Ginni Thomas

Think Tank Head: Conservatism Is All About Optimism

Ginni Thomas Contributor
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To Arthur C. Brooks, Ph.D., the president of the American Enterprise Institute, America is obviously exceptional “for what we reward” as “you see it from all the people around the world desperate to get here.”

Until cultural institutions and values were deconstructed by the left, America traditionally rewarded hard work and opportunity, a magnet for entrepreneurs everywhere.

Brooks has just released his 11th book, “The Conservative Heart,” for conservatives tired of losing arguments as liberals grow government dependency.

Brooks suggests conservatives should stop insulting people and start emphasizing the joyful, optimistic side of conservativism by arguing for people, not against things. Using the example of Obamacare, he says in this 28-minute video interview with The Daily Caller, conservatives are not against the law and its regulations — they are against the awful consequences of rationing and costs on real people of this law.

Naming three outrages many conservatives discuss, he says “we’re outraged that we have schools serving adults, not kids. That poor people have gone backwards during this presidency, and that 48 million Americans need food stamps.”

Conservatives “need to better connect their rhetoric with their hearts,” Brooks says. The book helps people use happiness as a strategy in civic engagement and is “a manual for helping people understand what is written on the conservative heart.”

Brooks says conservatives get so distracted pushing back against more liberal policies that they often forget to articulate why they care about free markets, limited government and a more traditional culture. Conservatives forget to articulate that they believe all people deserve innate respect.

The loss of human dignity that comes from increasing federal dependency and protection is worth the battle over ideas that Brooks is leading from his perch at AEI, where 73 scholars work.

Naming freshman Republican Sens. Tom Cotton, Ben Sasse and James Langford as inherently joyful people who make him feel “better about his country” after talking with them, Brooks is optimistic that more Republicans are seeing the value of fighting for Americans left behind by liberal policies.

He believes the nature of American conservatism is that “everyone has an innate gift, if only they can be set free.” Brooks sees too many workforce eligible adults being idle in Obama’s economy, knowing that earned success and hard work gives people more self-worth than government checks. After all, he says, “we have policies that have pulled two billion people out of poverty.”

To Brooks, the greatest threats to freedom are the erosion of our opportunity society, a warped culture and ignoring an increasingly dangerous world. He also discusses the troubling trend of the left trying to shut down, not engage in, the competition of ideas.

Brooks had a non-traditional path for a conservative leader. He started in Seattle, Wash., where he grew up in a liberal home and culture, dropped out of college, and was a classical musician for 12 years. “Nothing could have been further from my mind” he said than conservativism. And now, he says, “nothing is dearer to my heart.”

For more on Arthur Brooks, see here. His recent views on anonymous posting of negative or destructive commentary, or trolling, can be seen in his recent op ed here.

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