Compassionate conservatism is an Americanpolitical philosophy that stresses using traditionally conservative techniques and concepts in order to improve the general welfare of society. The term itself is often credited to the American historian and politician Doug Wead, who used it as the title of a speech in 1979, although its origins lie in paternalism. This label and philosophy has been espoused by U.S. Republican and Democratic politicians since then though in recent times it has been strongly associated with former U.S. President George W. Bush, who commonly used the term to describe his personal views. The term has also been used in the United Kingdom by former Prime Minister David Cameron, and in New Zealand by former Prime MinisterJohn Key.
Historian and presidential advisor Doug Wead may have been the first person to use the phrase compassionate conservative. In 1977, Wead wrote a book about Kolkata, India, entitled The Compassionate Touch. In 1979, he gave a popular speech entitled "The Compassionate Conservative" at the annual Washington Charity Dinner. Tapes of the speech were sold across the country at corporate seminars.
Wead contended that the policies of Republican conservatives should be motivated by compassion, not protecting the status quo. And Wead declared himself to be "a bleeding heart conservative," meaning that he cared for people and sincerely believed that a free marketplace was better for the poor.
I do not challenge the conservatism of this Administration. I do challenge its failure to exhibit a compassionate conservatism that adapts itself to the realities of a society ridden by class and race distinction.
In 1992, when Doug Wead ran for U.S. Representative from Arizona, he wrote a campaign book entitled Time for a Change. The first chapter was called "The Compassionate Conservative" and outlined Wead's philosophy that the masses didn't care if Republican policies worked if the attitude and purpose behind the policies were uncaring.
Some insist the doctrine was invented by Dr. Marvin Olasky, who went on to memorialize it in his books Renewing American Compassion (1996) and Compassionate Conservatism: What it is, What it Does, and How it Can Transform America (2000), and Myron Magnet of the Manhattan Institute. Olasky has been called the "godfather of compassionate conservatism".
The phrase was popularized when George W. Bush adopted it as one of his key slogans during his 2000 presidential campaign against Al Gore. Bush also wrote the foreword to Olasky's Compassionate Conservatism. Olasky said others had come up with the term first.