Conservatives have been down in the dumps lately, which is why a recent lunch for conservative women that featured as its speaker Arthur C. Brooks, a man who exudes optimism, was a morale booster.

Brooks of course is president of the American Enterprise Institute and author, moreover, of a new book, The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier and More Prosperous America, which was the luncheon topic.

A snide liberal is likely to feign shock and say something like, "You mean conservatives have hearts?"

Well, that is just the sort of image against which Brooks is warning.

Bard professor and Hudson fellow Walter Russell Mead, who is perhaps best known for writing the Via Meadia column for  The American Interest magazine, reviews the book in today's Wall Street Journal. Mead opens:

Arthur C. Brooks is worried about the future of the conservative movement. What worries him isn’t the viability of its thought or the saliency of its policy proposals. He thinks conservatives have those mostly right. What worries him is their presentation. Conservatives, Mr. Brooks feels, too often come across as either angry and embittered or as cold and out of touch. Worse, the anger and alienation that many conservatives feel at the changes in domestic policy under President Obama exacerbate the problem. A vicious cycle, Mr. Brooks fears, could be taking shape as liberal policies make conservatives cranky and cranky conservatives become less persuasive, leading to more liberal policy making and even crankier conservatives.

“The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America” is intended to jostle conservatives out of a mindset the author believes is self-defeating and to show politicians and activists how they can communicate core values and ideas more effectively to a wider audience. As the president of the American Enterprise Institute (where I sit, unpaid, on the academic advisory board), he knows whereof he speaks. Mr. Brooks is in daily contact with GOP candidates, officeholders and strategists; nobody is better placed to understand the state of American conservatism.

The problem, Mr. Brooks argues, is a simple one. When, for example, conservatives inveigh against increasing the minimum wage, the message voters hear is that conservatives don’t care about helping poorly paid workers. What they need to hear is that conservative opposition to hiking the minimum wage comes out of a passionate concern for the well-being of those who lose their jobs when the minimum wage increases. That can’t just be boilerplate; conservatives need to highlight the inequality and lack of opportunity that so many Americans feel. And they need to offer practical solutions.

When it comes to countering the supposedly people-oriented policies of liberals, Republican candidates inevitably resort of the tried and true rhetoric about about "prosperity," an abstraction (and, alas, becoming more abstract all the time).

Sometimes this just sounds like same old same old–especially now when many of us have forgotten what prosperity looks and feels like.

Maybe candidates should read Brooks' book and figure out how to talk to alienated voters, some of whom will sit out 2016 if not given a reason to hope.