Category: Politics

by Richard R. Tryon and others

When Shelby Steele, a research fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of "A dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America", came to write about the George W. Bush candidacy at the time of the Republican Convention in Philadelphia, he had the opportunity to bring forth a conceptual definition of compassionate conservatism that has set politicians, writers, and millions of Americans abuzz with a new type of thinking. The concept for the last forty or fifty years that only Democrats had the heart to feel for the poor is an idea that is a myth- at least in terms of the record of results.

Read Steele's words and then consider the power that they have unleashed. Some ideas about it follow.Your review has an opportunity to be published here!


A New Front in the Culture War
Since the 1960s liberals have held America's moral high ground. The Bush camp wants to charge the hill.


Wednesday, August 2, 2000 12:01 a.m. EDT

This week in Philadelphia, for the first time, American conservatism is going on the offensive in the culture war. This Republican National Convention will be infused from beginning to end with compassionate conservatism--an idea that hopes to reshape our cultural idea of social virtue. How did this party of traditional values and economic
discipline develop such an ear for culture? It had to.

The liberalism that came out of the 1960s has enjoyed one profound advantage over even moderate forms of conservatism: moral authority. Social inequality was established in the 1960s as the single greatest threat to the moral authority of our democracy. America would make a mission of ending it or lose its legitimacy as a democracy. This battle transformed our culture in a way that we are
just beginning to understand. It made social morality, more than personal morality, the test of moral authority in American public life.

We have recently seen a baseball relief pitcher hounded into re-education because of "social insensitivity" while our president survived in office despite a flagrant lapse of personal morality. It is often said that a Republican president could never have survived
what Bill Clinton survived. What makes this speculation plausible is our intuitive understanding that today's Democrats are buffered by a moral authority that Republicans simply don't have, an authority that comes in large part from their conspicuous alignment with the fight against inequality. Social morality gives them a second source of
virtuousness beyond the personal, a blamelessness that is

Democrats earned this advantage by being the first to step up to the problem of inequality 40 years ago. Through the Great Society and a long regime of affirmative action, they evolved an ideology that triesto solve inequality by engineering representation for minorities and women through the use of double standards.

That this ideology has failed to achieve anything like true equalitybetween groups isn't the point. By addressing the deepest shame in American culture, it carries a blessing of moral authority to all who subscribe to it. It also gives American liberalism a power far beyond
its actual support in society.

Since the 1960s the liberal ideology of engineered representation, double standards, cosmetic diversity and identity entitlements has been the American idea of social virtue. This means that liberalism controls our very terms of social decency. And no ideology can have a greater power than this, because at this level ideology becomes invisible. It becomes a propriety so obviously good and true that only
the indecent would question it. Enemies of liberalism must conform to its ideological demands or be stigmatized as "mean spirited" and therefore lacking the legitimacy to represent all Americans.

This is why universities, public schools, government agencies,corporations, the media, foundations--all the important institutions in American life--live by the ideology of liberalism as if by virtue itself. This is why the majority of Americans quietly conform to the liberal
policies in their schools and workplaces that they privately disagree with. Even if conformity brings them nothing more than benign anonymity, it spares them life-altering stigmatization as racist, sexist or homophobic.

The infamous culture war--which some see (and I believe erroneously) as over--might be reasonably defined as a struggle between the left and right for control over the terms of social decency. Whoever wins this war wins the extraordinary power to have their ideology become invisible. Much is at stake--literally the public culture and institutions of our society, much more than any single political platform or campaign can encompass.

That the right is so far losing this war is obvious in that conservatives are glaringly labeled as such in the media, so that they are not only made ideologically visible but are given a whiff of indecency.
Liberals, as victors in the culture war, have enough ideological invisibility to be rarely labeled as such.

The price conservatism pays for losing this war is to be made to function as a subversive, countercultural movement--one that must relentlessly and shrilly and futilely argue for itself. Even when conservatism has won elections, it has not won this war. Eight years of Ronald Reagan hardly slowed the advance of political correctness.
He won the Cold War, but not the culture war.

Of course the problem is not conservative principles--individual responsibility, merit, hard work, single standards, competition or initiative. These, after all, are the very tenets of classic liberalism, and few contemporary liberals truly disagree with them.

The problem is rather that conservatism failed to shape these principles into a countervailing vision of social decency, failed to compete with liberalism. Conservatives seemed not to understand that their own moral authority required that they proselytize for their principles among the former victims of inequality. Among the doubters and the disbelievers is where conservatism will cross out of its stigmatization and into unimpeachable decency.

George W. Bush is the first conservative on the presidential level to understand that he is in a culture war, that moral authority requires an explicit social application of conservative principles to problems of
inequality and poverty. This kind of work has been a central mission in conservative think tanks for some time. But the Bush campaign is the first national showcase of this effort. And education will likely be its first triumph.

In schools too numerous to name, the "conservative" focus on high expectations, reasonable discipline, skill mastery and accountability through testing, has brought stunning results to precisely the poor and minority students liberalism has failed so abjectly. Conservative thinkers are now evolving a developmental model of equality to compete with the representational model of liberalism. In this model equal representation is a natural result of equal achievement.

There are some cracks in this picture. Mr. Bush's 10% plan for the University of Texas--guaranteeing admission to the top 10% of all Texas high school graduates--is a backslide into the engineered equality of liberalism. It forsakes the discipline of his K-12 education policies by protecting students from the accountability and competition that he rightly believes will create excellence in the lower
grades. Here he commits the classic liberal sin: ceasing to believe in the capacities of the people one is trying to help, grabbing a little moral authority by making easy what should be demanding.

This said, the Bush campaign is poised not only to stand well in the upcoming election but also to have more impact on American culture than any conservative campaign in recent memory. In the Bush vision there is a way to restore moral authority to timeless American values.
It was the shame of inequality that made them ideologically visible in the first place. When they are put to work against poverty--rather than kept away from such work--they can be seen again as merely the truth.

Mr. Steele is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and author, most recently, of "A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America" (HarperCollins, 1998).


Commentary by Richard R. Tryon
August, 2000

Not in my life have I had a similar reaction to that evoked by the above paper by Shelby Steele save the time when I learned that the impossible had happened in the Soviet Union! When the TV showed an almost bloodless end to the Communist revolution of 1918, I had to admit that I did not think such a thing could happen. The Soviet Communists had found the way to rule in perpetuity because they did so in the name of the people! But, they self-destructed when technology invented the fax and e-mail as means of communicating without censorship.

Of course, it turned out that they had to maintain the ‘big lie’ by systematically killing all those who learned of it and tried to tell others! This led the one time communist guru, David Horowitz, to note that the only success enjoyed by 70 years of communist rule was the death of the millions who somehow became identified as the enemies of the state!

So too has been my conviction of these many years of listening to liberal Democrats mouth with great certainty that nobody could deny, the idea that only Democrats were for the little guy, the poor, oppressed and down-trodden. Republicans were at best ‘me-too’ types that tried to pull their aging and backwards thinking conservative fellows forward to embrace the same programs that the liberals advertised as the solution to one problem or another. The so-called ‘moral high-ground’ was owned by the liberals, champions of the masses vs the special interests and the wealthy.

About eight years ago, word started to get out that the liberal programs didn’t work. Some of the leaders confessed that the ‘War on Poverty’ had somehow only made the problem multiply! Others admitted that the crusade to bring equal opportunity via ‘affirmative action’ somehow didn’t seem to work either, and many in the so-called minority groups were more than fed up with being treated as inferiors in need of special support. Far too many so-called ‘blacks’ are far too affluent.

Efforts to make it look like the social security system, invented by liberals in 1935-37, could go on forever paying for the future payees with the tax deductions of those still working began to collapse when the ‘boomer’ age group started to do its homework. We now know that without a way to invest in the type of insurance program envisaged by some in 1937, we are destined to fail in funding a program that has become the politicians golden theme claims to ‘saving us from ourselves’. They have built a monstrous system that is used for many things besides retirement income.

The largest, of course, is not the disability programs and the like, but the medicare system of providing health care. Where we once rationed health care to those who were willing to pay a fee for a service and those who could get it for free from doctors who wanted to help, we now have a system of HMOs and other programs that have destroyed the patient-doctor relationship and replaced it with cold-hearted administrators or indifferent bureaucrats that have to decide who gets care and how much the provider will be paid. We adopted a system of ‘entitlements’ many of which are just mandated. Funding is up to industry or the taxpayers.

With all of these failures, it is an eye opener to read the words of Shelby Steele about social morality and recognize that George W. Bush has done his homework and knows what he means when he speaks of compassionate conservatism! We are discovering that if we tolerate a President who has no personal morality worthy of the label, because we think that he is on the side of the social angels; we are making a big mistake. Without personal integrity at the top, we can not expect to avoid all sorts of malignant deprecations among the ‘camp-followers’. It is not surprising that the White House no longer does security checks on its employees- if the boss wants ‘em, they are in. It is not surprising that professionals in the White House travel department were thrown out unfairly- they were expendable. It is no joke that FBI files suddenly were found on the President’s living room reading table! Their usefulness had expired, but the media, loyal to the notion that it is the end, not the means that is important, play down the story.

Only the Monica scandal passed through that restrictive barrier because it was too good of a story to sell papers to ignore! The President could not let someone else take the blame for it! It is sad that the more important issues of transgressions were not used as the cause for Impeachment, like selling the White House and secrets to Chinese in exchange for campaign cash! Yet, the House of Representatives did something that no other House in our history had done. It actually passed the impeachment articles for the Senate to consider.

The Senate was manipulated to find a way out, short of replacing the President. Millions of voters were tabulated as preferring it that way. After all, personal morality in an age of civil liberties is all subject to notions of situation ethics and relativity to other so-called more important considerations!

We may now be faced with an election campaign where the Republican candidate will successfully identify with millions of voters, who will come out of the woodwork to vote and say it is time for a new beginning- one where compassionate conservatism looks for solutions that don’t make the problems get bigger. Ways to deal with utilization of the private resources that are able to be applied without cost, if government will allow them to do so, and without assuming costly liability in the process.

In an age where baby sitters are almost afraid to work for fear of harassment and their would be employers wonder, if they need to get government approved certification of their qualifications, exemptions from child labor laws, and perhaps determine, collect and remit social security, income tax and workmen’s compensation taxes, we may be on the verge of real change!

If it was the Republican tax cuts and encouragement of industry that primed the last eight years of boom times that began before Clinton could take office, and have remained because of their control of Congress. Think what the future can bring, if we have both a compassionate president and a Congress that is committed to finding ways to let it work! The tax cutting alone will help fund a lot of philanthropic activity, once freed of the excessive regulatory controls, to make a difference. The quality of care and concern may be less regulated and certified, but the attitude of the givers and the receivers will change for the better. Best of all, the moral ‘high ground’ will be restored to the kind of Americans that invented it- God fearing, hard working, loving and compassionate friends and good neighbors.

Give it a chance America!

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