Given the passing of the late Anthony Scalia, and the jockeying among the Republican candidates, many are asking a singular question. What does it mean to be a conservative in America.
For liberals, conservatism represents the love of anachronisms. People, who by their nature, are afraid of change and desperately hang on to the past. Conservers who work against change in all its forms and at all cost. In brief, enemies of Progress. To the left, they’re defined by the word forward and conservatives by backward. Of course conservatism can be no more defined by liberals than love can be understood by a rock.
The truth is conservatism is best understood by going to its roots. The first one’s to be called conservatives were the disciples of Edmond Burke, the great English statesman. They were so christened because they were the people’s conservators, lord protectors of both individuals and society. To them, England represented the culmination of millennia of human progress. The values it held dear, the apex of human development. Founded on principles that were universal in nature, Britain was prospering even as its people enjoyed nearly unparalleled freedom. The conservatives saw themselves as Burke saw himself, defenders of British rights and the society from which they had grown.
These ideas found fertile ground in the new world as well. America was a generic term then, used for the loosely aligned group of British colonies strung along the Atlantic seaboard, and the unruly lands to their west. The Great European powers had, somewhat despairingly, named the colonist that lived there Americans. For New Yorkers, Rhode Islanders, Virginians and others that made up these colonies, English rights and values were part of their lives too.
The conservatism of the American people is not a philosophy in the traditional sense, but more of an understanding of life based on natural law and the importance of the social compact to society. These bookends held in place their view of the world and their rightful place in it. For them, each human liberty was harnessed to a responsibility. Freedom, for instance, was intimately connected to morality: as one wanes the other must also or chaos will certainly ensue. The right of conscious carries with it the respect for the beliefs of others. (They could not conceive of the fabricated right not to be offended.) Personal sovereignty, as Locke had so eloquently defined, was also a call for personal responsibility. Once more, they intuitively understood that a societies strength lay not in its diversity, but in the commonalities among its citizens. It was shared traditions, public organizations, world views, and embraced values that created a sense of community. Tranquility found its place where freedom of conscious was universally respected and equality before the law and God was a commonly accepted precept.
To put in more general terms, conservatism took the combined common sense of the ages and applied it to single time and place. In short, American conservatism is the belief that there are universal truths and bedrock principles, upon which societies should be built. Among these are Natural Law, individual sovereignty, and equality before the law and God. Correspondingly, American conservatives are people who seek to protect individuals, and the societies within they reside, through the application of these universal principles, and the truths that come from them.
The proof of the wisdom of America’s founding fathers, and the conservative principles that guided both them and conservatives today, can be seen in the ravaged lives found among the ruble of liberal policies. Once tranquil minority neighborhoods have been turned into inner city hell holes, wholly due to the breakdown of families. A breakdown predicated on liberal influences, and policies. Increased mental illness among the youth can be traced directly to liberal parenting tactics pushed by the left since the 1950s. Even the out of control debt is an outgrowth of abandoning conservative principles. As test scores fall, divisions increase, patriotism decreases, and a country goes into decline, it is the unrelenting influence of the left that is to blame.
Judge Bork once said, times change but principles do not. Natural law can no more be swept out of existence than one can outlaw gravity. The left is fond of saying that conservatives resist progress, but it is not progress to commit suicide. The truth is, where American conservative principles prevail, progress does also. It is the fertile soil out of which innovation and economies grow. In contrast, where the isms of the left take hold (socialism, communism, progressivism, liberalism and fascism) the flower of progress withers. Not only is progress stifled, but it is often reversed. The barbarity and incivility on American college campuses, the decline of Venezuela and murderous regimes of the twentieth century all pay tribute to this fact. Given all of this, if one had to pick one word to define American conservatism it would be sanity!
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