By Senator Chris McDaniel
From time to time, people ask about the governing philosophy of conservatism — particularly conservative thought in the State of Mississippi.
“What do conservatives in Mississippi believe?” they inquire. “What drives your political viewpoints?”
To answer, I offer the following (with grateful acknowledgment of Goldwater, Hayek, Jefferson, and Reagan):
We believe that political solutions should be sensitive to the whole human being – mind, body and soul – conceding that the problems affecting society are the result of the complexity of human life and therefore cannot be quickly or efficiently rectified by government action, schemes of forced social improvement or similar one-size-fits-all approaches.
Although we are flawed and imperfect, we refuse to ignore the spiritual side of individuals. Consequently, we hope to maintain a high moral tone in society, insisting that truths exist and are necessary for people to responsibly self-govern their affairs. We trust in God, as He is our foundation.
Our philosophy is characterized by respect for inherited institutions, in which individuals develop character by voluntarily cooperating with others in local associations designed to further the common good without government interference.
Living within our means is a way of life for us, so we expect our government to do the same. We request the courtesy to earn a living, but do not desire the government to provide for our necessities. Work is always preferred to welfare.
Before we look for government to save us from every perceived crisis, we would rather depend on ourselves, our families and friends. Hero worship is not our norm, as we are not easily charmed by smooth-talking politicians desiring a cult of personality.
Governments only expand because they do not trust the independent, free judgments of the people. But we understand that any movement whose main promise is a relief from personal responsibility is immoral in its effect, however lofty its good intentions.
The acceptance of personal responsibility begins with the admission of a simple truth: the government is not our ultimate protector and cannot be all things to all people; liberty is the result of individuals learning to rule themselves.
We admire complexities, embracing blessed variations and stubborn particularities. Unlike liberalism, it is not our desire to override the wills of people and reform them into one master plan. Liberals seek to use the power of government to dominate others; we do not and would never.
Since independence is a cornerstone of our philosophy, we believe people and corporations should accept the consequences of their actions, although failure or unhappiness may be the eventual result. Government bailouts offend our notions of justice and fairness.
And yet, Mississippi conservatives do not presume to have all the answers, because they are not ours to give.
The collective knowledge of humanity, driven along by complex experiences good and bad, are far better teachers than any one movement, person or government could ever be. It was President Reagan who reminded us that his strength as a “great communicator” was always rooted in his communication of great things that came from the heart of a remarkable republic – our collective experiences, wisdom, and beliefs in the principles that have guided us for two centuries.
Perhaps there is no better description of Mississippi conservatism than an unyielding desire simply to be left alone in our pursuits of joy. This is the object of our imagination, along with peace and contentment, family, church and community – the beating heart of Mississippi.
Although we are patriotic believers in American exceptionalism, we need no super government to preside over us from a distant location; we are too proud for that. America’s greatness is derived from its free citizens, not the coercion of its government.
We are common people, but of good sense. Men and women of the soil, whose virtues arise from the simplicity of life. In other words, we are precisely the kind of creatures who are despised by central planners. Haters of tyranny, lovers of ordered liberty – a stubborn people, indeed.
In short, we respectfully distrust anyone who would dare to rule us, demanding they understand our simple request:
Trust us to govern ourselves.