A little platoon of high-profile Republican members of Congress, most of whom harbor national ambitions, has stepped forward in recent weeks to make the case for a more activist GOP policy toward the problem of poverty. A number of conservative intellectuals have also been weighing in. It’s doubtful that a wide-ranging conservative anti-poverty agenda is about to become the first plank in the GOP platform any time soon. But the felt need among Republicans to speak to the issue is an indication of how the domestic policy debate has been shifting.
There are several causes underlying this shift, some on the right and some on the left, some substantive and some political. I would usually give the political motivations consideration first, on the perhaps cynical grounds that where a politician’s interest goes, his or her heart will follow. But with one exception—Obama and the Democrats’ pushback against social inequality—calculations of political interest haven’t changed that much, and the pressure from Democrats on the subject has not been enough by itself to force a new line out of the GOP. Continue reading