Cruz, Trump and the caricature of conservatism

Cruz and Trump and many of their supporters insist that politics requires toughness and an iron will. So it does. Yet Cruz and Trump also lend credence to a widespread view aggressively promoted by progressives and internalized by some conservatives that the public policies of those on the right reflect hard hearts and mean spirits while programs championed by those on the left mirror their caring and generous natures. As New Hampshire voters prepare to go to the polls on Tuesday in a state where Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are leading in the Republican and Democratic fields, the stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are front and center.

The serious political question at issue in 2016 is whether conservative devotion to individual freedom and limited government or progressive dedication to overcoming economic inequality through aggressive government regulation and redistribution best serves the interests of the American people.

But seldom do the GOP candidate who won Iowa and the one who seems poised to prevail in New Hampshire address the needs of, and government’s legitimate responsibilities toward, those unable to care for themselves or who find themselves temporarily in need of a helping hand.

The problem predates the rise of Trump and Cruz.