President Reagan said that freedom is a fragile thing, never more than one generation away from extinction. It’s the second half of that famous quote, though, that hits home for me: We don’t “pass” freedom “to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” Today, the future of our American miracle is on the line in a way that it hasn’t been in the past. China is flying spy balloons over our ICBM fields. Russia invaded Ukraine, driving up costs for Americans and threatening our European allies. We face even greater threats within. We are losing respect for individual freedom, a unified faith in the American purpose and a shared commitment to pass the American miracle on to our children.
I have written previously about the midterm elections last year. Conservatives should have won big on the most important issues: inflation, high gas prices, a border crisis, and more. Instead, we barely captured the House and lost a seat in the Senate. Conservatives have lost three elections in a row and the popular vote in seven of the last eight elections. It’s time to speak the truth: We aren’t winning because we’ve lost the trust of the American public.
That’s not just a political problem. It is a principles problem. It is a symptom of a broader crisis in conservatism. It is not just one of competence: it is a crisis of character. It is time for conservatives to come home: to return to our founding principles – not only in word, but in deed.
We need to show why–and how–we are different from the left by embracing a conservatism that sets us apart in substance, style, and in our commitment to conservative values. Liberals look for solutions in the government and larger than life personalities, but we conservatives don’t need a political savior. Instead, we require dedication to accountability, personal responsibility, and results. We must not become the left, following celebrity leaders with their own brand of identity politics. No more following those who preach one set of values and live by another. Over the last few years, I’ve heard too many conservatives excuse hypocrisy by saying something like, “we’re electing a president, not a Sunday School teacher.” Well, as a former Sunday School teacher myself, I think it’s time we ask, “Why not both?” It is time for us to embody the principles we say we believe.
What are those principles?
First, a free people cannot survive the unrelenting growth of government. Pervasive regulation, taxes, and government controls don’t just cause inflation–they erode the American commitment to the dignity of hard work, the fairness of playing by the rules, and goodness of doing what is right.
Second, we need a renewed commitment to equality. Equality is the promise that makes being an American something exceptional. In America, equality isn’t earned by identity, or wealth, or status – it’s available to every American by birthright. That promise has made us a “shining city on the hill” and fueled our greatness, from the Declaration of Independence to Abraham Lincoln to Dr. Martin Luther King.
This is deeply personal to me. A little more than 30 years ago, I was a young Army tank commander staring across the German border at Soviet tanks that outnumbered us 9 to 1. The men under my command didn’t see themselves as victims and they weren’t there because they had the correct identity. They were men of character and competence, each of whom shared a commitment to and confidence in America. Now, the military is more obsessed with pronouns and less obsessed with the only noun that matters–Victory.
Too many in America today would have us abandon our nation’s foundational commitment to equality in the name of equity. They would exchange the bravery of the civil rights movement for the cowardice of victimhood and grievance politics. There are signs they are succeeding, and Americans today rightly fear that our country is being torn apart. Conservatives can offer hope by returning to our Founding. Equality is the antidote to the poisonous lie of equity, wokeness, and identity politics.
Finally, we must renew the bonds that tie us together as Americans: our families and our places of worship. These are the cradles of the American miracle – the places where freedom grows and takes root. The story of American freedom is the story of religion, and the family is the bedrock of American freedom and equality. In America, parents should never be kept out of their children’s schools. Families should never be torn apart by an overbearing government.
I believe that when you are entrusted with a miracle, you defend it. And when you start a mission, you are obligated to see it through. And more than anything, I believe that a conservative return to what matters – faith in God and a renewed commitment to freedom, equality, and our founding values will ensure that the American miracle remains powerful and durable for generations to come.