Volumes have been written on political and philosophical Conservatism and so my task is made that much more challenging as I endeavor to add my tuppence to the ongoing historical dialog. In the present case, however, the labor is a less onerous one because I come to you today not to preach about conservative orthodoxy (correct belief) but conservative orthopraxis (correct practice of that belief). Although they are entirely separate, the two are nevertheless inextricably intertwined – much as grape and ivy vines will sometimes twist around each other in a botanical pas-de-deux as they climb upward to absorb the sun’s life-sustaining rays.
So it is with conservatism: the belief finds outward expression in the practice even as the practice proclaims the belief to the world – and the two together hopefully act in symbiosis and not antagonism. It follows that if we are to understand the practice of Conservatism, we must of necessity understand the core philosophy of Conservatism.
To this end, I offer the Ten Commandments of Conservatism as a primer of sorts that can acquaint the casual observer with both the belief and the practice of contemporary American Conservatism. They were not scripted into stone by the fiery finger of either God or Ronald Reagan, but gleaned from the annals of history – beginning with Barry Goldwater and achieving full flower in the glory days of Ronaldus Magnus.
1. Ronald Reagan is thy guide, who brought thee out of the land of Carter Malaise, out of the house of liberal bondage, and thou shalt not have other political leaders before him.
Obviously, Ronald Reagan is not God nor does he supplant the wisdom of the Founders. Nevertheless, he channeled their wisdom in the 20th Century, breathing a welcome air of life into a Republican Party that had become moribund and rescuing this nation from the feckless ineptitude of Jimmy Carter – who very nearly brought America to its knees. As such, he is the father of the contemporary conservative political thought.
2. Thou shalt not elect liberals; nor shalt thou form allegiance with them or serve them.
Recent history has demonstrated that Liberalism – like Soviet Communism – is a relentless and utterly unscrupulous force that works unceasingly to subvert the liberty and prosperity of this republic into a collectivist oligarchy. In the wake of the 2008 election, Liberals and liberal Democrats emerged from behind their masks and exposed themselves for what they truly are: statists who have no love for personal liberty or free markets. It follows that the days of bipartisanship have drawn to a close, as there are almost no issues on which a true conservative Republican can agree with a true liberal Democrat. Consequently we are not called upon to work with them but, rather, to utterly defeat them and make sure they stay defeated.
3. Thou shalt not take the name or the legacy of Ronald Reagan in vain.
Far too often pseudo-conservatives invoke the name of Ronald Reagan to justify policies and agendas that Reagan would have roundly condemned. These days we have a word for such individuals: RINOs.
4. Remember Election Day and keep it undefiled by always voting conservative.
The days of Reagan conservatives holding their noses and pulling the lever for the candidate with the ‘R’ after his name ended on November 4, 2008 when the RINO contingent of the Republican Party screwed us over for the last time. From this point going forward, if the Republican Party establishment thinks a RINO will have a better chance of getting elected, it had better think again: no Republican in history ever won an election without the support of the conservative base.
5. Honor the Founding Fathers and likewise the Constitution that thy days may be long in the republic which they have given thee.
Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. It’s the responsibility of educators nationwide to instruct our young on the founding of this republic. Unfortunately, in the course of the past thirty years they have failed miserably and generations of younger Americans today know nothing about our past, nothing about those who came before us, nothing about the founding of the United States. It is therefore incumbent upon us to first educate ourselves by reading and understanding the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. We must endeavor to continually plumb the depths of the wisdom of the Founders and then pass this knowledge on to others – that we may avoid Santayana’s Curse.
6. Thou shalt not sanction the murder of the innocent nor delay justice for the guilty.
Conservatives believe in the sanctity and intrinsic worth of every innocent human life from conception until natural death. We also believe that, in some cases, crimes committed against others – including acts of terrorism or piracy – are so heinous and wanton as to merit capital punishment.
7. Thou shalt not betray the cause of conservatism nor shalt thou consort politically with liberals as with harlots.
Conservatism isn’t a veneer or mask worn to a costume ball. It isn’t a cloak meant to protect one from inclement political weather and then doffed when the storm clouds dissipate. Conservatism is a way of life that must be nurtured and exercised, as there are no compromises or easy solutions. That is the lure of liberalism: it offers what appear to be easy solutions fraught with unintended consequences that end up redounding to the detriment of everyone, it seems, but liberals. There is always a temptation to succumb – especially if the material rewards are lavish – but it must be resisted.
8. Thou shalt not raise taxes nor shalt thou squander revenue on earmarks, bailouts or pork.
Taxes should be levied only to support those legitimate powers and functions of government authorized by the Constitution. At all times conservatives must be mindful of this and resist the urge to foist a tax increase for the sake of some new government program that has no constructive purpose aside from currying the favor of voters. Likewise, appropriations should be made only for those functions and purposes authorized by the Constitution. This means the complete exclusion of all extra-constitutional government subsidies, bailouts, earmarks and all pork barrel legislation.
9. Thou shalt not expand government nor diminish the constitutional liberties of fellow Americans.
The Constitution clearly and unambiguously enumerates the powers of the federal government. Anything not specifically mentioned that is not forbidden to the states is reserved to the states and to people respectively according to the Tenth Amendment. The more the federal government expands, the more the liberties of Americans contract.
10. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy nation, its people or its leaders.
We have all seen the sorry spectacle of former Presidents and other political figures (always Democrats, it seems) who badmouth the United States or whatever Republican administration is in office. Conservatives do not do this, period. When abroad, if we have nothing good to say about the current administration then we say nothing and when it comes to the United States of America, we defend her always.
11. Thou shalt not speak ill of fellow conservatives.
These are indeed the times that try men’s souls and we can ill afford rancor and division at a period in our history when we must unite to save this republic. When Ronald Reagan issued his famous 11th commandment (“Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican”) the party had not yet been overrun with a Fifth Column of RINOs who would ultimately reject most of what Reagan stood for to the degree it has been overrun today. The time has come for those who still follow the Reagan banner to unite under it and find common cause to take back the party that Reagan bequeathed us.
And it is the Eleventh Commandment that is often the stumbling block for those who profess the Conservative Creed – in much the same manner that the commandment Jesus of Nazareth gave to his followers to “Love one another as I have loved you” trips up otherwise good-intentioned Christians with relentless predictability.
It isn’t so much a question of pointing the bony finger of accusation at those whose words and conduct condemned them long before a jury of their peers made official what everyone already knew as a matter of fact. Rather, it’s those instances where self-appointed arbiters of orthodoxy jostle themselves into positions of prominence that enable them to hand down anathemas, condemnations and excommunications with impunity while they willfully ignore exculpatory evidence, deny all appeals and pull out all the stops in their effort to malign, impugn, defame and ultimately destroy the objects of their collective wrath.
It beggars belief that such inquisitors exist in our own ranks, seeing as how Conservatism has for its foundation the sensibility and reason that forms the better half of human nature. But they do exist and their ugly shadows fall on the innocent as evenly as they darken the guilty.
One is reminded of the speech given by Dostoevky’s Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov:
“Judge us if You can and if You dare!” Know that I am not afraid of you; know that I, too, lived in the wilderness, fed upon roots and locusts, that I, too, blessed the freedom which You bestowed upon men, and that I, too, was prepared to take my place among the strong chosen ones, aspiring to be counted among them. But I came to my senses and refused to serve a mad cause. I turned away and joined those who were endeavoring to correct your work. I left the proud and turned to the meek, for the happiness of the meek. What I have told You will happen and our kingdom will come. I repeat, tomorrow You will see the obedient herds, at the first sign from me, hurry to heap coals on the fire beneath the stake at which I shall have You burned, because by coming here, You have made our task more difficult. For if anyone has ever deserved our fire, it is You, and I shall have you burned tomorrow!
The day that we Conservatives allow a tiny minority of self-appointed inquisitors to steamroll anyone and everyone they deem unworthy of membership in the Conservative Cause is the day we have effectively surrendered ourselves and our future to the very Stalinism that poisons the heart of the Liberal Cause. It will be the day posterity will recall that Conservatism was burned at the stake by those who claimed they were trying to save it – even as they made a living mockery of the Eleventh Commandment.