Individual freedom and ordered liberty made possible by the imposition of limits on government is the idea that unites conservatives and Republicans, and should be their rallying cry. The idea is fundamentally opposed to the “equality” that is the goal of progressives and Democrats. Progressive equality — that is, racial, gender, and class equality, or equality by collectives — is not what the Founders fought for and not what the constitutional framework guarantees. There are no ethnicities or genders identified in the Bill of Rights; the words “male” and “female,” “black” and “white,” do not appear in the Constitution. There are only individuals who are, in the Declaration of Independence, proclaimed equal in the eyes of their Creator and endowed with unalienable rights that government cannot take away.
The equality enshrined in the Declaration is incompatible with the equality that progressives support. The equality in the Declaration is not an equality of abilities or deserts. It is an equality of importance in the eyes of Nature’s God, and therefore in the eyes of the law — equality not as men and women or whites and blacks but as individuals, and individuals alone.
The equality proposed by progressives and Democrats is a declaration of war on individual freedom, and therefore on the American constitutional framework. The steady erosion of that freedom is the consequence of progressives’ political successes. This is the war that divides Left and Right. Conservatives must recognize that it is a war, and prosecute it as a war to defend individual freedom. That should be the unifying idea of the conservative cause.
The American republic was designed by its founders specifically to preserve individual freedom and to thwart the redistributive ambitions of the progressives of the day, ideals that are now referred to as “social justice.” In the words of James Madison, these included “a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project.” Freedom exists, Madison explained, only when the unequal endowments and unequal abilities of individuals — what he called their “diversity of faculties” — are respected and protected. This very diversity is the source “from which property rights originate” and “the protection of these faculties is the first object of government.” Note that the first object of government is the protection of the inequalities that arise from the natural abilities and talents of its citizens — because government is instituted to guarantee the unalienable rights that constitute individual freedom.
This freedom stands in the way of the progressive schemers. The idea of equality of results, which mobilizes, organizes, and inspires the Left, can be truly achieved only by the abolition of private property and the suppression of individual freedom. This is the real conflict that divides our nation between conservatives and progressives, between the defenders of freedom and its would-be destroyers. The progressive agenda is the systematic constriction of the realm of freedom — the private sector — and its replacement by the power of the state.
Economic redistribution is not “fairness.” It is a war on property rights and individual freedom. Massive deficits are not accounting problems; they are a war on the freedom of the individuals — particularly the young — who must work to pay off the government debt instead of working to enhance their lives. Massive welfare projects that make individuals dependent on government are not implementations of “social justice” but wars on the independence and freedom of the underclass that progressive policies have served to create. Obamacare mandates are not merely harbingers of increased medical costs and diminished medical care; they are infringements on the freedom of individuals to pursue their best possible lives. The Democrats’ failing public-school systems and opposition to school choice are infringements on the freedom of minorities and the poor to pursue the American dream. This is the moral language that Republicans should use to indict their opponents as enemies of justice and social fairness, and to unite their political base.
Framing the political argument in moral terms takes the battle to the adversary’s camp, while at the same time communicating to conservatives that they are all in the same fight. It was the fight for freedom that gave Republicans national majorities during the Cold War with the Communist bloc and liberated a billion captive people. Since 1988, which was the last presidential contest before the Communist collapse, Republicans have won a majority of the popular vote in only one national election. During the Cold War, national security was the key to Republican victories because it framed the conservative cause as a moral crusade in defense of freedom. Now national security is virtually absent from the political debate.
National-security issues are off the political radar because the Left wants to keep them off and because conservatives who are focused on economic-policy issues have simply let them do it. But in a democracy like ours, national security is first of all about freedom and its defense. That is why the Left is not particularly happy with national-security matters and wants to shrink our military and open our borders. It does so in the name of equality — of nations.
The attack on our military and our borders is an existential threat to our freedom, the first in our modern history with such a strong domestic component. Unfortunately, conservatives and Republicans have been reluctant to frame national security as an issue in that way. Meanwhile we are confronted by a new totalitarian enemy in political Islam as promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood and the regimes in Syria and Iran. It is no accident that our president and his party have supported the Brotherhood — the spearhead of political Islam — at home and abroad, and appeased our Islamist enemies in Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Iran.
The very struggle that inspired the Right in the Cold War era — the battle between tyranny and freedom — is once again staring us in the face, but we are reluctant to name it. We have gone almost silent instead. The silence must end. It is time to connect the battle for individual freedom at home and the defense of our free society abroad, and to make them one. That is the way to advance the conservative message and unify the political forces on which the future of our nation depends.
— David Horowitz is the author of The Black Book of the American Left, which will encompass ten volumes when it is completed. The first volume, My Life & Times, will be published tomorrow, November 5, by Encounter Books.