Liberals Are 'Not Stupid, and They're Not Evil'

Like this brief declaration of deep Christian principles, the centerpiece of Brooks' remarks revolved around a fundamentally Christian idea — that everyone is needed and valuable.

The president of AEI quoted a Catholic bishop who had been traveling the country, asking donors for money. To his wealthiest donors in Chicago, the bishop gave a powerful line: "The poor need you to pull them out of poverty, and you need the poor to keep you out of hell." This brief statement — however trite and arguably manipulative — reveals the strongest answer conservatives can give when liberals say they don't care about the poor.

"Big government made us really good at helping people, but very bad at needing people," Brooks declared. Liberals "get it slightly wrong — just right enough to bring people along but not right enough to help people like they want to."

"You say, 'I got a guy who's out of work, we've got to help him.' Wrong. We need him to work," AEI's president explained. "People who have kids and are not married, we've got to help them," he added. No, "we need fathers to take care of their children."

He emphasized the fundamental human dignity of being needed — pointing out that when activists return home from the conference, "You're going to find someone who needs you, and that's the center of dignity in your life."

Brooks told the story of Richard, a man who served 22 years in prison and came out at the age of 40 and went to work sweeping the streets. Richard demonstrated that "work is dignity" when he showed Brooks an email from his boss, which said, "We need you." This broken man never remembered having heard that before, and it gave him great pride to be needed, no matter how "dead end" his job was.

This is the greatest strength of America, that we are a country of "making everybody necessary," Brooks declared. The gratitude of realizing that you need people helps us answer anger and contempt with love. It is the conservative answer to the welfare state, and it is also the Christian answer to our supercharged political divisions.

At the end of his speech, the president of AEI remembered leaving a church in the South and seeing the sign "You are now entering the mission field." He called on the activists at the "Defending the American Dream" Summit to have that spirit in their hearts as they leave the conference.

The spirit of the missionary, answering contempt with gratitude and anger with love, will not just help conservatives win the cultural and political argument — it will help Christians truly live out the witness of our faith. May we have this spirit in politics, culture, and all our endeavors.