The fallout from Jan. 6 riots almost totally eclipsed any discussion of the radical new Democratic senators from Georgia.
In anticipation of victory in Georgia, Democratic politicians and pundits echoed the policy proposals they have been championing all year. Packing the Supreme Court, eliminating the filibuster in the Senate, and adding new states to the union to cement a Democratic majority in Congress are but a few of the proposals that have been floating around. The party is increasingly moving away from the zone Joe Biden used to represent.
Often, Americans hear individuals like Sen. Bernie Sanders or Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez invoke the platitude of “human rights” as the basis for their policy proposals. For most leftists, rights are the product of time, circumstance, and society, not things rooted in a concrete human nature. The left uses the “human rights” claim to justify everything from abortion and gun control to redistribution of wealth and “free” health care, as Sanders so often declares.
The left invokes this kind of language because they are making a moral argument for why Americans should go along with their policies that are contrary to the political theory of the American Founding. The modern left not only rejects the claims of the American Founding, they are outright hostile to them (as seen in the 1619 Project). It is this embattled philosophy that conservatives must continue to champion and conserve.
We Need to Return to Our Founding Principles
America was founded on the principle that since in a state of nature every human is born equally free and independent of the rule of one another, no adult has the inherent right to rule over another. It means that humans have certain rights and that among these — as stated in our Declaration of Independence — are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Indeed, the basis of our right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to our property, the right to worship God how we see fit, and other rights is rooted in our unchanging human nature.
It also means that the people are sovereign, and the only government which is good and just derives its authority from the consent of the governed. Moreover, the only just authority any government official has is what is vested in that official, and no more. Founding philosophy dictates that the only purpose of government is to protect the rights of its citizens from threats foreign and domestic, secure property rights, and to an extremely limited extent promote the morality of its citizens.
These are America’s Founding principles, true in all times, in all places, and in all circumstances. It is the product of the classically liberal philosophy from thinkers like John Locke, Algernon Sydney, and others, as viewed by the Founding Fathers through the lens of an older understanding of human nature and moral law, influenced by Christianity, the English tradition, and philosophers like Aristotle.
The political theory and morality of the American Founding focused on rights and duties as being inseparable from one another. If an individual has a right to life, that means that everyone else has the duty not to infringe on that right.
Yet, there are also individual duties that extend to the realm where the government has no authority to force compliance. A citizen has a moral duty to protect and provide for his children; a neighbor has the duty to help a fellow neighbor when he is in dire need; a church serves as a barrier between the poor and the street. This also means, contrary to the left, it is not the government’s job nor within its rightful authority to fulfill these duties, it is the role of individual citizens in the society.
Encouraged, Not Forced Morality
The Founders also believed that for the republic to survive there must be a standard of morality encouraged in the society. Individuals must pursue courage, prudence, patience, frugality, kindness, modesty, and seek the other virtues that make good citizens. This is the vision the Founders had for America, and this is the vision and message that conservatives and the Republican Party must champion now.
This means that not only must conservatives fight for policies that protect the natural rights of American citizens, they must also champion morality by using non-governmental means in the culture to resist and decry things like cancel culture, leftist gender theories, and censorship, to name only a few.
For too long, many Republican politicians have simply branded themselves as Democrat lite, surrendering the moral high ground for bumper sticker tax slogans instead of drawing the hard moral distinction between the liberty of conservative principles, and the tyrannical nature of leftism.
Conservatives must stop giving in to the folly that the best arguments are ones that appeal to pocketbooks because while the issues of taxation and economics are very important and must be addressed, they are not the ultimate object of government. Lest we forget, the battle cry leading up to the American Revolution was not “No Taxation!” or “Lower Taxes!”, it was “No Taxation without Representation.”
The American Revolution was about the principle that there is no just government without the consent of the governed. Universal truths and principles are what motivated and convicted our Founding Fathers. Can we now, as conservatives, say the same? We absolutely should. After all, regardless of the practicality of an economic plan, for most Americans, economics is subject and secondary to morality.
The left makes their argument in terms of morality, and it’s time conservatives reclaimed the moral high ground that the truth of American Founding Principles entitles them to. As Thomas Jefferson said, the purpose of the Declaration of Independence was “not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject.” Let conservatives once again place the common sense of the subject before the American people.
We Still Hold These Truths
Moving forward, freedom-loving Americans should push back against the bad policies and legislation of the incoming Democratic Party-controlled government, oppose cancel culture, and fight against the undermining of conservative values; all while giving Americans a vision statement of what America is, and what it should be.
Unlike the example set by many on the left over the past four years, or fringe elements on the right that countenance political violence, conservatives can respect and obey the laws and offices of the United States, while actively decrying and working to repeal the unjust laws and regulations coming from those offices. They can respect and have goodwill for fellow citizens whom they disagree with while resisting cancel culture, left-leaning media bias, and censorship. These things are not mutually exclusive, and the principles of the American Founding require that they must be fought for without even a hint of depraved and unjust political violence.
Every conservative can feel the pressure from a Democratic Party that is working to undermine the principles America was founded on, faux “conservatives” like those in the Lincoln Project, and some Trump supporters who could very well follow him into a third party.
None of this means it is time for conservatives to mentally check out, throw up their hands in surrender or fall into spiraling despair. Now is the time to stand by our country. Now is the time to let prudence and cool deliberation dictate how to move forward as we roll up our sleeves and get to work. Now is the time for courage.
Conservatives must fight for the same principles, understanding of human nature, natural rights, and liberty that our Founding Fathers fought for. Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” These words were written in the darkest hours of the American Revolution during the winter of 1776, yet they still apply for America in the winter of 2021.
Let this be the year conservatives declare, with the conviction that guarded the hearts of the American patriots in the winter of 1776, that we still hold these truths to be self-evident. The next few years will try the soul of every conservative, and whether we pass the trial is up to us.