As I listened to the speeches at CPAC, I couldn't help but notice a theme that many of the presenters had: standing for principles.
Chris Christie explained the need to stand for principles. Ted Cruz said something very similar, as did Mike Lee and Rand Paul. This call to stand up for principles is a very common one for politicians on the left and the right, but something often seems to be missing from this charge – the principles.
More often than not, politicians will use this line without explaining the principles that we should be standing for, let alone the principles that they will adhere to. Instead of waiting for them to clarify, it's time that we lay out some principles on our own that not only we can stand for, but that we can hold them too.
These five principles are something that conservatives can rally around and use to measure the merit of an idea or a bill. They are in order of importance and should be measured one at a time, kind of like a conservative principle flow chart.
This of course is the red meat of the conservative movement, but why is it the most important? The Constitution is the only protection from the heavy hand of federal government that we currently have. If the Constitution is not followed and honored, then the power of the federal government is completely unfettered and the federal government creates footholds in places that it should never be. The nature of power is to acquire more of it and the Constitution is the only thing that protects against that.
As we examine any idea or bill, the first thing is to determine whether it is Constitutional. The framers of this great system were very intentional in what they put in and why it was needed. In figuring out the constitutionality of anything, we need to adhere to the letter of the law and honor the reason it was placed there. If a bill or idea is not within the authority of the Constitution, then go no further.
Freedom is a funny word. The left is right now trying to co-opt the word “freedom” because we currently have a monopoly on it. However, their version of freedom is very different than ours. Their version of freedom is providing things for you so you are free from worries and burdens. Ours is freeing you up to provide for yourself. That is the freedom I am talking about here – the freedom to rather than the freedom from.
We need the freedom to build our businesses without burdensome regulations and over taxation; to live our lives as we choose; to decide what our own American dream will be and then to chase it with reckless abandon.
As we fight the loss of freedom in our lives at every turn, we lose that time and cost that could be going to other things, things that affect positive differences rather than just the reversal of encroachment. In looking at a bill or idea, does it give us less freedom or more freedom? If the answer is less, then go no further.
Prosperity does not grow from the rewarding of those who do not earn it. The very basis of capitalism is that whoever makes the dough gets to keep the bread, and that is the model for prosperity.
Rewarding hard work, effort, risk and great ideas is a good thing! Parents often call it “positive reinforcement”, and that's all capitalism is – positive economic reinforcement. If people know and believe that hard work and effort will be rewarded, rather than punished by over-taxation or demonized by the envy-peddling left, then they will seek to prosper and achieve their dreams.
We also need to measure our prosperity as a nation and as a government. If the people of America are prosperous and wealthy, but the federal government is neck deep in federal debt, then we have still failed. For our nation to truly be prosperous as a whole, the federal government must change its economic ways and start acting responsibly.
Despite what many in DC want you to believe, we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. As you look at a bill or idea, does it make us less prosperous or more prosperous as individuals or as a nation? If the answer is less, then go no further.
Small businesses should be free to prosper without over regulation or over taxation from the federal government. Photo Credit: Chris Huber/AP
It goes without saying that we have enemies and plenty of them. What undermines our security is the lack of backbone to even identify who they are let alone confront or fight them.
The current administration is under some illusion or charm that Iran is looking for peace; that the Palestinians just want to be left alone and are totally cool with a Jewish state; that Russia is a government we can work with and sign arms treaties with; that political correctness trumps all else to the point that they can't even say radical Islam. In regards to all the terror plots against us, both successful and unsuccessful, we have not missed any clues or signs, we dismissed them.
Our security as a nation and as a people from threats both foreign and domestic, economic and weaponized should be one of the top priorities of our government. Radical Islam is the greatest foreign enemy we face today. Economic irresponsibility is the greatest domestic threat we have. Will that bill or idea make us more secure as a nation or less secure? If the answer is less, then go no further.
This last principle is not one that bills and ideas can often be measured against. Rather, it is something that we as conservatives need to keep in mind. Once in a while, when the prejudices of party and the stereotypes of stance have been removed, and we simply just talk to each other like humans, we realize that our political differences aren't as vast as we would be led to believe.
It is my sincerest belief that our division comes not from our differences of opinion, but from the forcing of beliefs on those who don't agree. If neither party forced the other to comply with their beliefs, we would find that our political differences not only do not make us enemies, but can actually help us expand our thinking and understanding and help create some real diversity. Here's your big tent, it starts with not forcing people to believe in what you believe.
Principles are the “why” of a party. We know the “how” and the “what” of the Republican party, but we are missing a “why”, and the “why” is the heart and soul of any party or movement. These can be the principles, the guidelines for conservatives.
Without staying loyal to the Constitution there is no freedom. Without freedom there can be no prosperity. Without prosperity we cannot hope to defend and secure our great nation. Once we realize that there is more that unites, rather than divides us, these principles will not simply be conservative, they will be American.
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