If compassionate conservatism had a face, it was Jack Kemp's. He was the man who convinced Ronald Reagan that cutting taxes would stimulate the economy. However, he was also the Housing Secretary who believed in carving out enterprise zones in the nation's ghettos and helping poor people buy their homes. And, he favored immigration reform. He'll be warmly remembered.
But Jack Kemp was only partially successful in defining conservatism for our times. I suggest the present woes of the GOP can be attributed to its failure to embrace the more costly and humanitarian half of what he was saying.
There is an underside to conservatism as it is practiced in America that smells a lot like Social Darwinism. Compassionate governance is anathema to those who oppose social activism with taxpayer dollars. Perhaps the salvation of the hardliners is that they protect taxpayers yet to be born, since the federal government, under both parties, has accustomed itself to the ease and convenience of big budget deficits.
Kemp, for all his can-do optimism, could never make the numbers come out right, and his dreams of social progress gained little currency in his own party.