The Common Good

The End of Compassionate Conservatism? Why Jesus and Today's GOP Don't Mix

Date: August 29, 2012

The official poverty figures for 2011 will be released by the U.S. Census Bureau this fall during the critical weeks before of the November elections, and, as the AP reports, a broad consensus of experts is expecting to see U.S. poverty levels reach their highest point since the 1960s when the war on poverty first began. At the same time, we are seeing story after story about the super-rich getting even richer, profiting from financial crises while the economy is plummeting, and stashing trillions away in off-shore tax havens.

With that background, the proposed GOP budget, spearheaded by Romney's VP running mate Paul Ryan, seems all the more shocking: As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports, the Ryan/Romney budget would slash funding for low-income programs like Medicaid and food stamps (SNAP), while preserving tax cuts for the nation's most wealthy. Ever since Romney announced Ryan as his VP pick, his campaign has been desperately trying to spin this, and distance themselves from this shocking reality of what their campaign represents, but the facts are overwhelming.

Consequently, a number of Christian groups, including the Evangelical Sojourners, Catholic bishops, and even some nuns on a bus, have confronted Republicans on these policies which seek to build wealth on the backs of the poor. Still, these remain voices in the wilderness. For the most part, conservative Evangelicals still offer unquestioning support for the Republican party. But the fact is, a major change has gradually taken place in the GOP. Gone is the focus on "compassionate conservatism" with its legislation to help the poor, and in its place is an Ayn Rand philosophy that despises compassion as weakness, and idealizes the super-rich. So while Republicans may continue to use religious vocabulary in order to appeal to their conservative Christian base, they are nevertheless promoting values that are diametrically opposed to those of Jesus.