LOPEZ: Are you sure the Left actually wants to destroy American exceptionalism?
MINITER: I think the Founders would agree that American exceptionalism grows from our right to pursue our own individual paths to happiness. I think this is why the Founders wrote the Bill of Rights as negative liberties (restrictions on government). By placing the people above the state, they did something that made European monarchs sweat in their silk stockings. Next, by affirming in the Declaration of Independence that above the people is the morality of God, they were really saying something. Now realize that it is precisely these individual rights (the very definition of our American exceptionalism) that the Left is philosophically opposed to; after all, a basic belief of the Left is that the state must take care of and guide the populace by redistributing wealth, creating universal health care, and so on as they steamroll individual rights in their statist efforts to create collective rights.
: So how do you save the Bill of Rights?
MINITER: Thomas Jefferson warned in a letter to Col. Charles Yancey, on Jan. 6, 1816, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” We must understand our freedoms if we are to retain them. This is precisely what this book will do for people.
LOPEZ: You say liberty isn’t liberalism. But classical liberalism had a lot to do with it, didn’t it?
MINITER: I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a politician claim to be a “classical liberal.” Recently some Democrats began referring to themselves as “Blue Dogs” in order to differentiate themselves from the liberals in their party. The term “Blue Dog,” though, always makes me think of a blue-tick hound a friend of mine owned. The big, floppy-eared dog was very loud and a product of the South, but it was all bluster and no bite. It’s actually too bad some of the Blue Dog Democrats didn’t instead call themselves “classical liberals,” as this would have made the urban intelligentsia who seem to bandy about that term most choke on the olives in their martinis. It may have even forced intelligent editorial writers to attempt to define the term, which, gasp, just might have helped push the Democratic party back from the precipice of socialism.
LOPEZ: You say we have adopted a second Bill of Rights. Did it go to a vote? Is it that moment when Barack Obama believes America became great?
MINITER: I wasn’t aware Pres. Barack Obama thought America had become great. President Obama said in 2001 on WBEZ, a Chicago public-radio station, that the Constitution “says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.” By saying this he was reaching back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of the Union address on Jan. 11, 1944. In it FDR outlined what is often referred to as his “second bill of rights.” He said the government should be required to give each citizen a job, health care, a home, and a good education. FDR didn’t get his way, but Obama used the government to take over the student-loan program to grant a right to an education and he passed Obamacare, which is a new entitlement to health care. So yes, it’s clear what Obama meant when he said he wants to “fundamentally transform America.” He wants to pass new positive rights that put the government in charge of what were once personal choices decided in a free marketplace. These positive rights are fundamentally destroying our Bill of Rights.
LOPEZ: Do you feel the need to destroy that second Bill of Rights?
MINITER: The battle to stop the federal government from being empowered by positive rights is the battle for our freedom. A colorful analogy would be to compare this struggle between negative and positive rights to Luke Skywalker resisting the attempts from his father, Darth Vader, to go over to the dark side. They’re powerful and alluring but in the end positive rights placed in the hands of government will destroy you, the individual you.