The Common Good

Can Cathy McMorris Rodgers Resurrect Compassionate Conservatism?

President Obama touched on several hot button issues as he addressed the economy, immigration, and gun violence in his State of the Union on Tuesday.

Responding for the GOP, House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., hinted at a term that has faded from Republican rhetoric in recent years: compassionate conservatism. Compassionate conservatism is a the idea that the government should use traditionally conservative strategies to improve the general welfare of society.

“We believe in a government that trusts people and doesn’t limit where you finish because of where you started,” she said. ”That is what we stand for – for an America that is every bit as compassionate as it is exceptional.”

Used by Christian writers like World magazine editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky, former President George W. Bush adopted the phrase “compassionate conservatism” and popularized it as one of his key slogans during his 2000 presidential campaign. Now a Washington Post columnist, Mike Gerson was known for using the idea in his speechwriting for Bush.

Rep. Rodgers is a graduate of Pensacola Christian College, a conservative Christian college in Florida. The college was previously opposed to accreditation, but reversed its position and was accredited in 2013. In 2010 Rep. Rodgers brought her pastor, Pastor Tim Goble of Grace Evangelical Free Church in Colville, Washington, to DC to offer a prayer for a session of Congress.

In her speech, she referenced her second child who has Down syndrome in her speech.

“The doctors told us he could have endless complications, heart defects, even early Alzheimer’s. They told us all the problems. But when we looked at our son, we saw only possibilities. We saw a gift from God,” she said. “Today we see a 6-year old boy who dances to Bruce Springsteen; who reads above grade level; and who is the best big brother in the world.”

She acknowledged the struggle of many with preexisting conditions, a point Obama made in his earlier address. ”And that whether you’re a boy with Down syndrome or a woman with breast cancer, you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you,” she said.

She ended on a particularly faith-filled point by offering prayer.

“So, tonight, I simply offer a prayer…your family, and for our larger American family. That, with the guidance of God, we may prove worthy of His blessings of life, liberty ,and the pursuit of happiness,” she said. “For when we embrace these gifts, we are each doing our part to form a more perfect union. May God guide you and our President, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.”

Before her speech, Rep. Rodgers posted a picture on Instagram of her holding her 8-week old baby.

She has twice given birth while in office, a first for someone in Congress to do so. She is considered to be a rising star in the GOP, though she had a minor speaking role during the 2012 GOP convention.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey writes for Religion News Service. Via RNS.

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