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The first conservatives: The constitutional challenge to progressivism

The first conservatives: The constitutional challenge to progressivism

You may be familiar with historical conservative thinkers like F.A. Hayek and Edmund Burke. You know the stories of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. But how much do you know about conservatism in the so-called progressive era?

What do you know about William Howard Taft? In public school we learned that Taft was fat and got stuck in a bathtub.  His presidency is often overlooked, sandwiched between the terms of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson (Glenn hates that guy):

Fed up with the sub-par standards of conservatives at the time, however,  Taft was instrumental in forming a group of “constitutional conservatives” to fight against progressives' assault on our nation's founding documents and principles.

In a new paper for the Heritage Foundation, historian Jonathan O'Neill writes about how Taft and other conservatives came together to form the National Association for Constitutional Government (NACG), a group dedicated to a few basic ideals:

--Our Constitution recognizes that people have natural rights that do not come from the government. Instead, the government is tasked only with protecting them from “arbitrary or illegitimate authority.”

--Our government is one of limited powers, both because the people retain sovereignty at all times and because the Founders recognized that human nature inclines people to abuse power.

--Conservatism insists on “equal rights for all” and “special privileges for none.” This means that laws should not single out groups for special treatment, either negative or positive.

--Being a constitutional conservative requires a commitment to republicanism rather than direct democracy. A republic, unlike a democracy, allows for beneficial “distance and delay between public opinion and the creation of law.”

Click here to learn more about Taft, the NACG and other historic conservative challenges to progressive ideology.

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