Defend “compassionate conservatism”? Well, I’ll have a go.
It is a fixed belief among millions of the stupider sorts of Americans — college Humanities professors and the like — that the Dems are the kind party, while the GOP is the unkind party. If you talk to ordinary citizens much, this comes through all the time.
“Compassionate conservatism” was an effort to take the edge of that perception via a snappy, easily-remembered slogan. My guess is it probably worked — peeled off a couple hundred thousand undecided votes.
Philosophically, intellectually, and metaphysically, “compassionate conservatism” is of course turkey poop. But this is p-o-l-i-t-i-c-s.