A Softer Face for Conservatism?

In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, WRM reviews The Conservative Heart, a new book by Arthur Brooks, the president of American Enterprise Institute’s president (WRM is on AEI’s academic advisory board, unpaid). Brooks calls his fellow conservatives to deliver their limited government message with empathy, generosity of spirit, and attention to moral values:

When, for example, conservatives inveigh against increasing the minimum wage, the message voters hear is that conservatives don’t care about helping poorly paid workers. What they need to hear is that conservative opposition to hiking the minimum wage comes out of a passionate concern for the well-being of those who lose their jobs when the minimum wage increases. That can’t just be boilerplate; conservatives need to highlight the inequality and lack of opportunity that so many Americans feel. And they need to offer practical solutions. As Mr. Brooks remarks about anti-poverty and social-welfare programs in general: “While conservatives have criticized those outmoded policies, they have offered little in the way of alternatives.” […]

As a practical matter, Mr. Brooks is onto something important in this book. Developing a message that is grounded in widely acceptable moral values, attaching the message to appealing policy proposals, and projecting that message in a magnanimous way will be the high road to political success—not just in 2016 but for the long term.

Since the 2012 election, conservative leaders have acknowledged that they have a messaging problem, and a debate has broken out between Tea Partiers, establishmentarians, and reform conservatives of various stripes over how to address it. The Conservative Heart is a notable contribution to the ongoing efforts of one of America’s major political parties to reinvent itself to appeal to a wider audience. Read WRM’s full take in the WSJ.

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