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M.D. Harmon: Stand your ground for liberty!

Conservatives still moping around about the outcome of the 2012 election have reasons to be concerned, to be sure.

As I noted last week, depending on many politicians to stand up for principle in the current environment can seem like a vain hope.

But then things happen, like the first robin showing up in a bare patch of grass surrounded by snow, which can lift one’s spirits by pointing to a way out of the drifts even if they don’t mean spring is right around the corner.

OK, enough with the metaphor. Let’s look at two pairs of recent elections, the first in two historically left-leaning nations abroad and the second in a “purple” U.S. state, and perhaps feel a little better about trends in general.

FIRST, AND MOST SIGNIFICANTLY, an unabashed economic and social conservative convincingly led Australia’s Liberal Party (which is center-right – the formerly incumbent Labor Party is the neo-socialist political venue Down Under) to a clear victory in last week’s parliamentary balloting.

Australian Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott

Australian Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott, once called “unelectable” due to his views on the environment and immigration, swept into office in the wake of a major public reaction to Labor’s stance on economy-crippling carbon taxes and open borders for “refugees” who primarily were economic migrants instead.

Abbott, who faced nearly unanimous opposition from the nation’s media outlets as well as its left-wing elite sector, didn’t back down or compromise on long-held stands that opposed the left’s major policy goals.

As a Sept. 8 Wall Street Journal editorial put it, “One lesson is to beware the faddish politics of climate change. Labor won a majority in 2007 at the height of the global elite’s drive to impose cap and trade and other anti-carbon policies. New Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who had campaigned claiming to be an economic conservative, quickly moved to pass a windfall-profits tax on mining companies and a carbon tax in the name of doing something about global warming.”

A carbon tax is essentially an extra charge on any kind of fossil fuel, but not because of rational concerns about noxious gas emissions, which are controlled in Australia, just as they are here.

Instead, these taxes are based on the assumption that CO2 emissions cause “global warming,” a contention now in great dispute because despite constantly rising CO2 levels, global temperatures have stagnated for nearly two decades.

Since carbon taxes raise the cost not only of transportation, but of keeping warm in the winter and cool in the summer, they very quickly became extremely unpopular among voters.

As the WSJ put it, “A carbon tax is one of those ideas that economists love to propose but that turn out to be lousy politics. If Republicans want to toy with the idea, they had better be prepared to eliminate the income or payroll tax along with it. Otherwise voters will figure out that the politicians are merely looking for one more way to tap into their incomes, in this case by raising their electricity and other energy bills.”

TOM SWITZER, EDITOR of the Spectator Australia in Sydney, wrote after the vote that Abbott was written off by the policy elite long ago:

“According to the conventional wisdom of just a few years ago, Tony Abbott should never have become prime minister of Australia. The doyens of the press gallery had marked him as a right-wing throwback to a bygone era.”

But, Switzer wrote, Abbott didn’t let that faze him or change his stance on the issues: “After all, Mr. Abbott is skeptical about alarmist claims of man-made global warming. He is a former Catholic seminarian who opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. His gaffes — he recently said a female parliamentary candidate had “sex appeal” — have provided fodder for left-leaning satirists. He is an Anglophile, a former Oxford boxing blue, and an unashamed constitutional monarchist who sides with America in the world.”

What changed the debate in Australia, he says, was climate change. Does any of this sound familiar to American skeptics?

“For two years, the global warming debate had been conducted in a heretic-hunting and illiberal environment. It was deemed blasphemy for anyone to dare question not only the climate science but the policy consensus to decarbonize the economy,” with critics being called (gasp) “deniers” and “conspiracy theorists.”

But that stand collapsed when the rest of the world refused to impose new regulations after the Kyoto emissions pact was abandoned by many major signatories. Then, Switzer says, Abbott made it his premier issue.

Fiscal responsibility paid off: “One reason Mr. Abbott scored an emphatic victory is that he convinced voters that conservatives would not be profligate with tax dollars. It remains to be seen what Mr. Abbott does in office, but the formula worked at a time when the conventional wisdom said he was unelectable.”

The bottom line for U.S. conservatives, Switzer says, is not to give up due to temporary setbacks. Liberal overreach (which we are seeing strong signs of already in the Obamacare and Middle East disasters) will affect voters strongly.

“The upshot here,” Spitzer writes, “is that Mr. Abbott did the very thing so many U.S. Republicans and British Tories have shied away from in recent years: He had the courage to broaden the appeal of a conservative agenda rather than copy the policies of his opponents. As a result, Australians enjoyed a real choice at the polls…. Mr. Abbott’s resounding victory shows that they relished this opportunity to chart a more free-market course.”

Norwegian Prime Minister-elect Erna Solberg

Norwegian Prime Minister-elect Erna Solberg

AND COUPLED WITH THAT, another nation with a historic left-wing government took a turn to the right just after Oz. Here’s Reuters’ account:

“Norway’s opposition Conservatives, promising tax cuts and better healthcare, won elections in a landslide on Monday but faced tough coalition talks with a populist party that wants to spend more of the accumulated oil riches and curb immigration.

“Led by Erna Solberg (whose nickname is ‘Iron Erna’), a former girl scout leader who has overcome dyslexia, the Conservatives promise to diversify the economy away from oil, privatize state firms, and reduce some of the world’s highest tax rates to give the private sector more breathing room….”

ALL THAT IS GOOD NEWS from abroad, but there’s equally good news right here in America, thanks to recall-election voters in two Colorado state senate districts who took down a pair of prominent Democratic legislators — including the president of the Colorado Senate — who had voted to crack down severely on Coloradans’ Second Amendment rights.

Here’s the news from the Sept. 10 Washington Times: “Colorado voters stunned the nation Tuesday night by ousting two heavily funded Democratic state legislators in a recall election that was cast as a national referendum on gun control.”

Colorado state Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo (left) and state Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs

Colorado state Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo (left) and state Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs

Biting the dust, the paper reported, were Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) and state Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo), who “lost their seats in the state’s first-ever legislative recall election, despite the support of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hundreds of ground troops from groups like Organizing for America, and a 7-to-1 spending advantage.”

The victories were considered unlikely by many observers, but they show that Democrats who think they are on the popular side of the issue in supporting new restrictions, which included limits on magazine capacities and required background checks for all gun sales, are wrong.

As the Times said, “The results of the double recall shocked state Democrats, who had insisted voters would back the Legislature’s recently passed gun bills. Meanwhile, gun-rights advocates and Republicans were elated, betting that the recalls will discourage other states from pushing forward with gun-control legislation.”

WE CAN ONLY HOPE they’re right. With Chicago finally being forced to allow gun possession in the city by law-abiding Illinois residents, the final holdout to gun permits has fallen.

Not only can we start to expect improvements in the crime rates in that murder-ridden city, we can rejoice that the basic freedoms recognized by the Bill of Rights are at long last being universally upheld.

The bigger lesson from all these victories is simple, but often overlooked, and it has a metaphor in current firearms laws.

The reason to support “Stand Your Ground” laws, which hold that a citizen does not have a “duty to retreat” when confronted by a criminal in a public space, is that if they are not in place, then our public spaces belong to the criminals, not to honest people.

And when it comes to politics, compromisers who would sacrifice deeply held conservative principles, and thus the beneficial public policies that result from those principles, are telling conservatives they have a “duty to retreat” when liberals try to push their quack socialist nostrums on them.

Of course, that is exactly what liberal media outlets and liberal political and cultural figures are saying, too.

But what these elections all tell us is that “Stand Your Ground” can be a winning conservative political position just as much as it is a winning position for law-abiding and freedom-loving gun owners.

So from now on, let’s tell the defeatists among us the same thing we must say to those who just want to defeat us:

“No thanks. We’re standing our ground for liberty.”

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

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