For Love of Country

For Love of Country

Corey Uhden, Politics Contributor

Near the end of The National Review Online’s June 30 edition of The Editors podcast, Rich Lowry asked a provocative exit question: would you still love America if the country had different ideals? The participants all answered to some degree, “yes,” drawing umbrage from conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg and setting off a debate

Lowry says he models his exit questions on the format preferred by the late John McLaughlin, “to elicit a very quick answer,” in this case “yes or no.” So allow to me to answer Rich’s question, no, with the necessary caveat that it would depend entirely on the ideals. 

Maybe it is because I was born here, my parents were born here, and their parents were born here that I am afforded the luxury of ignoring any reverence for the place in which I was raised. Or maybe it is because I was raised in Temecula, California, a mostly homogenous, high-income city that is rated among the safest in America and California’s most conservative enclaves that I take for granted all of the bountiful opportunities that America has had to offer. I would argue that such prosperity, such opportunity, is only possible because of America’s obsession with liberty. It is only because we have maintained the ideals of a constitutional republic that a city like Temecula was able to flourish and I was able to enjoy it. 

A constitutional republic is one that empowers the people to choose their representatives but equally, and crucially, one that limits the power of those representatives at the same time. Both pieces are indispensable. The people’s representatives must adhere to the original principles of the written Constitution that can be amended when necessary. Should they arrogate this responsibility, it has been the role of the courts to check their ambitions.

Progressives, liberals, and leftists, or whatever they want to call themselves these days, want to change this dynamic. Through administrative rulemaking and judicial acquiescence, they aim to redefine the American project as obsessively committed to the realization of social and economic justice. That would render the ideals of equal opportunity, earned success, and impartial justice no longer operative. I do not begrudge them for this pursuit and I would never dispute their right to this belief. However, this is why we conservatives engage in the political arena; it means that we cannot allow them to attain power and, should they attain power, they must never be permitted to use it for such purposes regardless of popular opinion. 

To illustrate this conviction, consider Hillary Clinton’s answer to a debate question in 2016. In the third presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked Clinton and Trump about the type of justices they might appoint to the Supreme Court. Clinton promised to appoint judges that would take “the side of the American people.” I wrote of this exchange, “it was a bad answer from someone that shouldn’t be allowed to appoint ANYONE to the Supreme Court.” But had Hillary Clinton won 12,000 more votes in Michigan, 28,000 more in Wisconsin, and 69,000 more in Pennsylvania, she would have been elected president and gotten the opportunity regardless. She might have re-nominated Merrick Garland, or chosen someone else, some progressive politician that she owed. In that case, the Republicans in the Senate would have no choice but to prevent the appointment. If Justice Kennedy then announced his retirement, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg then died, the Republicans would have to consider the nominees’ qualifications. If they found that Clinton had kept her word and nominated judges that would serve as mere politicians in robes and make policy as Sonia Sotomayor once admitted, frankly, the country would be best served by sending Chief Justice John Roberts instructions to carry out the Court’s business without a full bench. They could write, “in our role of advice and consent on judicial appointments, we cannot consent.” That is how crucial the Supreme Court is to the preservation of constitutional order and American liberty.

I imagine the other side feels the same way, but not only did they lose the presidency and fail to gain control of the Senate, President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, an independent judge that has always put the constitution and the law first. Democrats foolishly filibustered anyway. They abused their power as the minority and lost the privilege for all future minorities to filibuster Supreme Court nominees as a result. However, that could backfire on the Republicans in the future, to the detriment of the American people. 

We often forget that all Americans want to reach the same destination; we just differ on which course to take. As conservatives, our highest ideal is to preserve the privileges of freedom and extend it to all those that have yet to realize the opportunities it affords. Freedom is the lifeblood of the republic. It grants us the power to pursue happiness, whether we seek to attain it through accumulating material wealth and/or raising a healthy family. Politics is supposed to be subordinate to these ideals that unite us, but should political leaders seek to undermine, alter, or abolish them, we have no choice to but resist their ambitions.

Goldberg uses the absurd hypothetical prospect of a Queen Kim Kardashian to illustrate his point, but if progressives or nationalists merely managed to establish the United States of America as a bastion of redistribution, would conservatives would still love America? I imagine we would but we’d love “the America that was,” as Goldberg eloquently concluded, and we’d fight for it, but we’d be “fighting against the American nation in the name of that great and glorious cause, the American Idea.” 

You can follow the author on Twitter @CACoreyU

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