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Jeb Bush and AEI's Arthur Brooks call on US Republicans to focus on the poor

By Tim Montgomerie
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Here's a good analysis of the challenge facing the US Republicans (and British Conservatives for that matter)...

"Why hasn’t the Republican Party been able to construct a program of its own, in which the American people can have confidence? I would suggest two reasons. First, the party has never fully reconciled itself to the welfare state, and therefore has never given comprehensive thought to the question of what a conservative welfare state would look like. Second, because of their close historic association with the business community, Republican leaders tend to think like businessmen rather than like statesmen, and therefore bumble their way through their terms in office."

Interestingly it was written in 1976. By Irving Kristol, in an essay entitled The Republican Future. It's quoted in a perceptive piece by Matthew Continetti.

Does the age of the piece mean that Republicans/ Tories should ignore its recommendations or recognise their persistence?

For Arthur C Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, and former Governor Jeb Bush the answer is "recognise their persistence". In two separate OpEds for the Wall Street Journal both men call the Republicans and conservatives to a moral mission.

Brooks (echoing Henry Olsen) writes (£) there is only one statistic that explains the Republicans' enduring weakness:

"An April poll—which mirrored every other poll on the subject—found that only 33% of Americans said that Mitt Romney "cares about people like me." Only 38% said he cared about the poor. Conservatives rightly complain that this perception was inflamed by President Obama's class-warfare campaign theme. But perception is political reality, and over the decades many Americans have become convinced that conservatives care only about the rich and powerful."

Brooks' answer is "is to make improving the lives of vulnerable people the primary focus of authentically conservative policies". Jeb Bush agrees. After setting out various compelling reasons why Republicans can be positive about America's future he notes (£) that what Osborne adviser Neil O'Brien has called "cultural inequality" is one of the main explanations for the persistence of poverty and the decline of social mobility:

"Today, the sad reality is that if you're born poor, if your parents didn't go to college, if you don't know your father, if English isn't spoken at home—then the odds are stacked against you. You are more likely to stay poor today than at any other time since World War II."

He then lists five policy responses that include allowing "both small people to rise and large businesses to fail"; educational transformation of the kind he engineered in Florida when Governor; celebrating economic success; a new "forward-thinking" immigration system; and the importance of non-governmental poverty-fighters. Read his full article (£).


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