Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dionne, Cromartie, and Gerson on "Heroic Conservatism"

Here's a link to a Pew Forum event that might be of interest:

The Pew Forum invited former presidential speechwriter Michael Gerson to discuss his new book, Heroic Conservatism, with Forum senior advisors Michael Cromartie and E.J. Dionne Jr. and a select group of journalists. Gerson was challenged to define “heroic conservatism” and critique the Bush administration’s record on implementing the "compassionate conservative" philosophy Gerson himself helped to craft. Offering criticism and praise to both parties, Gerson lamented the lack of Republican support for domestic social justice issues, while calling on all Americans, in spite of the difficulties in Iraq, not to give up on a “moral internationalism.”

Prof. Bob Cochran called my attention to this bit, where Gerson characterizes "heroic conservatism" in this way:

“[H]eroic conservatism” is a rejection of libertarian and traditional anti-government ideology in favor of [a] conservatism of the common good, influenced by Catholic social thought. It tries to take the principles of solidarity with the poor and the weak seriously, both in issues of poverty and race, and pro-life issues, in my view, but also take the principle of limited government seriously, trying to both respect and strengthen mediating institutions as a primary goal of policy. . . .

The tradition that I’m arguing [for] here is quite different. Catholic social thought and the mainstream of the Judeo-Christian tradition has argued that social outcome is an actual outcome for the poor and the weak, that the justice of the society is determined by the treatment of its weakest members. That does change, to some extent, your goals and motivations in politics. I don’t think it makes you a liberal, but I think it’s different than some other conservative approaches.

CROMARTIE: By the way, if I could just say as a fellow Protestant, there is such a thing as Protestant social thought, you would agree. You keep talking about Catholic social thought.

GERSON: Yes, [Abraham] Kuyper and others; there are plenty of models that evangelicals have. But there are so many evangelicals like me who went to Capitol Hill and were casting around for a construct to explain what it means to be a person of conscience in politics, and [we] came to John Paul II and the tradition of Roman Catholic social thought. It has a consequence; it leaves you with a philosophy, from my perspective, because it doesn’t dictate a political ideology. That’s not what this tradition does. But it does dictate certain social goals of justice.

It’s left me believing that it’s possible, and arguing that it’s possible, to be a supporter of free markets and also believe in helping African kids—(inaudible)—to be a social conservative, which I am, and to believe in confronting these durable problems of race and poverty in this country that I think neither party has been particularly responsible on. So, yes, there are Protestant traditions, but the predominant one in our time has been a Catholic tradition.


Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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