What the 1996 Election Should Have Been About
America's choice is between reverting to the - largely English - principles on which this country was founded, or abandoning them in favor of the Continental-European model. Increasingly, our national debate has been between Liberals who advocate the latter, and Conservatives who advocate the former.
Americans were ready to make the long-term determination in 1996. That was not to be. First, President Clinton shifted his ground. Then Senator Dole fell silent about morality, equality before the law, free exercise of religion, private property, freedom of speech and assembly, language, immigration. Both decided to mask what they, and their respective sides, intended for the future. Clinton was anxious not to be labeled a Liberal; Dole got cold feet at the thought of appearing to side with Conservatives. The ensuing truce stripped the 1996 presidential election of significance.
Yet the moment of truth cannot be delayed indefinitely. In the late 1960s we imported a dispute, a contest, a war which had erupted in Europe more than two centuries ago. Unless we wish to continue flailing about in a blind rage, we had better comprehend what the dispute is really about.
Ten years after the Declaration of Independence, George Washington felt compelled to ask Madison, "What security has a man of Life, Liberty or Prosperity?" The Constitution, its subsequent amendments, and The Federalist Papers supplied the answers - the first and only successful road map to guide a new nation.
The authors had a vast canvas of religious, political and ethical thought to look at. Except for the Bible, what they chose as their model had evolved in Britain. Thinkers of other nations had contributed much intellectual product of import, but it was alone in the British Isles that good thoughts had brought forth good institutions.
More impressive still than their ability to project 20/20 vision into the future was the capacity of the Founders to assess the intrinsic value of the English heritage, even as they prosecuted the struggle against the English Crown. Their complaint was precisely that "the present King of Great Britain" had violated the tenets of "the free System of English Laws" grown out of the Magna Carta of 1215.
Unlike other societies, English institutions brought about increasing containment of central power and the concurrent expansion of individual rights - the ingredients of freedom. America's Founders accelerated the process by choosing the republican form of government, and making participation accessible to the men, women and children of other nations. Equal status for all religions completed the list showing few differences between British and American principles. The similarities are infinitely more significant and as closely tied to the English language as the word "fairness" which, to this day, has no equivalent in any other language. Endowed with beauty and depth by Shakespeare and applied to legal concepts by Blackstone, it was in this language that John Locke articulated the tenets of limited government and Adam Smith laid down the fundamentals of competitive economics. The British-based American approach is distinguished by:
· A legal system of few laws (the fewer the laws, the broader the agreement); flexible common law as opposed to fixed codified law; trial by lay jurors as opposed to professional jurists; a judiciary fully independent of other branches of government, and not allowed to make laws. Equality before the law - the greatest achievement of mankind - was established as the norm.
· Rights vested exclusively in individuals because rights conferred upon groups strip individuals of theirs. Rights must include the prerogative to enter into contract freely, and the freedom of speech, association, assembly.
· Property which government must guarantee unconditionally; no limitation on the accumulation of property, so as to remove all barriers to vertical mobility, provide maximum incentive for competition, and facilitate parents' natural aspiration to benefit their children.
· A national identity which, in place of a shared history, is based on universal belief in and adherence to the above principles; a common language in place of a shared culture; an intrinsic, Bible-based morality in place of a uniform religion.
Every aspect of traditional American society has been subjected to a fully integrated attack - not by conspirators but by powerful, intoxicating Continental-European ideas with irrational claims to a 'perfect' world. An avalanche of laws, regulations and executive orders, verdicts with a political agenda, and judges who legislate threaten our Legal System. Affirmative Action, set-asides and quotas, restrictions on contracts between individuals, freedom of speech and association only for 'protected minorities' erode our Individual Rights. Graduated income tax, capital gains tax, estate tax, targeted environmental hysteria, the rhetoric of class warfare limit our Property rights and undermine America's economic strength. National identity is attacked by History Standards, Bi-Lingual Education, 'Diversity,' Christian religions portrayed as dangerous, Immigration used to weaken the social fabric and drain resources, and singling out the Navy, long the symbol of freedom on the high seas, for recurrent bashing.
The assault on the Anglo-American model has been dressed up as 'tolerance and compassion.' Such words have succeeded in recruiting unsuspecting millions to the 'cause.' It is of the utmost urgency that we open our eyes and minds to the ancient European battle we have been co-opted to join.
That is what the presidential candidates should have laid out before the people. That is the arena in which the 1998 elections, the last vote in the present millennium, must take place.