(Centenial Fellow) The Republican Party wasn't always a conservative party. Waves of conservative insurgency and resurgency during the past 50 years have transformed the Grand Old Party into the only major party with a core constituency that desires individual freedom and limited government.
The emergence of TEA (for "taxed enough already") parties and the 912 Project — often referred to jointly as the Liberty Movement — is the newest chapter in this resurgence.
In 1964, conservatives, backing Barry Goldwater, wrested the presidential nomination from the Eastern moderate-liberal establishment, which backed Nelson Rockefeller. Although Goldwater was trounced by Lyndon Johnson in the general election, his candidacy sewed the seeds of the "Reagan revolution" in 1980.
In the meantime, Republicans twice nominated Richard Nixon who, although conservative on national defense, also engaged in Keynesian "stimulus" spending, presided over vast expansions of the regulatory bureaucracy, and even sought to impose wage and price controls.
When Ronald Reagan defeated George H. W. Bush for the 1980 presidential nomination, Bush and old-line Republicans scoffed at Reagan's proposal to revive the economy with tax cuts, deriding the plan as "voodoo economics." Thirty years later, no serious Republican candidate would dare deny that higher taxes harm the economy.
Even after Reagan, the intra-party ideological struggle continued. When Americans revolted against the first two years of Bill Clinton's presidency, Newt Gingrich became the top-ranked Republican in Congress, replacing previous Republican leader Robert Michel, a milquetoast who seemed averse to playing hardball with Democrats. Gingrich's history of tangling with the GOP's old bulls included his jibe that Sen. Bob Dole was "the tax collector for the welfare state."
But conservatives have human frailties, too, and Gingrich, after being out-maneuvered by Clinton during the 1995 federal government shutdown, seemed thereafter to focus more on retaining power than advancing a conservative agenda, writes Sen. Tom Coburn in Breech of Trust. When Republicans lost seats in 1998, Gingrich resigned.
When George W. Bush was elected in 2000, backed by the narrowest of majorities on Capitol Hill, Republicans walked on eggshells. The Sept. 11 attacks provided them with a purpose but pushed fiscal responsibility and limited government into the background.
The quest for re-election and Karl Rove's political – thought not necessarily conservative – acumen helped Republicans win big in 2002 and 2004. But the party forfeited its identity as a force for fiscal responsibility and limited government, leading to electoral disasters in 2006 and 2008. Those thrashings reminded most Republican survivors that principles are more important than parties in the minds of swing voters who decide elections.
The arrogance and relentless big-government crusades of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were like a cold shower to Republicans and to many Americans, providing a new opportunity to draw a sharp contrast between the two parties.
Nevertheless, much of the surviving Republican establishment failed to account for the tidal shift in voter attitudes. Just as voters soured on Republicans in 2006 – merely two years after handing them their largest majorities in half-a-century – they are now fed up with Democrats, who thought 18 months ago that their majorities would last for a decade.
Inside-the-beltway Republicans aimed to increase their numbers by recycling well-known candidates who appeared to be safe bets to win in November. Some of those safe bets, however, were too reminiscent of the "go along to get along" crowd that voters rejected in the previous two elections.
By ousting Mike Castle in Delaware, Charlie Crist in Florida, and Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, the new conservative resurgency humbled politicians who erroneously believed themselves irreplaceable. Those are Republicans who, although perhaps more likely to win in November, would further frustrate voters who expect Republicans to stand for basic conservative principles, like low tax rates, balanced budgets and limited government.
Not all TEA party favorites will win in November, but many will turn out to be exactly the counter-balance to Barack Obama that voters want so badly.
If 2010 isn't the year for conservative candidates to break new ground, then such a year will never come.
Centennial Institute Fellow Mark Hillman served as Colorado senate majority leader and state treasurer. He is now Republican national committeeman for Colorado. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.
Sunday, 8 August 2010 15:26 by Admin
Editor: After Vincent McGuire, CU political scientist and Centennial Institute Fellow, suggested Tom Tancredo's third-party run for Governor of Colorado might drive structural changes in the way conservatives organize themselves politically, Centennial fellows Paul Prentice, Alan Crippen, and Bill Moloney weighed in with complementary or contrasting views. Here is the resulting symposium.
MCGUIRE: I am very ambivalent about Tancredo. On the one hand, I believe there is a real conservative grassroots movement occurring, possibly for the first time. I do not think the Reagan revolution was of this grassroots level nor was Newt’s takeover of the House. We can disagree on that of course. Conservatives have a unique opportunity here to attract a large group of people based on ideas. If we look at polling data voters are unhappy with both parties. Therefore, I think it is in the best long-term interest of conservatives to have the establishment Republicanism hitch its wagon to the tea party movement.
On the same note, I do not think either of the Republican candidates are electable. This too we can disagree on. I believe that what voters in general are looking for, similar to 1976, are anti-political politicians. Plus, Tancredo has a better shot at beating ‘the looper’ for as well as advancing the conservative cause.
On the other hand I do not like extremism from either side. I am not saying the tea party movement or Tancredo is extreme. However in this Obama era there seems to be no consensus on what moderation is. What could happen is another realignment of the type we had in the elections of 1964 and 1972. In the election of 1964 Barry Goldwater, the most conservative major candidate ever, drove many of the liberal from the Republican Party making that party a conservative party. In the election of 1972 George McGovern, the most liberal candidate from a major party up until that time, drove many of the conservatives out of the Democratic party. The result has been a Congress as ideologically split as we've seen in 100 years.
Thus, the task of the conservative movement should be not merely to drive Democrats from office but to change the discussion; educate, in the best sense of the word, the American people and the values of conservatism. I am not sure that the establishment Republican Party, especially at the national level, is capable of doing this.
This is a unique political time, much like 1994. That year elections turned on the state of the nation. I believe the next two elections will be very similar. I think that if we can center the discussion around the core values of progressivism and conservatism, even in local elections, we will have a double victory – un-electing Democrats and creating an ideological base of conservatives.
PRENTICE: Unless and until the Republican Party realigns around America's founding principles of limited government, free markets, and private property, there is no purpose to it. Conservative Americans will no longer accept Democrat-lite as the lesser of two evils. Let us not forget that the out-of-control spending and debasement of the currency began with GW Bush and continued with a Republican House and Senate. Republicans institutued the first "stimulus" and "bail out". Obama simnply ramped it up. The Republican Party has lost claim to any moral high ground: "We had to go against free market principles in order to save the free market." -- President GW Bush
The problem, to me, is not the "Party" as represented by the voters. It is the elitist politicians and operatives who neither understand nor appreciate these principles, but rather are in it for their own power and agrandizement. That is the core of the current mess in Colorado. Judge Andrew Napolitano says we don't have a two-party system, we have only one party: The Party of Big Government. There is a Democrat wing of that party and a Republican WIng of that party. I agree wholeheartedly. Here in Colorado, it was the Republicans under Bill Owens and Jane Norton that began the dismantling of TABOR with their support for Ref. C. During the health-care debate, I got the sense that fiscal conservatives would be all for socialized medicine, if only it was budget-neutral. They argued on policy, not principle (likely because they don't have any). Social conservatives would be all for socialized medicine, if only it didn't fund abortion. They argued on policy, not principle (likely because they don't have any). We have to clearly restate the meaning and purpose of government, and clearly articulate the proper relationship between the governing and the governed: "To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men." -- Thomas Jefferson
Instead, we have a philosophy that government exists not to secure these rights, but rather to give us stuff (for which it must first take from others). This is a Marxist, not a Jeffersonian, vision of government. It is supported and implemented by both parties. In a recent poll, people were asked which they think is better: A free-enterprise economic system or a government-controlled economic system? Free enterprise won 70%, to 30% for government control. Given that, the fact that the Republican Party cannot secure a permanent governing majority speaks to their own philosophic bankruptcy. (Paul Prentice on on the Board of Directors for El Paso County TEA Party)
CRIPPEN: It would seem to me that the current political moment cries out for leadership to define conservatism as something other than kinder, gentler libertarianism. Libertarianism (aka John Stuart Mill) is the failed political philosophy that birthed the progressivism (Republican and Democratic) of the early 20th Century. That "TR" Rooseveltian and Wilsonian Progressivisms have morphed into today's social democracy is manifest to varying degrees in both major parties. In reaction to this, I think the Tea Party movement is dangerously close to pursuing libertarian impulses.
Certainly, Tancredo's temptation to a third party is not the answer. It strikes me as too reminiscent of the failed strategy of Ross Perot and the Reform Party of the early 1990s -- a spoiler movement to real conservatism.
Reformation of the Republican Party is what we need. We need candidates with a political philosophy and vision that offer something more compelling than minimalist government and less taxes. Rather, we need a cohesive, comprehensive and compelling vision for maximizing civil society and the non-governmental institutions that have real promise of providing a moral, social, and economic bulwark against the omni-competent nanny state.
MOLONEY: In McGuire's speculations about realignment, there is a downside that cannot be ignored- a huge one! For generations Republicans and Conservatives have disemboweled themselves in a fruitless quest for “Purity” (e.g. Goldwater 1964). If conservatives insist on “clarity, specificity, and agreement” on identity, issues etc., we are just forming up yet another circular firing squad. The ultimate temptation of course, is the suicidal Third Party impulse (e.g. Perot 1992).
If our country is to be saved, it is imperative that Democrats be decisively defeated in the next two elections. All else must be subordinated to that goal for if we fail the damage to our country will be catastrophic and irreversible. As I sit here in Nantucket watching the liberal species up close (John Kerry and Chris Matthews within walking distance) I am reminded that Democrats never accurately define themselves or publicly admit of their real plans for “transformational change”. Such deception allows them to win elections every time Republicans screw up.
The Progressive agenda like that of its union core is narrow, radical, and unchanging and it has advanced incrementally- by fits and starts- for nearly a century. Great election victories (1932, 1964, 1980) are when people decisively reject the opposition (Hoover, Goldwater, Carter). The issues all conservatives can agree on are the Deficit, the Debt, runaway Spending, Metastasizing Government, and the Death of the American Dream for our own children and grandchildren. Let’s leave Purity, and Perfection to the afterlife.
Faced with another fellow’s misfortune, some genuinely yearn to help. Some believe that they do, although they may not acknowledge a less honorable motive, not even to themselves. Some witting or not truly seek either ego-strokes or control or both.
A profoundly significant difference delineates the truly humane helper from the self-serving one: their objective -- for the genuine helper, a beneficiary; for the others, power. But determining the subtle distinction requires seeing beneath their surface similarity.
The false helper’s quarry is people who have been, or can be persuaded that they have been, victimized. When a helper identifies a victim, he offers to alleviate the victim’s real or imagined hardship. It doesn’t matter whether or not the helper actually can significantly change anything, or even whether or not he actually intends to try. The objective has been gained.
But at whose cost? The false helper will not pay. Rather, he will find a means for luring or forcing others to do so. Worse, the victim pays with his freedom and his dignity.
Except for those self-activating ones who refuse the role, the victimization sequence becomes self-perpetuating. Once defined as a victim, the susceptible person absorbs the role of helpless dependence. The acquiescent victim comes to require subsidies, special treatment and privileges, emotional and financial support, ever more aid. Spiraling downward, the “victim” finally does indeed become a victim, ruined by the helper -- well-meant or insidious.
In the July-August 2010 Centennial Review and his presentation at the 2010 Western Conservative Summit, author and business professor Arthur Brooks observed that, far less than monetary rewards, it is satisfaction that motivates achievers. Effective people crave a sense of accomplishment. By drowning a victim in welfare and ease, the helper denies him of any chance for achievement and robs him of his self-worth.
Moreover, Brooks noted, the satisfaction-starved victim naturally becomes increasingly unhappy. Never strengthened and thus never empowered to surmount life’s challenges, the victim cannot savor simple contentment. Thus the victim develops a genuine grievance.
At that point the true helper feels deep frustration, for his well-intentioned efforts have only worsened the victim’s plight. But, for the false self-serving helper, this is the moment! Now he has power and control. Now his ego gleams.
All false helpers gain a powerful ego-rush. What could be more self-elevating than the role of rescuer? By declaring another as victim, the helper feels soaringly superior.
So addictive is this ego-rush, self-serving helpers constantly seek out new victims -- unsuccessful people, threatened species, even our planet. Find or conjure a problem, declare an enemy, sally into the limelight, bask in the warm glow of feeling powerful and significant and popular.
That woeful victimization sequence also demonstrates the fundamental and lasting difference between Conservatives and the Left. Of course, Conservatives demand fiscal responsibility and Constitutionality. In addition, Conservatives care deeply about social and environment problems. Indeed, Conservatives’ generosity and efforts in aid of true misfortune outshines any doubt. Nonetheless, Conservatives address suffering entirely differently.
First, Conservatives do not create victims because Conservatives do not seek the power, the control, nor the ego-rush. Quite the contrary, Conservatives cherish independence and empowerment for all.
Even more illustrative is the means that Conservatives or the Left apply to alleviating problems. The Left immediately calls forth the State, legislating regulations and compelling taxpayer support. In contrast, when a Conservative encounters a genuine problem, he pursues a solution on his own or through the voluntary cooperation of like-minded companions perhaps a civic club, faith group or local charity.
The Left’s goal is diminishing the victim to perpetual dependency, whereas the Conservative’s goal is restoring him to success. Conservatives work to empower individuals, whereas the Left culls power from citizens to the State.
All Statist regimes, even the originally well-intentioned, must garner more and more power over an ever wider spectrum of activities involving larger and larger segments of the population. The eventual outcome is tyranny. Thus the helpers become oppressors and we all become the State’s victims.
Simón Bolivár concisely declaimed this dire destination, “A state too extensive in itself or … its dependencies ultimately falls into decay, its free government … into tyranny; it … finally degenerates into despotism….”
How to escape this devolution into tyranny? Preserving precious individual freedom requires courage, perseverance and vigilance, ever asserting our right to self-activation, ever rejecting intrusive “help.” Preserving individual freedom further requires demanding adherence to Constitutional limits on overweening government. Individual freedom must have as its foundation the Rule of Law. As truly compassionate helpers, we Conservatives strengthen our fellow citizens and thus strengthen our nation to withstand the false self-serving helpers’ persistent onslaught. Then we may all thrive.
(Scripps Howard Syndicate) Just maybe, possibly, conceivably we've come to a non-violent revolutionary moment in America, and here's one reason I think so: A Denver area conference. Called the Western Conservative Summit 2010, it impressed me not just because of the recitation of principles to which I subscribe -- individual liberty, limited government, constitutionalism, strength in the face of our enemies -- but because of the mood conveyed by both the audience of some 600 and more than a dozen speakers. Their disposition struck me as cheerful, positive and informed more by an idea of mission than anger at the other side. Dennis Prager, a radio talk show host, told the crowd that liberals were mostly good people, that many people in his own family were liberals. Don't attack them, he said. It's their fallacious arguments you want to deal with. He spoke of the great slogan on coins, "E Pluribus Unum," meaning of course that out of many different people, we are still one as a nation. Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota talked about self-sacrifice, unity and dedication to one another as Americans. She ended her speech with the true story of four chaplains in World War II, a Jewish rabbi, a Roman Catholic priest and two Protestant pastors. Aboard a ship that was hit by a torpedo, they did everything they could to help the men aboard survive, even taking off their own lifejackets to give to others. They went down with the ship, their arms linked together. Putting such earnestly conveyed feelings of purposes beyond the narrowly partisan together with various acute analyses, I had an image of an emotionally balanced, powerful, alert, energized, morally informed, widely inclusive force awakened from slumber by an overly leftist administration and marching toward something pretty big. I don't mean just possible conservative control of the House after the November election, but rather long-term, significant efforts to subdue the threat of runaway statism while maintaining this country as "the last, best hope of earth," in the words of Abraham Lincoln. Of course, one regional gathering does not a revolution make. In and of itself, it proved nothing, though quite a bit, it seems to me, in the context of the town hall and Tea Party protests, of radio, cable TV and Internet commentary coming on top of what is being said in more traditional media and of polls telling us that increasing numbers of Americans are frightened about the direction of government. It is extraordinary to see the Tea Party rallies involving everyday, middle class Americans. Bashed, of course, as racists -- unlike Prager, many liberals cannot live without the ad hominem slur -- they are nothing of the kind. What set them off as much as anything was a new, ill-conceived, vastly controlling, misrepresented health-care entitlement that will cost hundreds of billions over the years on top of other entitlements that could be economically ruinous all by themselves. If you think the Tea Party represents just a tiny slice of America in its disenchantment with almost all things concerning Barack Obama, check out a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll saying close to six in 10 voters think the president is more apt to be wrong than right in policies. Most would agree with the Tea Party that the president's handling of the economy is better described as a mishandling of the economy. The public has even less use for both parties in Congress, as it should, given the irresponsibility of so many Republican and Democratic members. Some might think conservatives are still too unrepresentative of the whole to have long-term sway. But consider, first, that the latest Gallup poll says 42 percent of Americans call themselves conservatives while only 20 percent say they are liberal. Then consider estimates that no more than 40 to 45 percent of American colonists were clearly behind the independence movement while 20 percent remained steadfastly loyal to Great Britain. Remember who came out on top? (Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com.)
Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and email inboxes are buzzing with comments about Western Conservative Summit 2010, July 9-11 in Denver. Here are three examples, including a photo snapped by one of the bloggers as John Andrews and Bill Armstrong introduced Dick Morris to congressial candidate Cory Gardner, right, while Frank Gaffney and CCU student Matt Lenell looked on:
By Peg Brady (email@example.com) Attended by over 650 people from many states, graced with a dozen renowned national speakers and numerous local candidates, the First Annual Western Conservative Summit can truthfully be declared a resounding success. Certainly one of the most important political events in Colorado this year, the Summit was incredibly inspiring. Arthur Brooks' presentation on capitalism and freedom, for example, was classic. Each speaker addressed the need to regain America's prosperity and moral strength from his/her specific area of knowledge, so that the total was a great breadth of understanding and ideas for what to do. I can hardly wait for the 2011 Summit. ---By Ron Michel (firstname.lastname@example.org) My feet hurt, I am exhausted after three days of the Western Conservative Summit -- the best conservative event I have ever attended. My head is STILL spinning with all the wonderful messages from the star-studded speaker line up. One super, motivational, inspiring on-target informative message after another. You laughed, cried and prayed. Most of us will be praying even more for our country. What kind of country will we leave our children. Makes one want to dedicate even more energy to win in 10. (WININ10) Where do I sign up for next year? You just can't thank CCU and Senator Armstrong and Senator (the Energy Bunny) Andrews enough. AWESOME. ---By Ron Bella (email@example.com) Colorado Christian University sponsored a Western Conservative Summit near Denver, Colorado the weekend of July 9 - 11. Of particular note is that this was a debut for this summit which the sponsors intend to hold annually. One might have expected there to be problems with the venue, the events or between persons in attendance. If there were problems, they were hidden from the guests. The quality of the speakers and the efficiency with which the program was executed was a model for such events. Senator Bill Armstrong, John Andrews and Colorado Christian University are to be congratulated. They did a particularly wonderful job.Guest speakers included Michele Bachmann who led as the keynote dinner speaker on Friday evening. For anyone who has only seen Michele interviewed on Fox News Channel the address had to be eye-opening. Michele is a quality orator. Saturday presentations began with: **Arthur Brooks spoke to the assault on capitalism
** Lt. General Boykin spoke of defending ourselves in a dangerous world
** Frank Gaffney spoke of the Reagan concept of peace through strength
** Tom Tancredo addressed the issue of cultural identity
** Michelle Malkin spoke to the Culture of Corruption
** Foster Fries spoke about healthcare
** Mary Katherine Ham addressed the youth of America and the importance of their votes
** Joseph Phillips entertained us with a winning message for conservatism today
** A Tea Party Panel addressed national issues
** A State Issues Panel addressed Colorado
** Dennis Prager spoke of Moral Clarity
** Kamal Saleem conveyed the mind-set of the terrorist and radical Islamist
The conference concluded on Sunday with: Lee Strobel who spoke of God in America and Dick Morris who provided a view of the coming elections laying a strategy to ensure victory for America
Yogi Berra once said that people can observe a lot by just watching. Well, it would be understated to say that people could also hear a lot by simply listening (and thus educate themselves tremendously). Each of these individuals had a message. Oh, the message might be disputed by persons on the left. After all, this was a conservative summit. What people should take into consideration is the facts that were presented, the manner that they were tied together to very logical conclusions and what one might actually see that substantiates some of the referenced fears - simply by watching. ** What do we see happening in our country?
** What do we see happening in the Obama Administration?
** What do we see happening in the Congress?
Some things cannot be denied. Just like that old joke of the man caught by his wife cheating on her with his mistress, "Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?" All persons should demand that when persons attempt the art of persuasion with you that they provide evidence. You simply cannot allow persons to succeed in their arguments by dismissive comments or disparaging remarks about the individual who is sounding the clarion bell. Warnings surround us that should tell us all that if we fail to take heed our great nation could be destroyed. Colorado was identified as at the epicenter of this coming election because we have a golden opportunity to take control of the state legislature and win the gubernatorial election. At the same time Colorado can replace a US Senator and as many as three Congressmen with people who believe in the beauty of the nation and the applicability of the Constitution to our current daily lives. A special compliment to John Andrews who masterfully moderated the entire event. He sprinkled a touch of humor into the proceedings and banged that heavy gavel with the professionalism one might expect of someone who was once the President of the Colorado Senate.
Take a photo tour Western Conservative Summit 2010: Western Conservative Summit Photo Essay
(Denver Post, July 4) Hecklers, on guard. On this Independence Day, in a stormy election year when Americans are out of sorts, I’m fool enough to mount a soapbox and orate upon the proposition that “politics” should be an honored word, not a dirty word, in our vocabulary.
Politics deserves its bad name, you scoff. It’s a hustle wherein we are lied to and led on, defrauded and dumped on. H. L. Mencken nailed it, you say, when he groused that an election is but an advance auction of stolen goods. Will Rogers was right that just as “con” is the opposite of “pro,” so Congress is the opposite of progress. Fie upon the politicians, the parties, and all their tribe.
I concede your indictment up to a point. But before you let fly with the rotten vegetables, remember that the Greek derivation of POLITICS, 2500 years and counting, simply denotes those things concerning the community, or CITY, and its individual members, or CITIZENS. Can we write off those things? Not unless we’re prepared to live in solitude as hermits or in servitude as slaves. I’ll take my chances with politics, messy as it is.
Like any human endeavor, politics can be done in a noble way or a base way. July 4 commemorates the noblest political moment of all – our nation’s birth in genius, blood, and fire. But the Fourth also looks forward, reminding us how timeless our political challenges are across the centuries, powdered wigs and parchments aside.
Prove it to yourself today by reading quickly through the Declaration of Independence. The Framers, after a lofty opening argument on “laws of nature” and “self-evident truths,” enumerate specific grievances like hammer-blows to pound home the case for change. They deliver (speaking of indictments) a 27-count rap sheet convicting king and parliament of intolerable misrule.
It’s as gritty as a police blotter and, at many points, as current as this hour’s 9News crawl. You’ll notice amazing relevance of these issues from 234 summers ago, into a 2010 campaign over whether Betsy Markey and the Democrats or Cory Gardner and the Republicans control Congress; whether Colorado’s legislature stays with the Dems under Sen. Brandon Shaffer or shifts to the GOP under Sen. Mike Kopp.
Jot a number by each itemized act of tyranny, and follow along with my examples. Taxation without consent, top of the Cliff Notes but only Item 17 for the revolutionaries, remains a flashpoint for TABOR defenders today. Immigration and ill-defended borders, Items 7 and 27, fester still as the Arizona model beckons many Coloradans.
Bureaucratic bloat with “swarms of officers to harass our people,” Item 10, will be a target as McInnis or Maes battles Hickenlooper for governor. Judicial impartiality and accountability, Items 8 and 9, will animate this year’s Clear the Bench campaign. Redistricting, Item 3, will polarize next year’s legislature.
Correlating the colonists’ complaints to issues in present-day Washington is equally easy. Civil-military jealousies, Item 12; federalism, Item 2; trade, Item 16; and counter-terrorism laxity allowing “merciless savages” to plot “undistinguished destruction,” Item 27, all have their 2010 counterparts.
As the Bible observes, there’s nothing new under the sun. Ever since Samuel warned the Israelites in 1100 BC that they would regret forsaking decentralized rule under the judges for a centralized monarchy – because taxes might hit 10 percent! – the struggle between limited and unlimited government has raged.
Peruse the magnificent Declaration for five minutes before you sleep tonight, and you’ll know what the men and women of 1776 knew: Politics matters inescapably. Unchecked, political power will “eat out our substance” and “reduce us under absolute despotism.” But harnessed to “the consent of the governed,” it can uphold both liberty and community. The choice is ours.
Bill Armstrong and I as conveners of Western Conservative Summit 2010, together with Centennial Institute Fellows Kevin Miller and Greg Schaller, have drafted a statement of vision and principles for American conservatives in the coming decade, entitled "Freedom in the Balance: The Lone Tree Declaration."
The declaration will be taken up on Saturday, July 10, by participants at the Summit, which is scheduled for July 9-11 at the Denver Marriott South. (The hotel is in a town called Lone Tree, with mountain views south to Pike's Peak and north to Long's Peak.)
We will invite all to add their names as signers. Afterward, the Lone Tree Declaration will remain on a dedicated website where conservatives across the country can affix their signatures as well. Here is the text:
FREEDOM IN THE BALANCEThe Lone Tree Declaration
Proposed for Signing by Participants atWestern Conservative Summit 2010July 9-11, 2010
We gather as grateful Americans, on the week of Independence Day, in the shadow of the Continental Divide at Lone Tree, Colorado. Our signatures on this declaration, to which we invite others not present to add their names as well, affirm six tenets of who we are and what we stand for:
1. In our adherence to the self-evident truths of the American Founding, we are conservatives.
2. In our debt to the civilizational heritage of Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and Philadelphia, we are Westerners.
3. In our concern for the mounting threat to liberty, seeing freedom in the balance, we convene with solemn purpose at this Summit.
4. We seek a conservative renewal for our country through civic action that puts principle above party, resists the corruption of power, bridges intramural disagreements or rivalries, and protects an open public square centered on the nation’s Judeo-Christian core.
5. We commit ourselves unswervingly to a political and social order that upholds individual freedom and personal responsibility, limited government and the rule of law, free enterprise and private property, traditional family values and sanctity of life, compassion for the poor and voluntarism in service to others, natural law and morality, strong defense and secure borders, all in keeping with the original intent of the Constitution.
6. We reject, and will resist, the socialist temptation, transnational progressivism, secular utopian illusions, appeasement, disarmament, or capitulation to jihad and sharia.
Reminding our compatriots that with 2010 America enters a decisive decade for its survival as a free society, and appealing to God for His mercy and help, we declare our fidelity to the Spirit of 1776. To its revival we mutually pledge our solemn faith.
Proposed on July 2, 2010, by:
John AndrewsDirector, Centennial Institute
William L. ArmstrongPresident, Colorado Christian University
Kevin MillerChairman, National Freedom Initiative
Gregory SchallerAssistant Professor of Political ScienceColorado Christian University
The Colorado Senate President, a Democrat, writes in the Denver Post today that he prefers "shades of gray" to my "rigid ideology" as expressed in a 6/20 column(previous post) framing this year's election around whether Americans are fit to be free.
But Shaffer offers no answer to that question, focusing instead on an 8th-grader's advice that we "not be judgmental" -- even as he judges me guilty of "dirty character assassinations" (no evidence provided).
Meanwhile, evidence abounds that Brandon Shaffer's party, in complete control of Washington DC as well as Colorado, does not believe you and I can be trusted with freedom as the Founders intended. Health care, energy, the list goes on. The 2010 election is about exactly this, as I wrote on Sunday.
(Denver Post, June 20) Are we fit to be free? That’s the big question for Americans to decide in election year 2010. Above the chatter of daily headlines, beyond the jockeying of parties, two opposing visions of human nature vie for expression in the political choices we will make.
One vision sees mankind as endowed with liberty and equality by our Creator, individually capable of self-determination in most areas of our lives, and inherently (if imperfectly) responsible in choosing for ourselves and taking the consequences.
The other vision denies that human nature is trustworthy or even fixed. It regards the person as socially constructed, not divinely created – evolving under an irresistible progressive force called History. It relies on the more-evolved elite to direct the less-enlightened masses, for our own good, toward a utopian destiny unseen by most.
This is no mere philosophy seminar. It plays out fatefully on issues that will affect our lives for decades to come. In every race, we’re offered very different policy solutions by candidates on the conservative side, who believe we ARE fit to be free, in contrast to those on the liberal side who doubt we are. (They never admit this, of course, but their actions scream it.)
In Michael Bennet or Andrew Romanoff, for example, Coloradans would have a senator committed to Obamacare with its patronizing assumption that government should make our health decisions and pay our health costs. Whereas Ken Buck or Jane Norton would vote in the Senate for freedom and responsibility in health care.
With John Hickenlooper as governor, the New Energy Economy – code for the notion that politicians know better about how to keep the lights on and the wheels turning than all of us choosing freely in the marketplace – would continue its coercive makeover of our lifestyles and its gradual brownout of our living standards. Whereas with Dan Maes or Scott McInnis, we’d have a recognition that energy and liberty are inseparable, and that both should be abundant and unfettered. Take your pick.
“Do you believe we are fit to be free?” Far from an idle speculation, this is the money question we should be asking candidates all summer. Anybody who wants your vote should earn it with a straight answer on the freedom question, and no “buts.” Go to townhalls – for those officeholders brave enough to hold them – and ask the question there, insisting on specifics. Make’em squirm.
This question explains the maddening disconnect over issues like secure borders or calling jihad by its right name. Liberals who coddle Islamists and demonize Arizona, in defiance of massive polling to the contrary, are saying the rest of us don’t know up from down; we’re unfit. And doesn’t this also illuminate such state squabbles as the supposed overuse of petitions or the alleged impropriety of voting judges off the bench? Free citizens are again treated as children and told not to speak till spoken to.
It’s true that freedom is costly, and responsibility is its price. Great thinkers from Tocqueville with his warning about soft despotism, to Dostoevsky with his fable of the Grand Inquisitor, to Lincoln with his 1838 Lyceum speech, have warned of our temptation to throw freedom away. But that’s different from pronouncing us unfit for autonomy at all, indeed better off in perpetual childhood.
For me, one word sums up all of the opportunity and obligation that comes with our fitness to be free. That word is “backbone.” Romanoff recently touting it in his campaign was rich. He and other liberals tend to view us as dependent invertebrates, not self-governors with spine. It seems politicos across the spectrum can’t resist such whoppers. They forget how hard a freeman is to fool.
Well, well. So my former legislative colleague and adversary Andrew Romanoff now styles himself a man of "backbone" in the Democratic Senate primary against Michael Bennet. Interesting since for upwards of 15 years, as Lynn Bartels noted in a Denver Post blog, yours truly has been using the imaginary town of Backbone Colorado USA to symbolize the qualities Americans must uphold if our country is to survive.
Given that Andrew, the liberal Democrat, and Andrews, the conservative Republican, agree on little besides our love for the Broncos, one of us must be dealing wooden nickels. Which is it?
Is backbone more truly expressed in the self-reliance, self-restraint, and self-assertiveness that built this free society, and in the rock-ribbed original Constitution that guards our liberties -- or in the manipulation and government dependency exemplified in Romanoff's approach to such issues as health care and energy, facilitated by an invertebrate Constitution easily bent by imperial judges?
I'd love to debate the brainy and likable Romo about this, but he is no doubt busy with other things until the primary in August; perhaps all the way to November; and just possibly for six years of a Senate term after that. As to the latter, I hope not. The wishbone he mistakenly calls spine is already far too prevalent in Washington, DC.