By Tim Montgomerie
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The conservative columnist for the New York Times David Brooks has called it "the Republican Glasnost". He says that the Republican Party has changed far more than he expected in less that a month. It has a long way to go until "it revives itself as a majority party", he readily concedes, but some of its leading figures are moving in a sensible and winsome direction.
Pasted below are some key quotations from Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio. The former was Romney's running mate and Senator Rubio of Florida is a hot tip for the GOP's nominee next time round. Both men have articulated a more one nation Republicanism and notable themes are a belief in helping those who can't help themselves as well as the central compassionate conservative themes of family, school and work.
This was Congressman Paul Ryan last week emphasising an understanding of the deep social challenges facing many Americans: "Poverty rates are the highest in a generation. Of the millions of children born into hardship, fewer and fewer are able to escape it. And some never learn to dream at all, which is a worse tragedy. When 40 percent of all children born into the lowest income quintile never rise above it, what does it say about our country? To me, it says our economy is failing to provide basic security, much less rising wages. It says our schools are failing to provide a path out of poverty. And it says that our families and communities are breaking down where they are needed most – in those homes and neighborhoods where even a mighty government cannot match the power of one caring soul helping another."
Ryan then emphasised the importance of social solidarity as well as social mobility: "As it stands, our party excels at representing the aspirations of our nation’s risk-takers. We celebrate that part of the American Dream that involves finding your passion and making a living from it. But there is another part of the American creed: When our neighbors are struggling, we look out for one another. We do that best through our families and communities – and our party must stand for making them stronger. We have a compassionate vision based on ideas that work – but sometimes we don’t do a good job of laying out that vision. We need to do better."
Marco Rubio returned to this theme in his own speech, calling for both protection and reform of the welfare safety-net: "Let’s protect our nation’s safety net programs. Not as a way of life,
but as a way to help those who have failed to stand up and try again,
and of course to help those who cannot help themselves. But these
programs must be reformed to enhance family stability, financial
opportunity, education and a culture of work."
The Senator also emphasised the importance of social capital in underpinning a person's economic chances: "The research on this topic has consistently found that children raised in tough circumstances, struggle in comparison with children raised in a more stable family setting. They face higher risks of falling into poverty, failing in school, or suffering emotional and behavioral problems. They have lower scores on standardized tests, lower grades, and a much higher chance of dropping out of high school or failing to attend college. Widespread societal breakdown is not something government can solve, and yet it is one that the government cannot ignore. We cannot separate the economic well-being of our people from their social well-being." Neil O'Brien – George Osborne's new advisor – addressed this topic recently in an important article on "cultural inequality".
Mike Gerson in the Washington Post summarised why GOP leaders are thinking in these ways:
"For Republicans, the problem runs deeper than Romney’s persona. The
GOP’s economic message is well past its 1980 expiration date. It is not
enough to promote growth in an economy where a personal benefit from
overall growth is far from assured. Economic mobility is increasingly
connected to education, skills and strong families. The traditional,
Republican, pro-business agenda is necessary, but it does not
adequately grapple with these human needs — the prerequisites for
Republicans like to defend economic success. They need to show more
creativity in making economic advancement a realistic prospect — by
promoting, say, high school and college completion, or increasing the
rewards for work, or providing practical help to families with
children. Moving forward, the GOP’s task is not only to make capitalism
more efficient; it is to make capitalism work for everyone."
Making capitalism work for everyone is the key. I've called it the "double lock". Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic are seen by most voters to be more likely to create prosperity but will we also ensure that it is shared? I don't mean shared equally but in a way that keeps us as one nation – where no person is left behind. Please see more at StrongAndCompassionate.com.