“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time or die by suicide.” – Abraham Lincoln
Speaking before the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois, in 1837, Abraham Lincoln warned people against the dangers of compromising the principles our Founding Fathers used to set up the United States of America. He spoke of conserving those principles and never forgetting where we came from. One can only imagine what he'd think if he could see what this country has become today.
Today, Conservatism is engaged in a war for its own soul. One of the reasons for this is due to the mistake many are making in associating conservatism with politics. One of the leading thinkers and writers of the early conservative movement, Russell Kirk, wrote about the ten principles of conservatism – the first one being that conservatives believe in “an enduring, moral order.” He explained that the main idea of conservatism was to conserve the ideas and principles of our Founding Fathers – the ideas of limited government, personal responsibility, freedom, and liberty for all. These aren’t political ideas. These are basic human civil rights that go back centuries.
Nowadays, fewer people seem to be interested in talking principles. Politics steers the ship towards the inevitable iceberg. During the 2016 election, a select number of people like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio were talking about conservative principles. They talked about returning to our Judeo-Christian roots and the system of limited government we used to champion, but many so-called “conservatives” and “evangelicals” decided to abandon those beliefs.
Many exit polls during the primaries showed that while many claimed to care about shared values, they ultimately wanted someone who would stick it to the system and “tell it like it is.” Thus Rand, Ted, Marco, and others inevitably dropped out of the race. This, combined this with many so-called “conservative” talk show hosts and personalities who belittled anyone who would dare question whether he or she should fall in line and vote “Republican” was extremely disheartening for many conservatives, who felt abandoned and betrayed.
National radio host and populist, GOP establishment flip-flopper, Sean Hannity trashed the Never Trump movement, accusing them of trying to sabotage Trump and vote for Hillary – a laughable accusation at best.
Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich was once considered to be a strong conservative, referred to principled Never Trump conservatives as the “little whiny, sniveling negative cowards.” Now while I don’t personally believe the term “Never Trump” was the best option for skeptical conservatives, the principle remains the same.
For many, like myself, it was never just about Donald Trump or any personality. It was about restoring the American Constitution. It’s always been about that, and when any person or force goes up against that or shows little to no signs of supporting that, then we stand opposed. Instead of talking about limited government, the Constitution, and holding people accountable for their lack of principle, the discussion became about personalities instead.
Fast forward to today with the threats from President Trump to either support what many call “Obamacare lite” or be primaried – along with the other nationalistic policies proposed by the President and many conservatives are left feeling abandoned.
Couple abandoning principles during the election and the divisive rhetoric amongst ourselves and it leaves many completely demoralized. It's next to impossible to have an honest conversation or disagreement with someone who supposedly believes in the same eternal values like you do. You’ll find yourself the victim of mockery and name-calling; it makes people depressed. The backstabbing and obsessive vitriol are tearing us apart. I’ve personally lost many friends for respectfully standing up for my beliefs. Add to this the declining moral state in our churches and the way we conduct ourselves to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and you have a very sick society in need of repair.
So what do we do? As a young millennial conservative, I weep for what has happened to the movement I once thought still lived in most peoples' hearts – a movement that transcends politics and is supposed to be a way of life. Unfortunately, we have to admit that, at least for now, real, true conservatism is something fewer and fewer people practice.
But there is hope!
There are organizations dedicated to preserving the American Experiment through conservative ideals. Organizations like Young America’s Foundation, FreedomWorks, and Heritage are all tremendous outlets for conservative libertarian values and engaging the youth.
God put each of us on this earth for a reason, and it’s certainly not to unplug and hide away from the world and a challenge. My own personal goals in life lie far beyond politics. I want to get married, raise a family, and live out that Bible verse that says to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Ephesians 4:1) I’m sure many reading this feel the same way, but we can’t do that if we retreat. The Founders are depending on us. Future generations are depending on us. We can change things for the better if we better ourselves. That remains the promise from God and the promise of living in the land of opportunity.