Liberal pundits are panicking over constitutional conservatism. They shouldn’t be, because all children — whether their 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 alarms about this disturbing new term, saying that it’s secret code for conservative radicalism 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 by defining constitutional conservatism and explaining how it now dominates Republican politics and why America needs it so desperately.
Constitutional conservatism is the system of government the founders gave this country. The founders 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, 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 adopted the framers’ proposed Constitution as the supreme law of the land in order to fulfill the Declaration’s purpose. The Constitution strictly defines the federal government as one of enumerated powers, splits the federal government’s powers between three branches that check each other and leaves the states sovereign on all other matters. The framers also included an amendment process so that when the Constitution was found lacking, a complex supermajority could change it (and have, 27 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 it will reinvigorate America and brighten our future to the extent that we return to it.
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 parts of the conservative philosophy 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 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 the Constitution and that is 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.
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’s Ted Cruz for Senate, scores of candidates are embracing 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 manmade government is perfect, and 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, unprecedented debt and dependence on government have only worsened our situation.
Technology advances and economies evolve, but human nature doesn’t change. That’s why the principles embodied in the Constitution are timeless. Constitutional conservatism is the system of government that optimizes our freedom and happiness, and it’s once again ready for prime time.
Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski are on faculty at Liberty University and fellows with the Family Research Council, and authors of Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America.