The exceptional election cycle that is finally winding down brought the issue of principles to the forefront in many ways. On one hand, it highlighted the need for principles in government. On the other hand, it demonstrated based upon the two finalists for the major parties that many Americans have abandoned principles as a primary attribute when selecting leaders.
Here’s the biggest problem with principles. In a bubble, they are relatively meaningless. The proper mix for leadership in the United States as first exemplified by many of the founding fathers and a handful of leaders throughout our history is a combination of principles, character, and diligence. Any one of them alone means very little. Combine two of them and you have the basis for a working party. Bring all three together and you have the Federalist Party.
Quickly, here’s how we define the three:
- Principles: These are the foundation of an individual or a party. They are the fundamental truths that unite the party in one direction. Often, people consider their perspectives as principled and any opposing perspectives as unprincipled, but as long as the core is solid, it can be wrong and still be principled.
- Character: Morals. Ethics. Values. These are often confused with principles when in reality they are the basis of character.
- Diligence: The ability to stay focused and move forward towards the goals of the party determines whether they are diligent or not. Persistently overcoming the obstacles without giving into moderate temptations is what makes a party diligent.
Let’s look at some of the other parties to see how this works. This is not meant to insult any individuals. We are generalizing based upon the recent activities of the the parties and their leadership. You will find people in every party who are beacons of all three traits, but the parties as a whole do not represent them.
- Democrats: Principled and Diligent but lacking in Character. It’s hard for those who oppose Democrats to see them as principled, but they have built their fundamental truths and stuck with them for decades. We might disagree with socialism and the welfare state, but it remains a part of their core. They have been diligent in their pursuits, but doing so requires them to undermine any remnant of character they may have once possessed. This is blatantly obvious when we see how they address issues such as illegal immigration, voter ID, and crime. Their lack of character forces them to perpetuate poverty and suffering in order to fuel their base. The people they hurt the most are often their most adamant supporters.
- Republicans: Principled with Character but lacking in Diligence. They, too, have a strong foundation for their principles and many Republicans have maintained a high level of character, but they fail miserably when it comes to sticking to their guns. With control of the House and Senate for the last two years, we’ve seen no real attempts to stop the bulk of President Obama’s harmful agenda. If they had diligence to drive their principles and fuel their character, there may not have been a need for the Federalist Party to form.
- Libertarians: Character and Diligence with no core Principles. This has only become a problem in recent years. Their core of liberty still exists, but it’s been so contorted over the years that the average American sees them as the party that wants to protect pot farms rather the party that wants to protect Constitutional rights. They’ve allowed many attributes of lawlessness to infiltrate their mentality in the name of liberty and the result has been a shifting core rather than a firm and stable one.
An example of a someone who represented all three traits properly was Calvin Coolidge. While other Presidents often get elevated above him in the history books, he was a clean representation of principles, character, and diligence who helped America by reducing bureaucracy rather than increasing it. In that regard, he may have been the ideal President. Today, we need more leaders like Coolidge.
Principles are important, but they’re only an ingredient. As Federalists, we must demand the whole package from our leaders. They must have character. They must be diligent. We will succeed where others have failed because we recognize the need to take the highest possible road. The only way to get to that road is to have all three attributes of strong governance working in unison.