A "Neo-Compassionate" Conservative?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Over at Jewish World Review, I ran into an article by Mona Charen titled, "Is Giuliani a Conservative?" in which she first acknowledges Giuliani's lack of appeal to social conservatives.

... Social conservatives have trouble with Giuliani, but by no stretch of the imagination is he a Rockefeller (i.e. liberal) Republican. In fact, in many ways Giuliani is the most conservative of the top three candidates for the Republican nomination. He came by that conservatism in the toughest crucible. [bold added]
So she then pitches Giuliani as a fiscal conservative.
New York's welfare system was among the most bloated in the nation. Giuliani first culled the ranks for cheats and frauds -- eliminating 20 percent of the caseload. The mayor then introduced a workfare requirement -- able-bodied adults would be expected to do 20 hours of work in municipal offices in exchange for a welfare check. There were howls from the New York Times. The mayor was undeterred. Giuliani transformed welfare offices from check distribution centers into employment offices, where welfare workers coached clients on how to read the classifieds, how to dress for interviews and how to prepare a resume.

His approach toward the homeless was similar. Those who were able to work were encouraged to do so. Those who rejected an offer of shelter and insisted upon blocking public spaces and harassing passersby were issued summonses. For this Hillary Clinton lectured the mayor that Jesus was a homeless person. [bold added]
Twenty percent of the caseload!?! That's me you hear whistling through my teeth. You could eliminate the entire welfare "caseload" -- if you'd only eliminate welfare. So what if he was mayor? He could have at least broached the subject. Oh. He "has to" pander to constituent groups? It's long past time for the "self-reliant" to live up to the description and demand a little "pandering" of their own.

It is almost amazing how what passes for fiscal conservatism has changed over the past quarter century! Yes. I said, "Almost." Recall that not too long ago, I took a look at how the GOP stand on racial quotas had changed over a similar time span from principled opposition to outright support and made sense of the change by drawing upon C. Bradley Thompson's essay, "The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism". (I'm not one to appeal to authority, but City Journal thought it worth a look. Search "Gus Van Horn" and follow the link.)

In essence, the altruistic "compassionate" branch of the movement has decided that the moral purpose of government is to "encourage" able citizens to look out for their less-fortunate fellows. The pragmatist neo-conservatives have decided that for the conservative movement to remain politically relevant, it must coopt the welfare state in order to perpetuate itself in power. Or, as I said then, "[T]he Republicans, guided by these two factions, think that the welfare state is not only moral, but practical."

When seen in this light, it makes perfect sense that Giuliani, the federal prosecutor who brought down financial revolutionary Michael Milkin for breaking vague and unjust securities laws, would eventually emerge as the standard-bearer for the supposedly pro-business Republican Party. And it also makes perfect sense that what passes as impressive to a major conservative pundit nowadays is the fact that Giuliani's idea of a welfare state sounds "tougher" than the Democrats' idea!

Tougher than a Democrat! That's not saying much, Mona.

So is Giuliani a "Compassionate" Conservative or a Neo-Conservative? There is no important difference, so I'll call him a "Neo-Compassionate Conservative".

And I'll heave a sigh of relief that I read Thompson's essay. Why should someone like me -- who voted for the GOP in 1994 so they could dismantle the welfare state "brick by brick" as I believe Newt Gingrich once put it -- have to settle for someone who is content merely to reduce the welfare case load a little -- by using my money to pay for someone else's job hunting instead?

If you like Giuliani, you're probably a limited government guy like myself. You owe it to yourself to see what the conservatives are up to before you throw your support to Giuliani. He may be the best the GOP has to offer in 2008, but you deserve better.

-- CAV


Blair said...

No doubt we deserve better, but I shudder to think how much worse it will get before "better" happens. I cannot, in good conscious, vote for any conservative/republican at any level for the forseeable future. I've come to terms with that.

Nicholas Provenzo said...

>For this Hillary Clinton lectured the mayor that Jesus was a homeless person.

Good grief--Hillary's right! Get 'im 'otta here--he's a bum!

Vigilis said...

Gus, as you may recall, I am an independent voter. Rudy cannot carry the South. Ergo, he absolutely cannot win yet.

Personally, I admire Gingrich who has yet to announce and many suggest probably cannot win at this juncture.

How about sharing your top three picks with us? If you already have done so, or it is mutually understood in the objectivist community, the names still escape me. - Vigilis

Gus Van Horn said...


I was in New Hampshire this weekend, where part of my wife's family had known me as a Republican. There wasn't time to elaborate, but I heard her aunt call me a Republican during a large gathering while pointing to me.

I smiled and said, "I'm neither." as I walked by. I can't wait to explain that in more detail later on!


Yeah. I liked that quote, too, but was in a hurry when I was posting this to say anything about it.

It is at once supremely ironic that Giuliani would attempt to coopt the welfare state only to be reminded that he's not being "Christian enough" -- and indicative of the path that Giuliani and the rest of the GOP have taken.


Thanks for the migraine.

My list of top three picks currently has a length of exactly zero.

I may "support" Hillary simply because she is so ham-fisted and obvious that she will elicit great resistance to whatever she does.

Given that both parties are supporting essentially the same thing, this may be the only sensible choice. At least the GOP will attempt to thwart her out of a mixture of spite and envy.