Constitutional Conservatism Ready for Prime Time
This column by ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Ken Klukowski and ACRU Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell was published July 6, 2011 on The Huffington Post.
Liberal pundits are panicking over constitutional conservatism. They shouldn’t, because every child — whether the parents are liberal or conservative — will benefit from constitutional conservatism’s ascendency. If America elects a constitutional conservative president and Congress in 2012, we’ll move forward as a freedom-loving nation.
Several outlets on the Left — such as The New Republic — are raising an alarm about this disturbing new term, saying that it’s secret code for “absolutists” and “zealots” on economic issues, overturning Roe v. Wade, and implying that constitutional conservatives are segregationists bent on creating a theocracy.
As two constitutional conservatives who wrote a new book on the issue, we’ll correct the record on defining constitutional conservatism, how it now dominates Republican politics, and why America needs it so desperately.
Constitutional conservatism is the system of government the Founders gave to this country. They set out a series of principles on the rights of man and the role of government in the Declaration of Independence, including that God creates us equal and gives us rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit (not guarantee) of happiness, that government exists to secure these rights, and that the people either consent to this government or have the right to change it.
After years of trial and error, the country then adopted the Framers’ proposed Constitution to be the Supreme Law of the Land to fulfill the Declaration’s purpose. This Constitution strictly defines the federal government as one of enumerated powers, giving it authority over specific areas of our national life, splitting its powers between three branches that check each other, and leaves the states sovereign on all other matters. They also declared certain individual rights. Knowing that they were fallible human beings, the Framers also included an amendment process so that when the Constitution was found lacking, a complex supermajority could change it (and have, twenty-seven times).
The Far Left wrongly suggests that constitutional conservatism is retrospective. Instead it recognizes that in less than two centuries constitutional conservatism made the United States the most powerful, prosperous, successful, and free nation in world history. This was no accident. Constitutional conservatism is what allows us to achieve such heights, and will reinvigorate America and brighten our future to the extent that we return to those principles.
Constitutional conservatism is a unified governmental philosophy. Despite attempts to fracture conservatism into economic, social, and national security factions, constitutional conservatism shows how each of these three builds on the other two in the context of limited government. Flourishing businesses and safe homes are vital to strong families. A vibrant economy and virtuous citizens are essential to fuel national security. And stable families and secure communities are necessary for long-term economic prosperity. This is part of the formula embodied in the Declaration and Constitution, and ubiquitous in the writings and speeches of our presidents and national leaders, from George Washington to Ronald Reagan.
Despite the Left’s current obsession with Michele Bachmann, she’s not the only Republican candidate claiming the mantle of constitutional conservatism. The same could be said of several presidential contenders, from Tim Pawlenty to Herman Cain, to others not even running (yet?), such as Rick Perry.
Constitutional conservatism is central to numerous campaigns this cycle, not just the presidential race. From Indiana’s Mike Pence for governor, to Florida’s Adam Hasner for Senate, to Texas’ Ted Cruz for Senate, scores of candidates running for office embrace the U.S. Constitution as the blueprint for America’s future happiness.
It’s not backward-looking to survey the lessons of history to plot a course for the future. That’s what the Founders did as devoted students of more than 3,000 years of philosophy, history, theology, and government when they wrote the Declaration and later proposed the Constitution. Our system of government is the culmination of millennia of human trial and error, and our recent troubles reinforce the reality that we must return to those principles.
No man-made government is perfect, and if it were no system run by fallible human beings can deliver perfect results. But the fact remains that our recent forays into government interventionism, social engineering, transnationalism, federal mandates, living in unprecedented debt, and looking to government to save us is only worsening our situation.
Technology advances and economies evolve, but human nature doesn’t change, and so neither do the timeless principles for ideal government. Constitutional conservatism is the system of government for optimizing our freedom and happiness, and it’s once again ready for prime time in America’s national life.