Big things have small beginnings.
This adage captures the essence of Senator Mike Lee’s keynote address to a small group of libertarians and conservatives during America’s Future Foundation’s leadership dinner series on June 25.
Throughout his speech, Lee touched upon a variety of issues young professionals should have in mind when pursuing a career, but there was one thing that stood out when he began answering the audience’s questions about his experience in trying to change America’s political landscape.
Upon their initial and “rambunctious” 2010 arrival in Washington, Lee and his Tea Party cohorts had a conservative vision of swift reform, but were eventually forced to readjust their strategy.
They now rely on a more gradual approach. Through four years as a first-term senator, Lee has learned to apply his principles the slow-paced reality of what it’s like trying to reform status quo politics.
For instance, Lee said that he “came [to D.C.] a little bit more optimistic about our ability to achieve fundamental, radical changes to the way our government collects revenue and I can see that as entrenched as it is right now we definitely need a lot of change, but I think we have to move in a step-by-step fashion.”
Incremental steps, Lee believes, are critical to uprooting deeply entrenched policies that hinder economic progress, free markets, and individual liberty.
“When’s something really bad you want to change it all at once, but in some ways so many things in government and politics are counterintuitive,” Lee said in response to a question about America’s prison system policies. “In some ways the worse a situation is the more important it becomes for you to achieve change by any means possible, even if that means incremental change, which in a representative government like ours that’s almost always the path to change.”
Lee, however, remains optimistic that a conservative agenda is possible and conservative reform attacking the immense size and dysfunction of our current government can happen. The real goal of the conservative agenda, Lee said, “is a dynamic economy and a thriving civil society, made up of close-knit communities, strong families, and heroic citizens.
“Any such reform will not proceed in leaps and bounds. It’s going to take small, persistent steps,” Lee cautioned.
Lee suggested that this forward-thinking mentality must be anchored by long-standing principles first articulated by our Founding Fathers and other prominent conservatives through the course of history.
“At the heart of the conservative worldview is the notion that there are certain first principles – universal and permanent moral truths – that ought to form the foundation of our society, our government, and our politics,” Lee said in his speech. “These principles act as our fixed political compass guiding our actions.
“Our reforms should focus not simply on cutting the cost or reducing the size of the government. We need to fundamentally reimagine the basic architecture of our policies that concentrate power in Washington,” Lee added.
This is where the challenge presents itself. Fundamentally reimagining policies that govern the inner workings of our legislative bodies can only happen in small, persistent increments.
“The grassroots conservative movement isn’t going anywhere,” Lee said. “We are the party of the true forgotten man who is the man that gets cut out when the government takes more of its share.
“That’s why I’m a conservative,” he said. “It’s about elevating the human condition and recognizing the dignity of the human soul.”
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