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Romney’s compassionate conservatism

Politics

Since I’ve given up on PBS except for Big Bird, I missed columnist David Brooks’ analysis of last week’s Mitt Romney’s debate win—so my thanks to The Daily Caller for quoting Brooks, who said on PBS that Gov. Romney won because he “did a lot of compassionate conservatism, more than he’s ever done before. … It was a much less ‘I’m a corporate, you know, rugged individualist’ than we saw at the Republican convention.’”

While I disagree with their theology, Mormons who emphasize church provision of help to the needy tend to be latter-day compassionate conservatives. Or maybe Romney listened to The Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel, who wrote on Sept. 18 that the GOP candidate should turn his criticism of government-dependent supporters of President Obama into an indictment of politicians who lure them into dependency: “a national scandal.”

If last week’s debate turns out to be the turning point in the 2012 campaign, Romney’s transformation is like the turning point in 1990s welfare reform: Conservatives stopped orating about the dollar cost of welfare and began pointing to the cost in lives. Strassel wanted Romney to say, “I want Americans to be less dependent on government not because it costs too much. We will always help Americans who need our help. I want Americans to be independent so they can realize the pride of accomplishment and the dignity of work and contribute their God-given talents to build a better country.”

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Strassel’s Romney continued, “I think the success of a presidency should be measured by how many fewer people need food stamps, how many fewer need disability, not how many more people are added to the rolls. I don’t want to take food stamps away from Americans in need. I want fewer Americans to need food stamps.”

Although Strassel did not critique Ayn Rand by name, she took on Randians: “You’ve probably also heard some people—some even in my own party—divide Americans between ‘makers’ and ‘takers.’” Strassel’s alternative: incentives, “so everyone can become a maker. But too often government wants to take more from Americans so it can make more Americans dependent on government. That’s when we lose our way.”

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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