In America’s mind-movie, conservatives have been reprising their role as cold-hearted, money-grubbing, angry white men for decades. If someone so much as breathes, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” the visage of a pre-redemption Ebenezer Scrooge starts floating above their head.
Conservatives need to change this.
The assumption that a belief in self-reliance signifies a callous disregard for the less fortunate is one that has been allowed to persist for far too long. Further, it’s one that conservatives can no longer afford to ignore. In order to address this, there are the three key areas where conservatives can and should be more overtly charitable.
According to noted Clinical Psychologist, Jordan Peterson, conservatives need to dispense with the notion that there is a job for everybody if they just go out and look for it. According to Peterson, ten percent of the population–roughly 30 million people–simply cannot be trained to do anything that isn’t “positively counterproductive” in a complex society like the United States.
In brief, there is a group of people for whom the “up by the bootstraps” approach is truly out of reach. Continually painting them as indolent or morally inferior is unacceptable. Now, this is not to say that self-reliance or the occasional “bootstraps” pep talk isn’t valuable. However, it does mean that an evolution of conservative rhetoric is in order.
Despite the fact that avarice is often associated with Republicans, conservatives, especially religious conservatives, routinely give more to charity than their liberal counterparts. In fact, despite making six percent less on average, self-described conservatives give thirty percent more to charity than self-described liberals.
However, this disparity may have more to do with religiosity than political ideology. Indeed, one pair of researches found no difference in giving between conservatives that oppose government redistribution and those that don’t. Given that a major conservative tenet is that charity—not government—should be at the front lines of social inequality, this is a problem. Conservatives need to be willing to put their money where their mouth is. They should give on the basis of their ideology, and not just their religiosity.
Currently in the U.S., there is an urgent need for blood donations. The American Red Cross has even issued an emergency call for donations, going as far as to offer five dollar Amazon gift cards to those that donate through August 30. However, the present shortage, while it may be especially pressing, is not unusual, and blood gathering organizations are perennially battling against a shortage of supply. According to the ARC, only thirty-eight percent of the population is even eligible to give blood, but only ten percent of that population donate blood annually.
Historically, conservatives have given blood more readily than liberals. One study found that “if liberals and moderates gave blood as often as conservatives, the American blood supply would increase by 45 percent.” Given that the lion’s share of people who are literally willing to give their lives for others identify as Republican, this is not all that surprising.
However, there is still room for improvement. After all, personal sacrifice is an integral part of the conservative creed. While not every conservative is charged with bleeding for their country, we should all be willing to give blood for our fellow countrymen.
Changing Hearts and Minds
The Left seems bound and determined to live up to its end of the old refrain, “conservatives have no heart, but liberals have no brain.” (See, for example, Ms. Ocasio-Cortes.) But based on the data, this saying clearly needs updating. Conservatives are far from the heartless extortionists we’ve been made out to be.
However, conservatives inability or unwillingness to seriously refute this stereotype of heartlessness has worked against us. It’s enabled the vilification of our values writ large. What’s needed now is a visible and vocal commitment to conservative charity. Our goal of limited government is one that requires a giving and generous citizenry to fill in the gaps. Ultimately, if we have any hope of seeing that realized, we need to be the ones leading the charge for charity, with both our lives and our lips.