All of the above should lead one to revisiting their belief systems. With the re-election of Barack Obama, the conservative movement in America faces all of the above, and should take a long, hard look at what we stand for.
Since 1980, we have theoretically (if not practically) been the party of smaller government, lower taxes, and strict constructionist view of the constitution. The questions that face us therefore are quite clear: do these positions make sense in what appears to now be a center-left nation?
The role of government has been integral to our political debate from the beginning. The original Democrat, Thomas Jefferson, wisely said,
“A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.”
Pretty unlikely to hear that from any Democrat in this day and age. In actuality, Democrats of today sound more like Jefferson’s opposition. Just one note, from Alexander Hamilton:
A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people.
–Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 31, January 1, 1788
This debate largely frames where the two parties were in 1789, and are still today. We are simply in a new iteration of a two and quarter century struggle between a stronger, more centralized federal government, and a more diffuse, more localized government.
In the past decade, the philosophical shift has been toward more Federal power, culminating in Obamacare, the largest expansion of Federal power in decades. With President Obama’s re-election, and following the Supreme Court’s affirmation of Obamacare’s constitutionality, the momentum to greater and greater centralization of the role of government is quite clear.
So in that environment, what are conservatives to do? Are we even relevant? We all know what liberals would prefer: They would prefer conservatives largely disappear. That is why their onslaught of trying to marginalize the entire movement with steady claims of bigotry, misogyny, and tyranny will continue.
But the country deserves better. Conservatism is just the newest incarnation of the belief in a true federal system, with both states and the central government playing co-equal goals in achieving public prosperity, best outlined in the 10th amendment. This amendment has been the bane of liberalism, and they have been successful in marginalizing its relevance over a long period of time. Liberalism will continue to try to marginalize those facets of the constitution and law that limit federal power, because to liberals, that is the primary hindrance to achieving all the glory that can be achieved by an all powerful central government. Liberals may not view the world in the way I describe, but ultimately, what is factually erroneous about that description?
But history teaches us a clear lesson: the pendulum swings both ways. In much the way that liberalism became the laughingstock of American politics after Reagan’s ascendance, conservatives have become the extremists and demagogues of our time. All the major social pillars of the country, whether you talk about the political sphere, the entertainment industry, or the mainstream media portray us in that light.
It is within that environment that we fight a rear guard action against the overbearing expansion of federal power that stands before us.
So why are we conservatives? Why not admit defeat and move on? Simple: America’s founding ideals, namely engrained in the Constitution, drive us to keep the fight alive. In the truest Jeffersonian sense of American, we fight for less centralized government, greater state and local control, and above all else, the rights of the individual over the presumed rights of the masses.
So the difficult fight goes on, because it must. An America without conservatism is not much of an America at all. The political balance that has maintained individual freedom from the time of the Founding to this day relies on the fight for limited government versus those fighting to expand political power. From our founding, it has been an integral part of what we are. So that is why we are conservatives…not to enrich ourselves, but to allow the Republic to endure, to focus on its core ideals, and prevent progressive extremism to take us to a place our Constitution never intended.
And so I leave you, ironically, with a liberal lion’s words: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”