The Remnant and the President

(Denver Post, Nov. 18) “Out there in Colorado, what is the remnant looking for in a president?" The editor of a conservative magazine had called from Washington to talk about the 2008 race. His question surprised me at first. We’re often considered flyover country by those DC types. But in today’s polarized electorate, Colorado matters more. Gore would have won in 2000 with our handful of electoral votes; Kerry in 2004 with ours and another state our size. A bright teenager knows that much. My friend’s term “the remnant” was less familiar. He didn’t just mean Republicans or conservatives. He meant those of us who care deeply about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the natural-law worldview underlying them. We who try to think about government in the 21st century as did Jefferson in the 18th century, Lincoln in the 19th, and Reagan in the 20th. Around a remnant, an unbowed faithful few, Athens withstood Sparta, Rome overcame Carthage, Moses’ followers and Jesus’ followers rallied. Britain drove off the Armada, Christendom repelled Islam at Vienna, patriots weathered Valley Forge. The pilgrims we honor at Thanksgiving were another remnant who changed history.

Colorado’s constitutional remnant is not a GOP majority, not yet, but that’s our goal. You’ll find us in places like the legislature’s Republican Study Committee, the Independence Institute, the family institute, and the taxpayers’ union; on Mike Rosen’s radio show or mine; lunching with Claremont’s conservative conspiracy group or plotting at the monthly center-right coffee.

As election year approaches, what we’re looking for in a president is fidelity to America’s founding principles and backbone for tough times. We believe in rights endowed by God, consent of the governed, limits on power, vigilance against predators, prudence amid uncertainty. We want a chief executive does too.

We value but distrust the parties. Two cheers for the GOP, so prone to expediency. One cheer for the Dems, coercive utopians much of the time – but thank goodness they’re here to keep the Republicans honest. Apart from the rare Democrat whom we could imagine in the White House, a Joe Lieberman or a Dick Lamm, we’re left to pick our presidential prospects among the R’s.

The remnant treasures history. When someone seeks our vote, we apply a “reminds me of” test. Governors whom we’ve known close up, perhaps even more than presidents we’ve watched from afar, become a yardstick.

John Love, affable as Eisenhower, resembled him in being too comfortable with big government. John Vanderhoof was our Jerry Ford, a legislative master lacking executive gifts. Bill Owens shared the open, confident style of fellow Texan George W. Bush; unfortunately neither proved as creatively and consistently conservative as their hero, Reagan. Colorado has yet to find its Reagan.

State governors like these good men and state legislators as I once was, along with congressmen and senators, are all sworn to “support” the U.S. Constitution. Only one American is under oath to “preserve, protect, and defend” that great charter of self-government and liberty: the President of the United States. Your and my participation in choosing that individual is a solemn trust. This is no homecoming popularity vote. This is for keeps.

Two former governors, three congressmen, a current and a former senator, and a former mayor, come as suitors to Colorado’s constitutional conservatives. Romney, Huckabee, Tancredo, Hunter, Paul, McCain, Thompson, or Giuliani – who will it be?

Though we of the remnant won’t decide the Republican nominee or the 2008 winner, we have our consciences to answer to. We prefer the wilderness with honor to office ill-gotten. We mean to restore the constitution, with the next president’s help if possible. Reagan is the gold standard, but he’s gone. Our choices are what they are. Bring on the primaries.