Should Conservatives Care?

My delightful friend Kurt Schlichter loves to brutalize the left on Twitter (@kurtschlichter) and often, after he butchers some leftist sacred cow or other, he tops off the hellacious bloodshed with a sardonic and insouciant #caring.  Which never fails to make me laugh.

We conservatives aren’t much for #caring because we know it accomplishes absolutely nothing. We figure: If you had to go into the hospital for surgery, would you pick the doctor who cared about you or the one with a steady hand and a record of success? Likewise, if you’re going to elect someone to run the government, do you want a candidate who’s good at #caring or an honest person who knows what he’s doing?

Well, if the two-time election of our corrupt and incompetent president is any indication, the answer to that latter question is: #caring.

As the 2016 election cycle begins to gear up, an oft-cited exit poll from 2012 can’t be cited oft enough. Pollsters during the last election found that Mitt Romney was favored by most voters over Barack Obama when it came to leadership, vision and values — but lost enormously (18% to 81%) when it came to whether he “cares about people like me.” This despite the fact that Romney has displayed a lifetime of charity, compassion and personal kindness while Obama is an obvious narcissist who wouldn’t bother to spit on a burning man to put him out.

Now a conservative’s first reaction to hearing these numbers may well be despair. Not only did the voters favor #caring over good government, they favored the appearance of #caring over, you know, #caring.

But if the #caring is bogus, the polling results are real and are backed up by the demographics. Democrat and Republican affiliation runs pretty much neck and neck these days but the rise in Independents to over 40% of the electorate denotes a complex and nuanced set of popular opinions that can be swayed either way by the right candidate.

The American people have changed over the years. The fall off in religion, the rise in single motherhood, the threat of new technologies to an uneducated working class and a surge in minority voters all combine to create an electorate less red or blue than purple. We may want to believe that staunch conservative ideas about illegal immigration and traditional marriage, say, are winning issues, but the truth is more complicated. Many of the same people who share the conservative desire for stronger borders, for instance, also oppose conservative views on free trade, making the issue a numerical wash. And while strong conservatives still oppose homosexuality, the libertarians who form part of their coalition do not — and a lot of typically conservative working class white people just don’t see how the issue matters to them one way or another.

Which brings me back to #caring. While the appearance of compassion is no guide to good government, it has become essential to explain why good government is, in fact, compassionate. Modern conservatives may scoff at this, but I’ll tell you one man who never did:  Ronald Reagan. Reagan was always careful to emphasize his care for the dispossessed and he promised his administration would strive to let no one fall off the bottom rung of the ladder.

“It’s time to put America back to work,” he said, as he accepted the Republican presidential nomination in 1980. “For those without skills, we’ll find a way to help them get new skills. For those without job opportunities we’ll stimulate new opportunities, particularly in the inner cities where they live. For those who’ve abandoned hope, we’ll restore hope and we’ll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again.”

With our corrupt news media against us and Democrats willing to lie and cheat to win, conservatives must find that Reagan-like tone again. We have to make it clear to the American people that, while we may be against phony #caring — real caring is actually at the heart of what we believe.