Tuesday, January 5, 2021 : By Johnny Davis
The conservative movement must be reformed so that it is properly grounded in the first principles of the Founding Fathers. A crucial part of this reform must be an embrace of the wisdom of the Founders who taught us to engage the culture, and to do so as the highest priority for the movement.
Sadly, we have seen the Religious Right portion of the conservative movement sink, or backslide, into a dark place of subservience to the Republican establishment, forgetting the decisive impacts of speaking truth to power. If conservatives simply continue the failed strategy of keeping quiet and carrying water for a Republican establishment that does not believe in the Founding Father’s principles or true Biblical faith for that matter, they will continue a sad and tragic path — becoming more and more irrelevant.
This problem goes back to the roots of the modern conservative movement, which arose in the 1950s and 1960s, fathered by ideological giants such as William F. Buckley, Jr., and Barry Goldwater. Both were defined by being anti-Marxist more than by being rooted truly in our nation’s founding principles. Because of this, there were within its ranks people best described as right-wing Hegelians — now understood as neo-conservatives or “neo-cons” — who follow from the ideological pedigree of Woodrow Wilson. Thus, they have a worldview opposite of that of the Founders.
Goldwater had a tremendous influence on the early conservative movement. He was a strong anti-Marxist who had a libertarian viewpoint of domestic government. However, he was a legal positivist who rejected natural law and the worldview of the Founding Fathers. For instance, he was critical of Martin Luther King’s civil disobedience campaign, saying he “chooses which laws he likes to obey.” It was a comment grounded in a failure to truly embrace natural law.
Martin Luther King’s civil disobedience movement was grounded in natural law — principles drawn from the Declaration of Independence. The conservative movement should have entirely embraced him and his fight to end segregation. Goldwater’s rejection of MLK haunts the conservative movement to this day as it alienated minorities and put the conservative movement on a track deeper into legal positivism.
Further, Goldwater stated he would have felt comfortable in the Democratic Party of Wilson. This was yet another troubling comment as Wilson was the father of American big government, supported the KKK, and segregated the federal workforce while removing black leaders and professionals from federal positions of authority.
An additional problem was how Goldwater reacted against the left’s abuse of the word “justice,” but not in a clear way as to define any actual advocacy for justice. He was right that the left twisted and abused the word justice. But conservatives must not react negatively to justice-in-fact. Rather, we should lead the way. Actual justice is rooted in natural law, and it is an aspect of objective truth that recognizes how fallen man never brings perfect justice — even as each of us who are persons of goodwill may strive to uphold it as best we can in every institution of man, striving to be truly just.
Because of this and other errors, conservatives fell into numerous snares and traps, one being of generally embracing mass incarcerations by the federal government, an error that began under the administration of Richard M. Nixon but continues to this day. The federal government now assumes a leading role in law enforcement, and this goes against the limits of the Constitution. In other words, it is unconstitutional. Further, the mass incarceration of non-violent criminals, especially drug offenders, caused great injustices, the primary among these being habitual use of jail time as a perfunctory prescription to correct a problem. People should additionally note how this was the conduct of prosecutors and judges much more than errors by law enforcement officers on the front lines of ill-conceived “wars” against the American people.
In addition to this, the conservative movement tragically failed to argue in the 1960s for full restoration of the original intent of the 14th Amendment that always must apply the full rights and privileges held by Americans under the Constitution against any violation by state and local governments. And those rights are to be respected universally, not just if someone is a member of a victim or identity group, as liberal judges have been advancing since the tumultuous times of the 1960s and 1970s and which, subsequently, opened the door for so-called rights like abortion on demand and homosexual marriage.
The fall of the Soviet Union caused the conservative movement to go into great folly. Because of a lack of rooting in the principles of the Founding Fathers, the conservative movement embraced the globalism of Presidents George Bush the elder and younger. The conservative movement passively stood down as the Republican establishment bailed out big businesses and jobs were exported overseas as a matter of government policy. The conservative movement went along with the pro-Red China policies pushed by both parties, which resulted in the empowerment of China to become American’s greatest foe.
The embrace of globalism caused the conservative movement to defend managed trade treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). These treaties went against President George Washington’s principles of placing the national interest first and never giving up our national sovereignty. Because of this, the conservative movement in the name of believing in free markets was in reality defending a terrible corrupt alliance between big business and big government. This alliance betrayed the national interest and the American people.
The impotence of the conservative movement was never more obvious than in its silence as the Republican Party failed to repeal funding for the infamous abortion giant Planned Parenthood, and this even while the Republican Party controlled both the White House and both houses of Congress. The sad truth is that the Republican Party made no serious attempt to repeal funding for Planned Parenthood at all. The conservative movement blindly supported the nomination to the Supreme Court of legal positivists like Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, and John Roberts, then were shocked when those judges showed no respect for the Constitution. The reality is that the Republic was established on the primacy of Natural Law. Today, only justices such as Clarence Thomas, who embrace natural law, are the true originalists.
A return to the principles of the Founders is both the right thing to do and the key to victory for the conservative movement. An embrace of Natural Law, declaring that all mankind is made in the image of God and that this fact is the source of individual rights, free enterprise, and individualism are the key worldview pre-suppositions needed to effect this return. These priorities must be supplemented with the wisdom of Washington: Character is destiny for nations and individuals, so the national interest must come first and not any special or partisan interest. Just as importantly, foreign policy must not be guided by habit or ideology, but only by the national interest through flexible pragmatic negotiations pursued on grounds of good faith.
The principles of the Founders can unite a coalition across all ethnic and socioeconomic labels and classes and completely reset the political landscape of America. Speaking the truth with faith in the power of the truth can bring together this coalition as we all yearn for government that protects and upholds liberty. We would respect the individualism of every person, we would seek actual justice, and we would look out for the national interest as vitally threatened by certain special-interest manipulators and supplanters who are bringing the nation to ruin. More importantly, the Founders’ belief in objective truth answers the cultural rot of the current culture of post-modernism, and this can lead to the healing of the nation, God willing.