Having a Heart: Conservatives Stake Claim on Compassion

By Philip Dine Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 24, 1997 | Go to article overview

Having a Heart: Conservatives Stake Claim on Compassion


Philip Dine Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Despite considerable political success in recent decades, conservatives have been accused of ranking low when it comes to compassion for the less fortunate.

On Wednesday, a group of conservative Republican legislators - with Missourians among the leaders - set out to change all that.

"We do care," proclaimed Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana. "We care enough to challenge a system that pretends to address these problems. We want an effective compassion." Republicans must fight for "legislation to renew our disadvantaged communities," urged Rep. James M. Talent of Missouri. To promote this conservatism with a heart, 15 GOP senators and representatives formed the Renewal Alliance. The message: Liberals have failed dismally to solve the nation's social problems, but conservatives must do more than criticize government programs. The alliance hopes to harness the energy of community groups, religious organizations and small businesses to tackle homelessness, poverty, drug use, welfare dependence, urban decay and teen pregnancy. Among the tools the legislators hope to provide: new tax incentives for charitable giving; urban enterprise zones; leeway for religious programs to deliver publicly financed services; school vouchers; and work schedules that let employees take time off instead of overtime pay. Two of the alliance's five leaders are from Missouri - Talent and Sen. John Ashcroft. They join Coats, Sen. Spencer Abraham of Michigan and Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma. "It's not enough for government to disengage itself from what it does poorly; we must provide ways for the culture to do what it does well," Ashcroft said. …

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