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Robin Smith / Oct. 28, 2019

Conservatives’ True North

The Heritage Foundation offers guidance on how to recalibrate the conservative movement.

Last week, Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James posted the following on social media: “The True North principles are based on our nation’s founding principles and represent the direction we must always point to keep America on course. Following them will ensure we remain the strongest, most free, most prosperous nation on earth.”

James’s Oct. 21 post also included a link to an article spelling out 14 defining principles of conservative ideology and policy. Officially unveiled at the President’s Club meeting last Monday, True North: The Principles of Conservatism are as advertised. These basic truths, when applied, do exactly as promoted. They serve as “ a guide to building an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish.”

There’s nothing mentioned about Democrat versus Republican. There’s no reference to Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Mike Pence, Barack Obama, or George W. Bush. This African-American woman who now leads one of the most renowned conservative think tanks expressed what we’ve always been working for in the conservative movement: A nation of free individuals, self-reliant because of our own personal Liberty that makes America the strongest nation due to the empowerment of her people.

Nonpartisan. Not personal. Not limited to a race, a gender, a voter bloc, an age-group. Simply put, these guiding principles don’t divide as does identity politics; they unite people devoted to the Liberty that is uniquely American. That’s because it’s individual at creation; it’s greatest when the governing entity is limited; and it’s based on personal work, merit, and equal opportunity rather than being reserved for the governing or ruling elite.

What are these principles that define conservatism? Heritage lists them:

  • The federal government exists to preserve life, liberty and property, and it is instituted to protect the rights of individuals according to natural law. Among these rights are the sanctity of life; the freedom of speech, religion, the press, and assembly; the right to bear arms; the right of individuals to be treated equally and justly under the law; and to enjoy the fruits of ones labor.

  • The federal government’s powers are limited to those named in the Constitution and should be exercised solely to protect the rights of its citizens. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The government closest to the people serves the people best.” Powers not delegated to the federal government, nor prohibited by the Constitution, are reserved to the states or to the people.

  • Judges should interpret and apply our laws and the Constitution based on their original meaning, not upon judges’ personal and political predispositions. Individuals and families — not government — make the best decisions regarding their and their children’s health, education, jobs, and welfare.

  • The family is the essential foundation of civil society, and traditional marriage serves as the cornerstone of the family.

  • The federal deficit and debt must not place unreasonable financial burdens on future generations.

  • Tax policies should raise only the minimum revenue necessary to fund constitutionally appropriate functions of government.

  • America’s economy and the prosperity of individual citizens are best served by a system of free enterprise, with special emphasis on economic freedom, private property rights, and the rule of law. This system is best sustained by policies promoting free trade and deregulation, and opposing government interventions in the economy that distort markets and impair innovation.

  • Regulations must not breach constitutional principles of limited government and the separation of powers.

  • America must be a welcoming nation — one that promotes patriotic assimilation and is governed by laws that are fair, humane, and enforced to protect its citizens.

  • Justice requires an efficient, fair, and effective criminal justice system — one that gives defendants adequate due process and requires an appropriate degree of criminal intent to merit punishment.

  • International agreements and international organizations should not infringe on American’s constitutional rights, nor should they diminish American sovereignty. America is strongest when our policies protect our national interests, preserve our alliances of free peoples, vigorously counter threats to our security, and advance prosperity through economic freedom at home and abroad.

  • The best way to ensure peace is through a strong national defense.

Appreciate a truth about the application of these principles in a day that the political Left has embraced socialism rather than an economy of individual Liberty and empowers the government, not the individual. These stances on the political Left have not occurred overnight. The same may be said of some on the Center-Right of politics. The bailouts of the mid-2000s, along with the embrace of globalism, is not characteristic of a limited government that exists by the consent of the governed.

In his book, The Little Things: Why You Really Should Sweat the Small Stuff, Andy Andrews tells of a day trip he and two buddies in their twenties experienced that turned into a time lost at sea in the Gulf of Mexico. Having departed from Orange Beach, Alabama, the three expected to return before day’s end with a catch of tuna rumored to be running about 100 miles off the coast near an oil rig.

After four hours, no rig in sight and pounded by the wind and waves, the autopilot was checked again to confirm the navigation coordinates entered when leaving Perdido Pass. The trio ran out of fuel, spent the night in helpless fear and, thankfully, were driven toward land and towed to safety the next late evening.

So, what happened, and why does it matter? A few weeks later, the boat’s electronics were checked. The autopilot was off by two degrees. Two small degrees. This small variance was magnified with the distance as time passed.

The Heritage Foundation has reminded us of Founding Principles that have made America great by empowering individuals. Even within the Center-Right of principle-driven policy, we find ourselves with a compass that’s been recalibrated by today’s culture rather than timeless truths. True North — let’s recalibrate.

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