Amidst all the mindless television advertisements and campaign talking points, one still must find what the stakes are in the 2012 contest. Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan has clarified, more than anyone thus far, where both the choice and the difference lie for the American people come November.
Ryan has made it the core of nearly every speech since his initial vice presidential acceptance speech in Norfolk, Virginia, and it was center stage again in his acceptance speech: that our rights come from nature and nature’s God, not from government. They are natural rights. From this follows equality, limited government, economic freedom, and private property. This philosophy is anathema to the left. They have utterly rejected it for over a hundred years stretching back to Woodrow Wilson. Obama does the same today. Yet liberalism has a history, one that can be judged. Looking back, it is clear that if Obama gets a second term, liberalism’s moral, intellectual, and fiscal bankruptcy will wreak havoc on an America already struggling to maintain economic and global dominance.
Our Founders established this Republic as an experiment. It was to be a project, one that future generations would perpetuate through individual virtue and collective belief in the founding principles. No doubt there were compromises made which took the long view towards the attainment of these principles. At the time of ratification slavery still bore a stain on our nation. We fought amongst ourselves in the bloodiest conflict in our history to date testing, as Lincoln noted, whether the principle of self government could endure. A war fought to preserve our principles perpetuated the union.
Yet only a few years later modern liberalism as we understand it took root deep in our nation. “Leadership” in the progressive sense of the term, the “living Constitution,” and faith in inevitable progress emerged. Gradually it began to erode the notion of natural rights in favor of a more progressive approach. An inclination toward natural rights was ostracized and a belief in collective will took hold. The underlying belief in the ability of the American people to carry out self government was deemed wrong, the founding principles spurned. We needed to be told how to govern ourselves. History became king, planners and experts reigned needing only to garner enough power to help us on our way, towards the end of history, the providential goal, the ultimate perfectibility of man. Human nature could, should, and would be changed.
Liberalism then confronted the 1900’s – in light of the time one would think that perhaps human nature was not so malleable after all. But in spite of two world wars led by tyrants who decimated populations and property across the globe there emerged an almost megalomaniacal adherence of the progressive project. The 1960’s followed. The Great Society, the collapse of educational institutions, and division caused by the war in Vietnam did nothing to put our country back on the solid foundations laid for us almost two hundred years before. The progressive ideas undergirding welfare and redistribution proved to be the very cause of that which they sought to eradicate. Yet ironically, as Reagan said in 1964 “the more the plans fail the more the planners plan.” Liberalism stuck to its guns.
Reagan slowed their march. The 1980s began with irrational fears of Reagan and where he would take the country. They ended with unrivaled economic prosperity and a sense of American resurgence sorely needed after the suggested malaise of the Carter years. The slowdown continued with George H. W. Bush. Despite efforts to revitalize the liberal project, even Clinton was forced to compromise on welfare and state unequivocally the era of big government was over. George W. Bush’s focus necessarily was national security, where it needed to be, but the failure of compassionate conservatism and the creation of a new entitlement surely did nothing to advance the conservative cause or mitigate the resurgence of liberalism. Still, many believed the conservative counterrevolution as Steve Hayward describes it, had prevailed and was here to stay. Then came Barack Obama. The resurgence of liberal progressivism came fast and furious. The era of ever bigger and growing government returned.
This then is the choice. The history is clear. Liberalism is again on the march and we’ve seen what it’s policies have achieved in the four years Obama has been in office. There is no record on which to run. A vote for Obama/Biden is a vote of dissolution, dependence, and decline. The Romney/Ryan ticket is focused on a return to the American project, the American idea. It will tell the hard truths of our fiscal situation, how to reform and strengthen our domestic programs in order to preserve them for our children, and of the necessity of a robust American role in the world to ensure economic growth and security. As Jefferson said in his letter to Roger Weightman, the American project should encourage the entire world (and especially us “to assume the blessings and security of self government.” A vote for Romney/Ryan is a vote for self reliance, self confidence, and self government.