The False Perception of Conservatism

A recent article in Five-Thirty-Eight pointed out the problem of empathy and how Republican candidates don’t seem to have it. Polls show that Mitt Romney, John McCain, Ronald Reagan, and other GOP politicians are perceived as less caring than their Democratic counterparts. While Republicans habitually fare better than Democrats on issues like national defense and fiscal responsibility, it is Democrats that supposedly “care” about the common voter.

But while the article limits itself to the realm of mainstream political candidates and presidents, it highlights a problem with conservatism in general. Or, at least, the way in which people think about conservatism. Right-wing-minded Americans are constantly defending against charges of racism, bigotry, and an uncaring attitude towards the less fortunate. In railing against government intervention, welfare, affirmative action, and other terrible policies, we inevitably expose ourselves to accusations of being cold, callous, and cruel.

Does that describe a tiny minority of conservatives? Of course. It also describes plenty of liberals. A movement cannot be defined by its worst participants. But the accusations leveled at conservatism are not limited to a handful of strident screamers; even moderate Republicans like Romney are perceived as having little empathy for the working-class American.

Tradition and Sense in a Maelstrom

The problem, of course, is one of messaging. Studies have shown that, contrary to perceptions, conservatives are much more charitable than our liberal accusers. Liberals may be willing to vote for candidates who talk about helping the poor, but conservatives are willing to go the extra mile and actually donate to the cause. We understand that nothing cures poverty like the free market. Nothing helps a broader swath of Americans than protecting capitalism. And nothing kills motivation faster than a government handout.

It goes back to the biggest difference between liberals and conservatives. To be a good liberal, all you have to do is appear to care a lot about an issue. Conservatives aren’t interested in putting on a show. We want answers. We want facts. We want to know what policies will be best for the country, even if those policies don’t provide a quick fix.

In a culture that now runs off sound bites, though, that pragmatic approach to politics may prove to be a tough hurdle to climb. Voters, less informed than ever before, want to see candidates who wear their hearts on their sleeves, talk a good game, and deliver zingers at the State of the Union. 24-hour news channels, YouTube, Twitter, and instant communication access have conspired to crush our attention spans. We want answers now, not in a decade.

And in the rush to embrace new technologies, new iPhones, new this, and new that, where does that leave the conservative approach? The one that looks at new ideas, ponders them, and advises caution. The one that champions liberty over feelings. The one that champions self-reliance over government dependence. Well, we can only hope that Americans will look back, see the damage “empathy” has done to this country, and opt for tradition. If we continue to let our “hearts” guide us, tragedy awaits.


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  1. That is a simple question to answer, Socialist Democrats promise you the sun,
    moon, and lost of “freebies” and welfare. The GOP does not feel you tons of BS
    but rather state the facts and hope for the best. People would rather have tons
    of BS fed them with lots of honey to make it taste so good even though they know
    they are being lied to. This is especially true with the Socialist Democrats Low
    information type voters. How else could the continually get votes?

    • James You are absolutely correct…here’s the big differences.

      Conservative vs Liberal Ideologies

      Political Views


      Anti-federalist. Prefer smaller government, less regulation, most services to be provided by the private sector in a free market, and a literal interpretation of the Constitution.


      Federalist. Prefer more regulation and services like free universal health care to be provided by the government to all citizens.

      Economic Views

      Right wing

      Government should tax less and spend less. Cutting spending to balance the budget should be the priority. Higher income earners should have an incentive to invest (credits). Charity is the responsibility of the people.

      Left Wing

      Government should provide more services to the less fortunate (like health care) and increase taxes if necessary. High-income earners should pay a larger percentage of their income as taxes.

      Social Views

      Right Wing

      Opposed to gay marriage, abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Support the right to bear arms, death penalty, and personal responsibility as an individual.

      Left Wing

      Gay couples to get equal rights like everyone else (e.g. marriage); abortion should be legal; support embryonic stem cell research. Support restrictions and regulation around the right to bear arms.

      Personal Responsibility

      Right Wing

      Individuals should exercise personal responsibility and it is the governments role to hold them accountable even with severe penalties. Laws are enacted to reflect the best interest of the society as a whole.

      Left Wing

      The people should look to the government to provide a structure. Laws are enacted to protect every individual for an equal society sometimes at the expense of economic freedom if necessary.

      Indisputable facts

  2. What the Commie/Muslim/Left/Liberals leave out is the fact that Conservative donate 10X more money to causes to help the poor. What this article shows me is these Commie Monsters want to tax the heck out of the middle class and keep it for themselves! You just look at BO for example…he took office in Jan 2009 and in his financial statement he declared he and Michael, sorry Michelle, had only around $300K, now after just being in office for 6 monstrous years is worth over $50 Million…the Prez Job does not pay that kind of money ($450K per year)! He is lining his pockets with the Middle Classes Tax payers money and that is just one example…the truth hurts don’t IT..!!!

  3. try being good Constitutionalists………………

  4. Liberals build Hi-Speed trains to Nowhere !!

  5. The real problem is that democrats offer you the sun & moon, but never reveal how they are going to pay for them. TAXES! A high percentage of democrat votes come from spoiled and pampered college students whose parents have never made them pay for anything. Minorities who have never worked a day for 2 generations don’t pay taxes. Then you have the American Jewish community who vote 83% democrat even though Obama and the democrats despise them and especially their families in the middle east. They together with the rest of the democrat voters explain that they are liberals since birth.. period. Republicans are fiscally responsible and have a firm belief that you have to earn your keep. They also have a bigger problem within the party by shooting themselves in both feet by finding even the slightest fault with their candidates. As displayed in the last two presidential elections, the democrats will vote for dishonest hate America candidates or worse.Even Rush Limbaugh said that the worst Republican candidate is much better than the best democrat candidate.. Get serious and vote Republican.

  6. obama does indeed act like he cares about the poor, but bush really did. yet he was the bad guy. go figure

  7. Keep whining, republicans. You have been nailed for what you really are and the American public isn’t buying the bull crap you are selling anymore… Now go stand in the corner and don’t forget to put on your tin foil hats….

    • Ah, just another troll. Move along people…nothing to listen to here.

      • Really, skipsart? It is republican, moron traitors like yourself who has sat on their indolent asses doing nothing but obstruction, lies and bullshit while Democrats are getting things done and AGAIN cleaning up the mess the republican traitors left behind them as they AGAIN slunk off back under their slimy rocks… DO SHUT THE HELL UP!!!

        • Shut the hell up? That’s what the left wants. No First Amendment rights for anyone who disagrees with them. Traitor? Who’s growing the Federal Government in complete violation of the Constitution. Name one thing the Democrats are doing to get things done that is written in the Constitution. And I won’t tell YOU to shut up.

          • If you did ANYTHING besides tout the republican, brainwashed, spoon fed up your ass bullshit, there would be something to debate. DO shut the hell up, skippybrain.

          • Is that all you can say? Shut Up ??? Well, you just made my point.
            Look who’s vile and nasty here………YOU are. That’s because you don’t have a leg to stand on. But I still will never tell you to shut up. That’s one of the many differences between the Constitutional Conservative and a Progressive Socialist such as you.
            You can’t come up with a legitimate argument so you call people names instead.
            So typical.

  8. So let the liberals keep thinking their delusional thoughts, it only hastens the demise of the liberal agenda and brings more of their base – the ones who are finally seeing the truth behind their rhetoric to the ranks of Conservatives voters. People are waking up to the fact that liberal “solutions” do more harm than good to our nation, our people and our economy so their solutions are based on lies, fabrications and their Gruber mentality that the American electorate is stupid, makes poor choices and only they can lead us to the promised land. A promised land where the US becomes a 3rd rate 3rd world 2 bit country of misery, no hope, no change and divided.

    February 17, 2008, reprint – Psychiatrist Confirms: Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder

    As a clinical and forensic psychiatrist, Lyle Rossiter has treated over 1,500 patients and examined over 2,700 civil and criminal cases. Turning his hand to political psychopathology, the author of The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness, has diagnosed an alarming percentage of the population as suffering from the grotesque form of mental derangement known by some as moonbattery

    The Liberal Mind is the first in-depth examination of the major political madness of our time: The radical left’s efforts to regulate the people from cradle to grave. To rescue us from our troubled lives, the liberal agenda recommends denial of personal responsibility, encourages self-pity and other-pity, fosters government dependency, promotes sexual indulgence, rationalizes violence, excuses financial obligation, justifies theft, ignores rudeness, prescribes complaining and blaming, denigrates marriage and the family, legalizes all abortion, defies religious and social tradition, declares inequality unjust, and rebels against the duties of citizenship. Through multiple entitlements to unearned goods, services and social status, the liberal politician promises to ensure everyone’s material welfare, provide for everyone’s healthcare, protect everyone’s self-esteem, correct everyone’s social and political disadvantage, educate every citizen, and eliminate all class distinctions. Radical liberalism thus assaults the foundations of civilized freedom. Given its irrational goals, coercive methods and historical failures, and given its perverse effects on character development, there can be no question of the radical agenda’s madness. Only an irrational agenda would advocate a systematic destruction of the foundations on which ordered liberty depends. Only an irrational man would want the state to run his life for him rather than create secure conditions in which he can run his own life. Only an irrational agenda would deliberately undermine the citizen’s growth to competence by having the state adopt him. Only irrational thinking would trade individual liberty for government coercion, sacrificing the pride of self-reliance for welfare dependency. Only a madman would look at a community of free people cooperating by choice and see a society of victims exploited by villains. [From The Liberal Mind; The Psychological Causes of Political Madness by Lyle H. Rossiter, Jr., MD]

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