I confess that today I was … triggered.
Watching CNN in the office, as is my habit while I work, I heard Carol Costello repeat a common claim made by those on the Left who have zero understanding of the American founding. In this particular segment of “CNN Newsroom,” she asked her guests about something President Trump said today.
Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, the president said that the people in that room were united by their common humanity. “We are not just flesh and bone and blood, we are human beings with souls,” he said.
“Our republic was formed on the basis that freedom is not a gift from government, but that freedom is a gift from God.”
And Costello found that strange.
“He said ‘it is God who gave us life and liberty’ … not, of course, the mere men who wrote the Constitution, and came up with the Constitution and our way of government.”
As is typical for the Left (and media), Costello fundamentally misunderstands the American founding — the cornerstone principles of the American republic.
What exactly were those “mere men” thinking when they put the founding documents of our government together? To understand the philosophy of the United States Constitution, you must first consult the Declaration of Independence.
Thomas Jefferson wrote:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
You see, in the social-compact theory adopted by our Founding Fathers, government does not exist to confer rights upon the people. Those rights preexist government. They are God-given — bestowed upon by the Creator.
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The role of government, then, is to protect those rights. As the Declaration continues: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
A just government acknowledges the natural rights of the people, who have consented to submit themselves to this government’s authority with the understanding that it was instituted to protect their natural rights. When a government fails to protect the natural rights of its people, it is no government at all.
“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
As Conservative Review Editor-in-Chief Mark Levin wrote in his book, “Ameritopia”: “The Declaration of Independence represents the most prominent, official, consensus position of the Founders’ rationale for declaring independence and, importantly, the philosophical origin of the new country.”
The philosophy of the Declaration was put into practice in the formation of the “new country” — the United States of America. And the country was formed with the United States Constitution. Hillsdale College President Dr. Larry Arnn beautifully describes the “divine” connection between our founding documents in his book, “The Founders’ Key: The Divine and Natural Connection Between the Declaration and the Constitution and What We Risk by Losing It”:
A constitution is not only described in the Declaration of Independence; it is necessary to it. The Declaration claims that the people may not be governed except when they have given their consent. They must agree that some particular offices must be occupied by some particular people who may do some particular things. The Declaration describes what kinds those offices ought to be and how they should be related to one another, but it does not provide the offices themselves or any way for their occupants to be selected. A constitution like the one we have is then a necessary element of the American government.
Carol Costello’s double-plus wrong idea about our founding is so commonplace that it ranks right up there with the “separation of church and state” misnomer. This is also the same tripe that leads people to think that the court-manufactured positive rights of the 20th century rank up there with the fundamental, negative ones articulated in the Declaration and Bill of Rights.
These (leftist) falsehoods and myths are commonplace because they have been endorsed and articulated, fought for at every level of government for more than 100 years by the Progressive movement.
As the Claremont Institute’s Dr. John Marini wrote in an excellent essay, “The Progressive movement … had as its fundamental purpose the destruction of the political and moral authority of the U.S. Constitution.”
The moral authority of the Constitution comes from understanding that the rights protected by government are not created by government. These rights are endowed to mankind by a higher moral authority. They are derived from a higher law.
The Left rejects this understanding out of necessity. For if rights are manmade, if they have no attachment to a moral force that is beyond mankind, then “rights” can simply be created out of our selfish desires. Such as the right to kill an unborn child … and have the government subsidize the exercise of that “right.” Other rights can be taken away in the name of progress, such as the right of religious conscience objections.
In his National Prayer Breakfast speech, President Trump cited Thomas Jefferson:
It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, “the God who gave us life, gave us liberty.” Jefferson asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
For all his faults, President Donald Trump has a better understanding of America — and origin of natural rights — than all progressives.
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.