During the 2008 Presidential campaigns, John McCain traveled the country declaring himself to be a “proud conservative”. In fact, all the candidates presented themselves to the voters as conservatives. Yet they all differed from each other in certain major issues, operating from different underlying principles. None consistently and convincingly advocated adherence to the founding principles of our nation, namely those found in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Conventional wisdom counsels conservatives and Republicans to modify their positions to appeal more to various sub-groups and special interest. This advice comes not only from the media and non-conservative and non-Republican sources, but often from self-labeled conservatives and Republicans as well. The result is that many conservatives have become discouraged and confused concerning the conservative message.
The outpouring of support for Sarah Palin when she entered the race as McCain’s running mate gives credence to the argument that many Americans are hungering for true conservative leadership. Single issue conservatives such as social-conservatives, fiscal-conservatives, and so-on, no longer provide the leadership sought by the true conservative patriot. Neither are leaders who mouth “bumper sticker slogans” and conservative sounding platitudes, while at the same time supporting big government programs like education, healthcare, open borders, and government interference with the free-market economy.
The conservative movement has gotten off track, and there is a growing group of patriots who are looking for ways to get it moving again in the right direction. The problem is that the average person does not know where to start or what to do. They are looking for someone to take the lead and tell them what to do before they do anything. A political movement is more than a few people following a charismatic leader. A political movement is millions of people cooperating in a common cause arising from shared principles and mutual goals.
In recent history the conservative movement has been likened to a three-legged stool, with one leg representing small government, the second representing national defense and the third low taxes. That’s good, so far as it goes. However, it provides little real guidance for the average person and does not give them a base for formulating their political opinions. It fails to inform as to what the principles are that underlie the desirability of small government or low taxes, for example.
To me there are two basic principles underlying true conservatism, the unalienable “natural” rights of man given by God to all, and that the sole purpose of government is to protect those rights. These two principles led our forefathers to fight the Revolutionary War and establish the Constitutional Republic known as the United States of America. They are clearly defined in the Declaration of Independence and are the underlying principles of every article of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Thomas Jefferson included these rights under the headings of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
This right includes not only the right to be born, but the right to live, by the grace of God, until we die from natural causes. It is the basic right underlying the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms for self-defense. It is to protect this right that Congress was given the constitutional power to make war and provide for the national defense.
The right to liberty is the second unalienable right common to all mankind. This is the right to use the facilities of our mind, body and spirit freely without interference, to decide for one‘s self what is in our own best interest, to believe whatever we wish to believe, and to express our thoughts freely. This right is embodied in the First Amendment as the right to express our religious views freely without the interference or direction of government—freedom of religion; the right to express our thoughts without sanction or fear—freedom of the press; the right to join with others to secure our rights—freedom of assembly and association.
Amendments Five, Six, Seven and Eight are all designed to protect our right to liberty, guaranteeing us that our liberty cannot be taken from us without a fair and thorough review by the judicial system.
Pursuit of Happiness
Happiness is an individual thing. No person or government can give us happiness. It is a condition of being that each of us must pursue and find for ourselves. That’s why it is described in Jefferson’s list as a “pursuit” not as an end in itself. Most scholars refer to “pursuit of happiness” as property rights. Thomas Jefferson referred to it as “enjoyment of the fruits of our labor” which would include wealth, property, wages, other income, or the general pursuit of prosperity.
Each of us has the unalienable right to pursue our prosperity or “happiness” in our own way making our own decisions as to the routes to follow. Amendments Three, Four, Five, Thirteen, Fourteen 1:3, Article One 7:1, 8:1, 5, 9, and 9:4 are all intended to protect the right to “enjoy the fruits of one’s labor”. Unalienable means they cannot be transferred to another or taken away by law. Government has no legitimate power to infringe on or otherwise interfere with the legitimate exercise of the unalienable rights of their citizens.
You will notice that all of these “rights groups” are self-sufficient within themselves. They are dependent on outside agencies only in a passive way. In other words, they can be interfered with by outside forces such as government or fellow citizens, but they cannot be granted by them.
It is important to distinguish between “rights” which are natural and independent, and “privileges” which are dependent on the actions of others or the granting by government. Most if not all social programs commonly claimed as “rights” are in reality privileges and not rights at all. For example, healthcare, financial or economic security, civil marriage, etc., are all privileges because they must be actively supplied by someone else, individually or collectively through government or other groups.
Government attempts at wealth or income redistribution or “leveling” are unconstitutional infringements on our property rights or the right to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Taxes confiscated from a few in order to provide social programs for select individuals or groups are likewise unconstitutional infringements on our right to the “pursuit of happiness” insofar as it diminishes our own prosperity.
Any effort to renew the conservative movement and get it “back on track” must be anchored in these principles and directed toward the defense and promotion of our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These documents are the sum total of the true Conservative Manifesto.