I wonder what ever happened to the concept of "compassionate conservative". Not that I suppose anyone (even the person who coined it) ever tried to live up to that title. But it was rather charming that the claim was made that compassion was a foundation for conservative ideals..
Today's conservative is more honest. He does not have to pretend to be compassionate. She can form policies based on belief rather than evidence. The modern conservative is sure each one of us is getting no more than what we deserve.
I get the sense there's an underlying Calvinism in the modern conservative's world view. Calvin was a Protestant reformer who believed strongly in the doctine of predestination. This held that an omnipotent God would know the name of each person who was "saved". And one clear sign that you have God's favor, that you are among the predestined elect, was success in this world.
For the modern conservative, a person is out of work due to a flaw in his character. Clearly, that person is a sinner predestined by the economic God for failure. It has nothing to do with market forces; you've been laid off or let go because you were not predestined for success.
As this suggests, there is an undercurrent of judgementalism present in the modern conservative. The poor are lazy, and deserve to be poor. Anyone arrested by the police must be guilty. Any woman who is sexually active has implicitly accepted the responsibility of becoming a mother - even if she was raped.
This sort of judgmentalism frees one from compassionate action. If people are getting what they deserve, then I'm wasting my time if I help when they're down. I might, in fact, offend God.
Think about it: most humans are programmed to be compassionate. People donate to Haiti relief regardless of political affiliation. In the aftermath of a disaster, charities are flooded with donations.
So there must be a narrative that conteracts this natural urge to help those in need. And that's the narrative embraced by the Tea Partiers, et al: each person gets what s/he deserves. We've got ours, and we've earned it by the sweat of our righteous brow. Let them earn theirs.
I suppose the modern conservative considers himself among the economic elect simply because he is a Republican. She may not have reached the empryon of the 1% just yet, but she will. For her thoughts are God's thoughts, and God has marked her for salvation.
They are among those predestined for golden halls of the holy. And let the devil take the hindmost.