Editor's Note: Gregg Jackson gave a speech to The Young America's Foundation in Santa Barbara, California. The topic was our obligation as Americans. The transcript is an exclusive to RFFM.org and it is a must read.
Transcript of speech by popular radio host and author Gregg Jackson at the Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara, California:
I am going to engage in an act of subversion this morning.
I have been given the privilege of addressing intelligent young minds in a formative stage- the best and brightest of the next generation of conservative thinkers.
At the risk of betraying the trust that has been placed in me today, I am going to engage in an act of disloyalty to the conservative establishment of which I am, arguably, a dues-paying member in good standing.
I'm going to tell you that your loyalty must not be to conservatism – merely a 12-letter word. Your commitment, your passion, and your loyalty must not now and not ever be to a party, an alliance, or a "big tent". It must be to the underlying principles that inspired our heroes through the centuries, most of whom never used the word "conservative" to describe themselves.
Most -- including the Founding Fathers and two millennia of historic Christian thinkers and leaders -- would recoil at our use of their names and their legacies to dignify that word. They would detest that we so smugly and so blithely claim that our hodge-podge of issues, positions and realistic compromises is somehow a "pragmatic" fulfillment, development or refinement of their efforts.
Pragmatism which is defined as what works, after all, is about winning, right? Republicans do pretty well at winning elections. What we almost always lose is the three years between elections. We have retreated from our culture war. Our state and federal constitutions now bear almost no relevance to how we govern or how we are willing to be governed. And on the fiscal side, is there anything conservative about the last eight years of aggressive Republican expansion of the federal government?
Now this act of subversion may seem perfectly harmless and reasonable to you, at your age of relative innocence and idealism. Reasonable, it is indeed.
Harmless, however, it is not. Because our "conservative" movement has gone far astray. And there are not many powerful and influential conservatives who have the guts to report it to a group of young folks like you. Heaven knows they do their best to ostracize any peers who lean "too far right."
Our "conservatism," it seems, does not actually conserve anything--except perhaps the illusion among many or most Republican voters that they belong to a party that still stands for certain things and that sincerely places those things above temporal delights like money, power and prestige.
For some years now, what we insist on calling "conservatism" has become merely relentless pragmatism. And modern day conservatism's supposed function, by definition, is to defend us against insatiable and fanatical liberalism, as political insanity and cultural suicide are now called. But how "pragmatic" is it simply remain in defense against something fanatical and insatiable?
And if our conservatism is actually just pragmatism, and our pragmatism is actually just surrender, what's the point of it all? Especially if the conservatism being practiced was never even the original point of "conservatism" anyway?
Wasn't the idea that conservatism is a good thing entirely dependent on a status quo that is really quite good and also sustainable?
Perhaps it's time to toss out the word "conservative" and rediscover the good that we were going to preserve before we fell in love with just being "conservatives" -- before we got addicted to what we thought was pragmatism and ended up surrendering everything just to keep the more conservative candidate in office.
So to avoid pulling you into a downward spiral of pessimism, I want to explore how we lost our awareness of a passion about the first principles that were so compelling in the mid-20th Century, and before that at the time of the American Revolution, and before that at the time of the Pilgrims and Puritans, and the Protestant Reformation, and so on.
For our purposes, I would like to define conservatism the way that the preeminent conservative thinker in the 20th century Russell Kirk did. For those of you who may not be familiar with Kirk, he wrote the book "The Conservative Mind" in 1953 a book which galvanized young thinkers. At the time Kirk wrote the book many writers referred to conservatism as a mental maladjustment. Many today still do.
Kirk believed in an objective universal order, writing, "Strictly speaking, conservatism is not a political system, but rather a way of looking at the civil social order,"
Kirk believed that healthy societies depended primarily on strong religious institutions, family, and individual virtue and morality- a view shared by virtually every one of our Founding Fathers.
Dr. Kirk was a staunch defender of what T.S. Eliot called the "permanent things" – those enduring truths, ways of life, and permanent standards of moral order- which Kirk believed was a crucial pre-requisite for a virtuous and prosperous society. Kirk believed it was conservatives main duty to conserve or preserve these "permanent things" for future generations.
The main point that I would like to make this morning is that what we understand to be "conservatism" in 2008 bears almost no resemblance whatsoever to the original conservative principles of the Founding Fathers of American conservatism because the "conservative" elites of our day (the organizational leaders, lawyers, talkers, and pundits) have compromised those core principles for purely pragmatic reasons. Today's "conservatism" no longer seeks to preserve the "permanent things" in any meaningful way, and it is vital that you understand that.
The Founders believed that there was a hierarchy of values that needed to be preserved with the inalienable right to life being at the top of the list. That's why in our founding charter the Declaration of Independence the first inalienable right listed is the right to life.
The Declaration's author Thomas Jefferson believed that the primary obligation of Republican government was to protect individual life. Do those who call themselves "conservatives" today share that same belief?
While there are certainly some that do such as Alan Keyes and Mike Huckabee, none of the leading GOP presidential candidates shared his view. Guiliani, for example, supports abortion on demand, including partial birth abortion where the baby is killed as it is partially delivered. Romney established abortion as a healthcare benefit –with a $50 co-pay--in his own healthcare plan (after his purported pro life conversion). And our likely nominee McCain is what I would call nominally pro-life in that he doesn't support the central plank of the Republican platform- a federal human life amendment.
All of these men have been portrayed as and have claimed to be "conservatives" and yet none share the most basic tenet of traditional American conservatism that the inalienable (God given) right to life is paramount to any other right.
As I mentioned previously, Kirk and many of the other conservative Founders believed as well that the centrality of the natural family needed to be preserved as an essential basis for a virtuous and prosperous society.
Guiliani supported same sex marriage. Romney was the founding father of SSM in America in that he illegally instituted it as governor of Massachusetts falsely claiming the judges made him do it. Romney and Guiliani both support special rights for homosexuals including homosexual scout masters. McCain says he opposes same sex marriage but opposes amending the constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Ironically enough, Mike Huckabee, whom most of the "conservative" pundits constantly compare to Jimmy Carter is the only frontrunner who has consistently opposed same sex marriage and special rights for homosexuals. (and even Huckabee has been wobbly on the issue most recently in an interview on the Tyra Banks show).
Kirk and many of the Founding Fathers of our nation believed that God would bless our nation if we abided by His laws and elected Godly leaders of the highest character and integrity.
Noah Webster wrote:
"Let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers just men who will rule in the fear of God…If the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted.."
What would Noah Webster say about our "conservative" and Christian leaders like Pat Robertson who founded the 700 Club and the Christian Coalition who endorsed Rudy Guiliani for president who supports killing babies and sodomy based marriage and adoption? A man on his third marriage who is estranged from his own kids?
What does it say that so many leading "conservatives" endorsed and supported Mitt Romney? As a radio talk show host in Boston I covered Romney closely when he was governor and was very familiar with his record. Mitt Romney lied about being under a court order which he falsely claimed forced him to order Justices of the Peace to perform same sex marriage ceremonies. In the process of illegally instituting same sex marriage in America he violated at least 8 articles of the oldest functioning constitution in the world the Massachusetts Constitution authored by another of the Founding Fathers of American conservatism John Adams- and Dr. James Dobson, the head of the largest Christian family organization in America, said only a few weeks back that Romney would have been a candidate that values voters could have supported.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret. The conservative elite's cover up of Mitt Romney's record is the biggest political scandal of my life time. The reason you don't know that? Too many leaders in the conservative establishment are implicated in it.
Make no mistake about it. Mitt Romney was a bad man who unloaded a toxic legacy on the children of Massachusetts involving funding pro-sodomy brainwashing in public schools, 50 dollar abortions, forcing the largest adoption and foster care agency in Boston Catholic Charities to place children with homosexuals instead of mother-father families, and trashing about 8 articles of the most explicit constitution in the world which denies judges the power to re-define marriage or make law. Mitt Romney held a going out of bisiness sale for western civilization and democracy.
And he was the candidate that a significant number of very prominent "conservative" leaders and pundits were claiming was the most authentic conservative in the race, the one most likely to unite the Reagan coalition and defeat the Democrats.
The fact that so many leading "conservatives" were supporting the most left wing GOP candidate perfectly illustrates the advanced state of corruption of the modern day conservative movement.
I am often asked in interviews if perhaps all those who supported Romney like Rush, Sean, Laura, Ann, Jay Sekulow, Tony Perkins, James Dobson, Hugh Hewitt, and Paul Weyrich all merely make an honest mistake in supporting him.
All I can tell you is to me that it defies logic that all of the leading conservatives who evangelized Romney for almost a year were totally ignorant of his actual record.
But Romney is merely a holograph, a projection, of the Republican Party and conservative movement which has consistently compromised its core values and beliefs (the "permanent things" that conservatives are supposed to defend) most of the time for power, prestige, and money.
Wouldn't true "conservative" leaders interested in preserving those "permanent things" to which Kirk so often referred have endorsed presidential candidates who most authentically stood for them such as Dr. Alan Keyes, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, and Mike Huckabee?
Why is it that the men with the most personal integrity who were strongest on the most vital conservative issues -such as sanctity of life and marriage, American sovereignty, limited government, and constitutionalism -received the least amount of support from the conservative establishment?
Ann Coulter and Phyllis Schlaffley both said they thought Duncan Hunter was the most qualified candidate. Coulter has even endorsed Alan Keyes in the past. So why then did she decide to abandon Hunter and decide to support Romney? In fact most of these candidates were virtually ignored by the mainstream conservative media. Keyes was even barred from a Fox News Channel GOP debate.
Do you think that if the so called conservative radio talkers like Hannity and Rush had made the case for an authentic conservative like Hunter or Keyes or Huckabee or whomever early on that they could have enabled one of those candidates to become a first tier candidate with a shot at the nomination?
They could have. But they didn't. Instead they chose to support the most left wing candidate Romney which ultimately siphoned support among self identified conservative voters from Huckabee which ultimately gave us John McCain. Ironically, the same "conservative" media lawyer-talkers are now complaining the most about McCain are actually the ones who bear the most responsibility for the fact he is our nominee. If you identify yourself politically when you get older as a conservative you are going to get into trouble because that term no longer describes a world view. The term conservative has become a morally and intellectually bankrupt term that may even pass out of widespread existence before the end of your life time. And the reason is that a word that means anything and everything actually stands for nothing. (Let me repeat that)
My message to you this morning then is to know what you believe in.
That's vital because if America is to be preserved from the Democrat-Socialists who seek to transform our nation into a socialist utopia and push us into world government and the throat cutting Jihadist savages who seek to destroy our nation and Western Civilization and put all our women into burkas, true conservatives must realize that we will not be able to do so if we merely seek to preserve the status quo.
The conservative movement in America is terminally ill. We are following leaders who are drunk with power, too willing to sacrifice principal at the altar of pragmatism, who are leading us in the wrong direction.
C.S. Lewis said:
"We all want progress. But if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about face and walking back to the right road in that case. The man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."
The conservative establishment is leading us down the wrong road. We may be winning elections (although with increasingly less frequency and by slimmer margins). But we, in the process, continue to surrender our core principles. We have now sacrificed our most fundamental principles in the name of pragmatism and political expediency. Today's conservatism is nothing more than yesterdays' liberalism and moral relativism. This is happening because the conservative elites have cashed in their principles at a political pawn shop, believing they can stop back in anytime and buy them back.
I mean look. The presumptive Democrat nominee and current frontrunner for president Barack Obama is in favor of killing babies who are born alive who survive an attempt to abort them. Think about that. All the Democrats support abortion on demand which is bad enough. But the leading candidate of the Democrat Party (Mr. Change and Hope) is in favor of killing babies that are born alive after a botched abortion attempt. Babies lying on the hospital table alive and breathing after a doctor has failed to kill them. Pause. This is not 1940 Nazi Germany. This is your country-- the USA in 2008.
Is America so immoral that the leader in the polls for president is a man who is in favor of killing babies after they have been born?
What's really scary about this is that I don't think that a GOP opponent would be able to take advantage of that potentially fatal weakness.
The GOP seems to want to discuss everything else under the--sun taxes, defense, individual retirement accounts, and even climate change, etc..
Now you would think in a normal country the radical positions of the Democrats would fatally cripple them. But if the other party is playing along with it, there is no contest. If one party doesn't make an issue out of it, then it's not an issue. Imagine campaigning against Hitler in 1933-- he has written Mein Kampf so you know what is coming, but all you talk about is the economy and national defense. Folks, it's not just the Dems who have gone insane -- the GOP is not far behind.
One of the great figures in Western Civilization, Dante, said: "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality."
And the founding father of conservatism Edmund Burke said: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph if for good men to do nothing."
Similarly, Christ said: "I would that you were hot or cold for the lukewarm I will vomit from my mouth."
This insight negates the classic GOP strategy of winning the middle ground.
Yet the so called conservative political experts like Karl Rove have been saying the key to Republican victories election after election is to win the moderate middle. And while we continue to win nail-biter presidential elections it seems as though Napoleon was right when he said: "the logical end of defensive warfare is surrender."
See Napoleon is telling Karl Rove that you will end up surrendering the very ground your whole war was designed to defend.
If we can't even mount an effective rhetorical attack either within the GOP spectrum or against the far left fascist Dems, we have already surrendered. Napoleon's warning has come true.
What I am saying is that the conservative movement has really just devolved into a loose knit organization of pragmatists who in their desire to keep their hands on the levers of power have compromised the traditional values true conservatives are supposed to be preserving.
So the question this morning is whether traditional "conservatism" based on the preservation of the "permanent things" can be achieved in our lifetime. I believe it is possible and that your generation of "conservative" leaders and thinkers will lead that restoration.
What will it require?
The first thing it will require is an acknowledgement that the word conservative now obscures more than it describes. Therefore I reiterate what I told you earlier which is that you must identify your selves not as conservatives or Republicans but as citizens who are passionate about first principles. As Lincoln told America when slavery was still protected as a state's right, I implore you to return to the principles of the Declaration, the founding legal charter of our nation and officially part of the Organic Law of the United States of America. Do not focus on Reagan or the late William F Buckley and certainly not Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity, or Ingraham. As Lincoln urged, I urge you to return to the first principles. A movement which is a pastiche of personality cults is a dead movement pretending to be alive.
Pragmatists who call themselves conservative will not preserve America. They will merely cede more ground in the culture war in return for maintaining power and prestige. Only vigilant citizens fighting for the permanent truths can restore America's moral fabric and constitutional integrity.
As I have said, the word conservative is just a 12 letter word bereft of any ideological content. Even Democrats are calling some of their views conservative these days. What is important is not that you call yourself a conservative but that you figure out what values and beliefs you are actually fighting for.
That is the vital determination each of you must make.
Will you go the way of the modern day conservative movement that has mortally compromised the central tenets that the founding fathers of conservatism sought to preserve and many cases died for(the sanctity of life and the centrality of marriage and the Natural Human Family chief among them)? Or will you stand, in the immortal words of the recently deceased William F. Buckley, "athwart history yelling Stop" to the relentless pragmatic surrender of our day to preserve those "permanent things" like life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, … that drove the great conservatives like Ronald Reagan whose home away from home we gather today.
That is the question.
In closing I would like to quote Reagan's forerunner Senator Barry Goldwater who famously said:
"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"
We are living in perilous times. America will not be preserved by fainthearted "moderates." It will require the determination and raw courage of true American Patriots who will fight for permanent things though they are unpopular. You will always be in the minority when you chose to shoulder heroic obligations. It is not in the now vacuous term "conservatism" but in a rediscovery of and a fierce new commitment to first principles that should give you hope for the restoration and preservation of America, her constitutional system, and her moral fabric.
* Gregg Jackson [www.greggjackson.com] is the author of "Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies: Issue by Issue Repsonses to the Most Common Claims of the Left from A to Z" [www.amazon.com/Conservative-Comebacks-Liberal-Lies-Responses/dp/0977227901/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-0819165-6065708?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1178135052&sr=8-1] and a talk radio show host on WRKO in Boston.
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