What Conservatives Believe
I see America, not in the setting sun of a black night of despair…
I see America in the crimson light of a rising sun fresh from the burning, creative hand of God.
I see great days ahead, great days possible to men and women of will and vision.
Carl Sandburg, American poet and biographer of Abraham Lincoln
One of the most disappointing aspects of year one in the age of Obama has been listening to those who believe that America’s demise is both imminent and inevitable.
I could not disagree more.
In fact, I believe America is entering a period of renewal and that the Tea Party movement, a genuine grassroots phenomenon that arose almost spontaneously as a reaction to an overreaching political class, is proof of this.
But the Tea Party movement is more than just a response to government excess. As it gained strength, it became a forceful proponent of the basic principles and beliefs that have traditionally sustained the conservative movement in America. Ironically, these are the same principles and beliefs that until recently had informed the thinking of nearly every influential leader in the Republican Party.
Conservatives inside and outside the Tea Party movement will have the opportunity to lead in this renewal if they can clearly articulate their core beliefs to the American people.
The following is how I would explain those core beliefs:
A Statement of the 10 Guiding Principles of the Conservative Movement
- Conservatives believe in the Constitution and that every member of Congress should be guided by it when deciding on any piece of legislation. While the Supreme Court may be the final arbiter, we believe there would be fewer cases brought before it if those who legislate were more respectful of the Constitution in the first place. Faithfulness to the Constitution is essential for sustaining the American experiment and preserving our freedoms.
- Conservatives believe in the principle of limited government. The federal government has become a large and intrusive force that asserts the right to exercise almost unlimited power. The widespread belief among some in Congress that the federal government has the right to force individuals to buy health insurance is evidence enough that government has overstepped its bounds.
- Conservatives believe the current level of government spending is excessive and unsustainable. We believe spending on the nonessential is no longer an option and that placing a burden of oppressive debt on future generations is immoral. Our elected officials must be guided by fiscal restraint, strict budget discipline and spending priorities that emphasize what’s essential. Tough decisions will have to be made if we are to restore the nation to financial health.
- Conservatives believe that our tax system must be fundamentally reformed and that the tax burden must be reduced. We believe that poorly conceived tax policy discourages investment, punishes productive citizens and crushes American families. A comprehensive and well conceived overhaul of our tax system is the surest path to an enduring prosperity.
- Conservatives believe in individual freedom and personal responsibility. We believe that people have the right to make their own choices in life and that these choices will ultimately determine success or failure. While we recognize the need to help those who are unable to provide for themselves, no amount of government assistance will ever be enough to transform any adult who is unwilling behave responsibility. A truly compassionate society understands that dependence destroys personal freedom and insists that the able bodied take responsibility for their own lives.
- Conservatives believe that economic justice can only be achieved by a free people, engaged in free enterprise, working to meet the needs of a free market; it cannot be achieved through income redistribution, legislative fiat or the dictates of a command economy. Free market entrepreneurship is the foundation of our prosperity; property rights and the rule of law are its cornerstones.
- Conservatives believe that the first duty of government is to ensure public safety and to provide for a strong national defense. America has enemies who would harm us. If we ignore them, we do so at our peril. We believe that threats to our security must be dealt with directly; complacency is an invitation to another 9-11.
- Conservatives believe that energy independence is vital to our national security and to our economic well being. We believe the only energy sources we can rely on are those that have already proven themselves economically and technologically. As the rest of the world moves forward, the United States cannot allow itself to be held back by those who advocate for a radical and unproven restructuring of our energy economy.
- Conservatives believe in American exceptionalism and that the United States has been a force for good in the modern world. This is not a claim of perfection, nor is it an assertion of any special right; it is simply to acknowledge that in a world where genuine freedom is a rarity, the United States has played an essential role in advancing the basic human rights of all men. No nation in history has had more responsibility thrust upon it and no nation has shouldered that responsibility so well.
- Conservatives believe in the sanctity of human life, in the dignity of every human being and in the power of the human spirit to rise above the circumstances of daily life in the search for life’s eternal truths. Conservatives see “great days possible to men and women of will and vision.”