney’s presence during his first White House run (and mostly from a greater distance during his second bid), I saw a man who was preternaturally upbeat, well-meaning, and kind to just about everyone he encountered, friends and strangers alike.
But I also saw a candidate who seemed by nature almost uniquely ill-equipped to appeal to the young and minority voters who ended up playing a key role in his electoral demise.
Members of the press who traveled with Romney in 2007 and early 2008 began slowly to pick up on what would become an established media narrative by the time Romney was the 2012 front-runner: The former Massachusetts governor didn’t just have a difficult time relating to young and minority voters, he often came across as a walking-talking time warp from the 1950s…
After wrapping up the Republican nomination four years later, he toned down the hokey tales from his youth. But instead of making a concerted effort to cut into President Obama’s advantages with key groups, Romney and his chief strategists seemed to bury their heads in the sand, predicating their hopes for victory on an assumption that young voters and minorities would turn out in lesser numbers than they did in 2008.
Compassionate conservatism always struck me as a philosophical surrender to liberal assumptions about the role of the government in our lives. A hallmark of Great Society liberalism is the idea that an individual’s worth as a human being is correlated to his support for massive expansions of the entitlement state. Conservatives are not uncompassionate. (Indeed, the data show that conservatives are more charitable with their own money and more generous with their time than liberals are.) But, barring something like a natural disaster, they believe that government is not the best and certainly not the first resort for acting on one’s compassion.
I still believe all of that, probably even more than I did when Bush was in office.
But, as a political matter, it has become clear that he was on to something important…
Some sophisticated analysts, such as my National Review colleague Ramesh Ponnuru, always acknowledged the philosophical shortcomings and inconsistencies of compassionate conservatism, but they argued that something like it was necessary nonetheless. The evolving demographics of the country, combined with the profound changes to both the culture and the economy, demanded that the GOP change both its sales pitch and its governing philosophy.
What the various interest groups need that Republicans have failed to give them is respect, attention, and love.
Yes, as weird as it sounds in a political context – love. Because frankly, I don’t think most Republicans care much about these groups…
I always found George W. Bush’s term “compassionate conservatism” deeply insulting. It asserts that conservatism isn’t on its own compassionate. But while conservatism sometimes offers tough medicine, the cure it provides is deeply compassionate.
Republicans need to go directly into the black communities and ask, “How has 50 years of an expanding welfare state worked out for you?”
They need to go into the Hispanic communities and say, “If policies that are anti-business prevail, how are you going to make enough money get your kids an education so they can take their place at the highest rungs of society?”
Republicans need to talk to women about why conservative economic policies provide the prosperity that guarantees security for their families, and to support working women by backing efforts to give them the time to be mothers too.
[Romney’s] vision of a better America than Obama’s was one that rewarded success rather than penalized it and gave running room to entrepreneurs to realize the American dream.
But such a vision isn’t actually inclusive. It speaks to those whose energies will likely make them successes no matter what they do — and says little to people who don’t think of life in such dynamic terms.
Many people crave security and stability rather than risk-taking, and that doesn’t make them any less American. They are the workers rather than the job creators, and all societies need both.
Romney is right that the Obama vision is too centered on government. But his is too centered on the promotion of business and wealth creation at the expense of everything else.
“I think President Obama, first of all, just tactically did a better job getting out the vote in his campaign. But number two, he, at least at the margins, was better able to connect with people in this campaign,” Pawlenty said in an interview with C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program scheduled to air on Sunday.
“But I don’t think it’s a matter of people looking at the election and saying, ‘I’m going to vote because of gifts,’” he added. “I think they looked at it and said which one of these candidates would they prefer because of leadership considerations and also can understand their needs the best.”
Pressed on whether this meant he disagreed with Romney’s remarks, Pawlenty responded, “You know, I don’t think it’s as simple as saying the president gave out gifts. I just don’t think it’s that simple. There’s a lot more to it than that.”