Rob Wasinger, longtime aide to Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and now candidate for Kansas’s first congressional district, penned an op-ed in the Washington Examiner. In the short piece, he asserts that social and economic components are compatible and equally important elements of the modern conservative agenda.
This is an important message both for the long term and in the short, practical run of things – as the opposition party, unity is important if the Republicans are to stop anything, or wield effective negotiating clout to lessen the impact of ill-advised Democratic policy ideas.
There is more to it than Wasinger gets into, but his basic thrust is this:
The electoral/practical argument: “…a winning Republican coalition must include both economic and social conservatives.”
Remaining relevant: “…we must recast the argument in support of this coalition so that it resonates with voters’ concerns today.”
Making the modern connection: “Republicans must articulate that government grows when families and communities fail. … Policies designed to strengthen families and communities should be the basis of a new pragmatic consensus that reaches across party lines.”
This might sound like a logical tangent to compassionate conservatism (which allows for the use of government for social good), and maybe it is. The twist comes in the fact that policies designed for social welfare are specifically done so with the dual purpose of checking the growth of government, hence the (intended) appeal to economic conservative. (Or maybe that’s not a twist at all, maybe that’s already part of ‘compassionate conservatism’- admittedly I am not thoroughly familiar enough with the doctrine’ to say with absolute certainty).
I’m inherently skeptical of government efforts to engineer social benefits, because whatever the purpose is, you are playing with fire when you give power to the government to do anything, however noble the goals are.
However, it does depend on exactly what policies you are talking about. Moreover, I would say that to the degree government is involved with anything that could be considered social policy (the civil institution of marriage, for instance), that involvement should be of the constructive, values-driven kind that is designed to strengthen family units. Regardless of what you think the government’s role in addressing them should be, it is indisputable that the breakdown of marriage and the family leads to many of the social problems to which many are seeking government solutions.
So, it will be interesting to see if Wasinger continues to flesh this out. What type of policy proposals it might lead to or short of that, how it would have lead him to vote on various issues in previous sessions, or actual legislative matters likely to come up in the near future? All of that will be important for him to discuss on the campaign trail.
For now, it’s good to hear a congressional candidate talking seriously about the direction of the movement and the Party. And at a time when GOP strategists like Steve Shcmidt are foolishly prodding the party to jettison traditionalist positions, it’s also important that candidates are speaking of the importance of maintaining them.