The pinnacle of another political season is upon us and about the only thing that Kentuckians can agree on at this point is that they are ready for it to be over. The presidential race and its non-stop coverage unofficially began two years ago, leaving even the most politically interested among us exhausted. Our homes have been inundated by TV and radio ads, automated phone calls and political mailers. We’ve heard campaign speeches and watched the debates. Yet there are still many “undecided voters” – an interesting bunch, considering the wealth of candidate information available. But the question every citizen must answer is what precisely is it that we are deciding on?
What are the most important issues facing our commonwealth and nation? Who is best to lead on these issues? What kind of a nation are we and what leaders will protect the things we cherish? These are all critical questions. But in the day where political promises have saddled us with $11 trillion in debt and burgeoning federal programs are projected to bust within decades, we also ought to consider the role of government, what it can and cannot do for a free people. Politicians come and go, but our Commonwealth and nation will remain. Just what it looks like after their tenure is another question altogether.
Our Founding Fathers were wary of big government. In fact, after living under England’s heavy hand, they disdained it. They believed that freedom is incompatible with big government and liberty is best maintained by strong self-government. George Washington said, "Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” James Madison, the architect of the Constitution said, "The essence of government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” The Founders’ theme was freedom and they recognized that overarching government was incompatible with it.
What is our theme today? What, if anything, are we willing to fight for? And just what is it that we are living for? What is it we expect our leaders to do once in office? Every political season has a way of forcing the big questions, similar questions our founders faced some 232 years ago when Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration explains who we are and what we are about better than anything. “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.”
Do we still believe that key phrase today? That there is such a thing as truth; that there is a God who created us and endows us with rights? It is no mistake that Jefferson prioritized life as the first of our unalienable rights. Without it, all other rights are meaningless. Since 1973, our nation has an abysmal record on life where abortion has denied that fundamental right to over 46 million unborn American children; a million alone last year and 4,315 of those were in Kentucky. What is liberty and what is the pursuit of happiness without life? Indeed, when perverted notions of liberty usurp life, we are left with a dubious kind of happiness.
Of all the issues, the sanctity of life is foundational. America has been engaged in a civil debate since Roe v. Wade and it’s time – even past time – that this issue be resolved to reflect the values of our Founders. Of course there are other important issues at stake, but our challenge, like Jefferson’s, is to prioritize and determine what the most important issues are when we vote on Nov. 4, because without our first right, we wouldn’t be going to the polls in the first place.