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The approaching elections are a good occasion for us to reflect on the
deeper meaning of the act of choice we will make at the polls. Many of
the choices we will make in the privacy of the voting booth are vexedly
ambiguous and require all the prudence and common sense we can muster.
But the ritual of voting itself should always remind us that our entire
way of life depends on our national confidence that ordinary men and
women have the God-given capacity to make reasoned moral judgments for
themselves.

Either we have a capacity for moral judgment or we don’t. And liberty
itself is meaningless unless we really have received from the hand of
God the capacity for moral judgment and the ability to make moral
choices. But if our liberty is based on a faith in our capacity to make
right judgments, then we it follows that we have a responsibility always
to be vigilant that our government respects our capacity to do what God
intends for us to do. In fact, this is the very reasoning that we
announced to the world in the Declaration that marked to the birth of
American independence. In America, political liberty is precious
because it is the opportunity for us to do our duty, to govern ourselves
according to justice before God and the world.

Because these things are true, the American political order can be
threatened not just by particular bad policies. It is most
fundamentally threatened when our leaders propose things to us that
entice us to acknowledge tacitly that we are no longer capable of
responsible freedom. The abortion agenda’s offer of the tyrannical
right to “choose” to annihilate our own offspring, the gun control and
condom distribution agendas with their implicit message that we can’t
control ourselves in the face of passion, and the pervasive implication
of the income tax and nanny-state spending regime that we cannot be
trusted to take care of ourselves with our own money, all present such a
threat. All are examples of the kind of policy that our politicians
turn to because they no longer understand or believe in the vision of an
American people filled with a quiet determination to lead responsible
lives of moral rectitude. Our elites increasingly do not believe in the
human capacity for moral judgment, and their policies show it.

Real belief in liberty requires respect for its divine Author, because
at the end of the day the ground for our free will is God’s will. If
God’s authority is not there to support it then we have no choice, and
no immutable reference point either for moral judgment or for our claim
to freedom.

Without this foundation, democratic politics becomes merely a useful
fiction that helps to keep us docile. It becomes a game, a sham, a
manipulative structure, and since there is no ultimate ground for it,
why would ambitious politicians participate in the rituals of political
liberty? It is to get power by being the one who most successfully
dupes people — most successfully manipulates them with lies and false
promises. That means that the best liar will be the most successful
politician. He’ll be the one praised and honored.

And so Bill Clinton, the best liar, becomes the paradigm of the
successful politician in a system based on a concept of freedom without
ground or substance. This is the real significance both of Bill Clinton
and of our time — Clinton is the model of the one who believes that
there is no truth and who therefore lies with the greatest brazenness,
the greatest conviction, and the greatest success.

So as you go to the polls to make your free choice — to do your duty —
you should ask yourself why politicians willing to permit a man like
Bill Clinton to remain president still have the nerve to talk to us as
though they value liberty and the duties of citizenship.

They do so because the rhetoric of a false idea of freedom enables them
to construct a system that encourages people to hand power to them, and
they will thus get that power in an easier fashion than if they had to
use coercion in order to get it out of our hands. The false rhetoric of
“freedom” is simply aimed at putting people in a mood to surrender
voluntarily the power that can be used to oppress them. The power grab
is conducted under the rubric of a liberty that we cannot really believe
in once we have denied the basic premise of that liberty, which is God’s
existence and our own moral capacity. Led by such politicians today, we
face the real danger that our whole way of life is becoming an elaborate
game, the shell of self-government having become simply a vehicle for
the ambitious folks among us to seek power.

This issue goes all the way back to our founding. Alexander Hamilton
gave a wonderful speech at the Constitutional Convention — it lasted six
hours — in which he talked about certain permanent classes of people in
the human race. He referred to them as the princes and the people. The
princes are that class of ambitious individuals who, by their very
nature, seek power over others. And it so happens that these people can
be very dangerous; they have been the class from which come the tyrants
and the oligarchs and the oppressors of humanity.

They also happen to be very important, however, because that kind of
ambition can also be the source of great enterprises, great improvements
to human life, and the leadership that forges courage on the battlefield
and initiative in business enterprises and great discoveries in science.

And so one challenge of the statesman, when putting together a good
constitution, is how to harness that ambition and yet at the same time
prevent it from becoming oppressive to the people as a whole. The
Founders intended our Constitution to be put together in such a way as
to achieve that. But there is always the danger at any given moment
that any constitution, including ours, will be manipulated by the
ambitious people because it provides a way that is easier than direct
force to achieve their ultimate goal, which is to have absolute power
over us and oppress us. If we permit the ambitious and energetic men
among us to believe that we are a people tired of our liberty, the
temptation to take it from us will be irresistible.

The only real safeguard is for the citizens to participate in politics
on an entirely different basis, always showing that we actually believe
that human beings are capable of liberty, and that there is a ground for
moral choice and judgement. We must insist that our political leaders
really try to persuade us of the superiority of their policies in the
light of the immutable principles of truth and rationality that God has
established and that we ought to respect. We must insist that
politicians pay their respects to the truth that the real purpose of
campaigns is to try to move people’s hearts and minds so that they will
choose as God has given it them to choose, on a right basis.

Our behavior in recent decades, and perhaps culminating in the present
Clinton crisis, calls into question our ability to make such choices —
to govern ourselves by truly moral choice. This is one of the reasons
that we must all have such urgency about the moral crisis our nation
faces, and why we must resolve to make our politicians face this
question, and face it now. If we in act in such a way as to confirm our
lack of moral character, then whether or not God gives us the capacity,
we’re not using it, and so we will lose our freedom. A people no
longer confident in its capacity for self-government is just waiting for
a tyrant to show up.

The act of voting is one opportunity for us to remember that our whole
way of life is predicated on the capacity of ordinary people to judge
carefully and well. Whatever particular decisions we face as we decide
how to vote, we must always remember that politicians who encourage us
to think that regular people are not up the task of moral deliberation
and personal self-government are laying the ax to the very root of
liberty.

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