In May of 1773, patriots disguised as Native Americans boarded the British ships and turned Boston Harbor into a giant tea pot. That Boston Tea Party began a revolution to reclaim the liberty that would form the foundations of the American Republic. Modern-day patriots like you and I seek to conserve that liberty—that’s why we’re called conservatives.
Our political opponents are referred to as liberals, but I’m really not sure why, because the root word of “liberal” is liberty—the same liberty that we want to conserve. Adding to that irony, the hypocrisy of the Left is remarkable when it comes to stereotyping, and judging by the contradictions inherent in calling themselves “progressives,” they are audacious. It’s time to prove that conservatism is the only system of political thought that can maintain liberty in the face of radical, destructive social and political change.
The Left has hijacked liberty in calling themselves “liberals,” even while they occupy themselves by destroying the liberty enshrined in the Constitution, and slandering and silencing those who would defend it. There shouldn’t be a distinction between liberal and conservative, because we’re the real liberals. We ought to refer to them as simply the Left, not only because they sit on the left side of the aisle, but also because they have left—abandoned—the principles of liberty!
Barry Goldwater declared that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” That is the foundation of American conservatism.
Understanding what conservatism really means is crucial to debunking the myths of the Left. Man is flawed; the world is imperfect; life isn’t fair; and moral truths are constant. Conservatives acknowledge all these things and are therefore able to find practical solutions to human problems rather than falling prey to utopian schemes. Conservatism champions individual rights endowed by our Creator—not gifts or privileges granted by government. Conservatives know that the moral core of a nation comes not from legislation, but from the heart of the individual, and that government should be depended upon not to ensure equal incomes or outcomes, but to protect life, liberty, and property. True to America’s founding doctrine, the basic ideas of conservatism are limited government, individual liberty, the free market, and a strong national defense.
Those are the principles that unite us as conservatives, despite our differences; but the Left has made a habit of caricaturing us, stereotyping us, creating straw men that they call conservatives, so that they can huff and puff and blow us down. We’re accused of being oppressive theocrats and selfish nationalists, of opposing progress and innovation, and of denying reason as though it’s not a “traditional” value. We’re not theocrats—we believe in freedom of religion. We’re not nationalists—we believe in safeguarding our rights against invaders. We don’t oppose progress—we believe that advancement and innovation happen in the private sector, with the power of the free market. And please, reason is on our side—we acknowledge that because human nature and moral truths don’t change, neither do the overarching principles that we look to as guidelines for our political philosophy.
My favorite stereotype is the myth that we are all racist, sexist, angry, old white men. …Excuse me? Also consider the outcome of the Colorado GOP convention just a few months ago. We elected African American Darryl Glenn to the Senate primary ballot; almost unanimously elected Chinese American George Leing and female Colombian immigrant Vera Ortegon as national committeeman and committeewoman; and gave all of our national delegates to Cuban American Ted Cruz.
The Left preaches tolerance and acceptance, but they really mean that they want us to be tolerant of them while they only accept and tolerate people who agree with them. Conservatives are really the most tolerant and accepting people out there, because the only thing we don’t accept is tyranny, and we not only tolerate but actually protect everyone’s liberty unless they violate someone else’s life, liberty, or property. Meanwhile, the Left promotes a gay couple’s right to marry, but is remarkably intolerant of a private businessperson’s right to do business according to their conscience. They protect the rights of racist rioters, but not the rights of law enforcement, enforcing laws that are supposed to be color-blind.
Then there’s the fact that Leftists are referred to as “progressives,” even though they hold the most regressive ideology in America. They methodically break down the liberties that are essential to capitalism, to the pursuit of happiness, and to genuine growth and progress. They persist in hoping that taxing the rich, regulating business and trade, and redistributing individuals’ wealth will lead to economic prosperity and a better society. Progressivism? I think socialism is a more accurate description. On its face, socialism seems “nice” and “fair,” and it claims to help the poor by taking things away from people who are so rich they’ll barely miss it. But John F. Kennedy pointed out that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Socialism strangles economic growth by penalizing success with high taxes and regulations, and doling that wealth out to others who don’t have enough. If you want more of something, reward it; if you want less of something, punish it—socialism has that simple natural order backwards, so it requires a massive, micromanaging leviathan of a government to make it work. Communism is just a more extreme version of socialism.
Under socialist-turned-communist regimes like those of Mao Zedong in China and Lenin and Stalin in the USSR, millions were murdered for questioning the government, and many starved because there was no incentive for productivity. The world’s worst famines during the 20th century were in communist countries: North Korea, the Soviet Union, and two in China. Some estimates say that as many as 100 million people were killed by Communism in the 20th century. To put that in perspective, the combined death tolls of both world wars barely exceeded communism’s body count. “Those who fail to learn from history,” warned Winston Churchill, “are doomed to repeat it.” Apparently, Leftists are too busy rewriting the history books to take time to understand them.
Before the industrial revolution, eighty percent of the world’s population suffered in abject poverty. By 1980, that number had fallen to less than thirty-five percent. At the hands of leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, private property was protected, taxes were lowered, and government regulations and subsidies were reduced; between 1980 and 2005, global per capita income nearly doubled. Of course, wealth isn’t valuable only for its own sake, but for the betterment of the human condition—since 1900, average life expectancy in the U.S. has increased from forty-seven to seventy-eight, and the labor needed to earn enough money to purchase a cell phone has fallen from 456 hours to four hours. Poverty is relative—in America, you could have a TV and a cell phone and still be considered “poor.” It’s pretty clear that we can claim progress for our side, and we have liberty to thank for it.
Conservatism is a broad set of principles that establish a system of government under which humans can flourish, and flourishing requires freedom—including the freedom to be wrong. The Left constantly accuses us of opposing change… and we do oppose change—to the history books, attempted changes to human nature, and “change we can believe in.” But conservatives embrace changes that make people and markets more free and prosperous. Conservative policies, not Leftist lies, have allowed for not only incredible economic growth, but the greatest civilization history has ever seen: These United States of America.
Leftists demand political correctness and tolerance while stereotyping and shaming their political adversaries; claim to be progressive while gridlocking our country into the most backward economic system possible; claim the title of “liberals” while revoking the very liberties that conservatives prize. There’s no reason we shouldn’t win every contest, because the Left… has two left feet—and anyway, we’re right! We conserve the Constitution and the liberty-focused foundations of this country, so while embracing true liberalism, we also deliver true progressivism. All we need now is the courage and determination of those patriots who threw a party at Boston Harbor. So come on people, let’s have a tea party!
This article was originally a speech that I delivered at the 2016 Western Conservative Summit as the winner of Red Alert Politics’ under-30 speech contest! You can view the speech on YouTube here: Ellen Densmore – WCS16