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
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
· 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
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.