This past week and weekend the American Conservative Union put on its annual CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) just outside of Washington, D.C. at the National Harbor. It is widely regarded as the largest gathering of “conservatives” in the United States, drawing the top voices in the conservative movement. But, if there is one question that must be posed, does America truly know the answer to the question: What is conservatism?
If there is one thing that the progressive, socialist left has been very adept at doing, it is manipulating language to their advantage. Case in point, government spending is now referred to as an investment. Or who would not want to be considered, progressive? After all, it does connotate moving forward. The actual policies of “progressives” always end up regressing the simple ideals of individual liberty, freedom. And the political left in America, aided by the progressive, leftist media is very good at demonizing and denigrating any opposing philosophy of governance. Consider how a grassroots constitutional conservative movement called the Tea (Taxed Enough Already) Party was assailed. They were rebranded as “extremists,” and still to this day, no one in the federal government has been held accountable for unleashing the might of government against citizens who just wanted fiscal discipline from our government.
If one really wants to know what is extreme, talk about a $93 trillion delusion called the “Green New Deal” – an ideological agenda folly that is based on one person’s Nostradamus-like prediction that the world will end in twelve years.
The problem at hand with conservatism is that conservatives are constantly being forced to defend something that needs no defense. And if you truly had a principled discussion with most people, you would find that they embrace conservative values. Sadly, we do not carry that fundamental message across this nation, and yes, it seriously resonates within the minority communities … I know. My parents were registered Democrats. John Lewis was my congressional representative growing up in Atlanta. However, the principles of my folks, affectionately known as Buck and Snooks West, were – faith, family, individual responsibility, quality education, and service to the nation. These were not, and still are not, associated with the principles of progressive socialism.
Case in point, Christianity is based upon an individual decision to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. This is something that only a singular, individual, person can attain – personal salvation. In Christian churches, there is something towards the end of the service called an “altar call,” where congregants are asked to step forward and make the decision for themselves, not as a group. An individual is baptized, not a collective group. That is what is being preached in Christian churches all over our nation on Sundays, and in some cases on Saturday.
And so it is in conservatism, the individual is sovereign, and this political philosophy establishes in our Declaration of Independence that our unalienable rights – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – are endowed to us by the Judeo-Christian Creator, God. It is not a groupthink assignment. It is something bestowed upon everyone regardless of station in life or demographic. And where did this belief, this philosophy, find its beginning? It all began with the man referred to as the father of classical liberalism, British philosopher, John Locke.
In Locke’s time, the prevailing belief was in Divine Right of Kings Theory (“Divine Rights”). That is where the understanding was a designation of someone as the repository of rights, endowed to them by the Creator, and they determined your bye and your leave, your coming and going. Divine Rights theory was suitable for the monarchial rule system. The king and queen were empowered by God to make any and all decisions affecting the people, and favor was given to those of stature, as determined by the royalty.
However, John Locke introduced a revolutionary concept called Natural Rights theory. His assertion was that there was a direct relationship between all men and women to their Creator, God naturally, and that their rights – life, liberty, and property – emanated from God with no intercessory to them. Of course, Thomas Jefferson studied Locke, and that theory was the basis of our Declaration of Independence.
Classical liberalism and Natural Rights theory both elevate the sovereignty of the individual over the institution of government. This new thought shifted the relationship from one of people being ruled to one of people being governed, and government was formed, and dissolved, based upon the consent of the governed. Today’s conservatism is the heir to the principles, philosophies, and fundamental beliefs of classical liberalism because it is grounded in the premise of individual liberty, freedom, and sovereignty. But how interesting that somewhere along the path of the political spectrum, leftists claimed the moniker of being “liberal.” That goes back to their ability to rebrand themselves, and others, as well as manipulating language, and ideas, to advance their ideological agenda.
At the same time President Donald Trump was speaking at CPAC, there was another speech being given. The other speech was one avowed Democratic Socialist, Sen. Bernie Sanders, speaking to a crowd in Brooklyn. While conservatives were gathered, Sanders was speaking of a philosophy of governance extremely antithetical to the founding premise of America. Sen. Sanders was not talking as a classical liberal, conservative, but rather as a Marxist/Socialist. See, Sen. Sanders and his ilk do not believe that we have the innate power, right to determine the path we take for ourselves. Those in favor of socialism do not believe in the concept of equality of opportunity. No, socialism, as an ideology, embraces and espouses the equality of outcomes, which is the true difference between classical liberalism and progressive socialism.
In our Constitution, the final two amendments in our individual Bill of Rights – the Ninth and Tenth Amendments – refer to the fact that those powers not enumerated to the federal government reside to the states, and to the individual, the governed. What those who support socialism prefer is to rule and for progressive socialists to determine what is a right, and their definition of a right is tied to their ideological agenda. The progressive, socialist left does not support the idea that you have a right to keep and bear arms, to defend yourself. And why would they? After all, if the left cannot impose their will by way of threats, coercion, mandate, dictate, intimidation, and violence, they fail – evidence, Venezuela.
Conservatism is classical liberalism. It is all about individual rights. The folks calling themselves liberal are hardly so. They are truly the legacy of Karl Marx and Friederich Engels – progressives, statists, collectivists, Marxists, and communists. I do not disparage them for being so. I just do not care for the deceitfulness, but truthfully, they are no longer in hiding.
Classical liberalism, our modern-day conservatism, comes from folks like John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and Ronald Reagan. The other folks trace their legacy from Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Chavez/Maduro.
Seriously, folks, on whose side do you wish to be?
Allen West is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. Mr. West is a Senior Fellow at the Media Research Center to support its mission to expose and neutralize liberal media bias. Mr. West also writes daily commentary on his personal website theoldschoolpatriot.com.