Submitted by State Senator Chris McDaniel
No better description of Mississippi conservatism than an unyielding and independent desire to be left alone in our pursuits of joy.
Years ago, I received a call from the presidential campaign of a very powerful GOP hopeful. A longtime member of the establishment, he was attempting to understand “our brand of conservatism.”
“Tell me about Mississippi,” he inquired.
Inspired by Goldwater, Jefferson, and Reagan, my response was simple.
Mississippi conservatives are proud proponents of limited government, free markets, personal responsibility, a balance between liberty and law, and a commitment to order and public virtue. And yet, individual behavior is not ours to manipulate by government mandate. As Russell Kirk explained, “We have not been appointed the correctors of mankind; but, under God, we may be an example to mankind.”
We believe that political solutions should be sensitive to and aware of 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.
Our philosophy is characterized by respect for inherited institutions, in which individuals develop character by voluntarily cooperating with others in local associations such as families, churches, and social groups designed to further the common good without government interference.
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 Ronald 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 great republic – our collective experiences, wisdom, and beliefs in the principles that have guided us for two centuries.
Before we look for government to “save us from our present crises,” we would rather depend on ourselves, our families, and our communities. Thus, political hero-worship is not our norm; we are not often convinced by smooth-speakers desiring a cult of personality.
Governments expand because they do not trust the independent, free judgments of the people. But Mississippi conservatives understand that any movement whose central promise is a relief from personal responsibility is immoral in its effect, however lofty its good intentions. Moreover, we know that 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. But, 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 self-government represents the cornerstone of our philosophy, we believe people should accept the consequences of their actions, although failure or unhappiness may be the eventual result.
Perhaps there is no better description of Mississippi conservatism than an unyielding and independent desire to be left alone in our pursuits of joy. Such is the object of our imagination, along with peace and contentment, family, church, home, and community – the beating heart of Mississippi.
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 that central planners despise. We are haters of tyranny, lovers of ordered liberty – a stubborn people, indeed.
We need no super-government to preside over us from a distant location; we are too proud for that.
If you wish to satisfy us, I concluded, then trust us by returning the power to the people.
And then kindly allow us to govern ourselves.
Submitted by State Senator Chris McDaniel.