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Conservatives' 'Manifesto' Destiny

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Standing between liberty and tyranny is you.

That's one of many essential lessons found in a powerful and necessary new book, Mark Levin's "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto" (Threshold, 2009).

Levin's tome sounds a call to arms for conservatives, urging every last one to realize the stakes and engage in public affairs to the best of their ability. Understanding that it's not always the first instinct of the conservative to take on Washington, he urges more focus on our nation's capital, whether by going there, running for office closer to home, or educating those in your living room. Doing your job and living your life are important contributions, Levin writes, but "it is no longer enough." America needs more from its concerned citizens.

When the actions of a Republican president set the scene for the current commander in chief's CEO-firing, it's time for a new level of attention from all Americans. In Levin's words we need "a new generation of conservative activists, larger in number, shrewder and more articulate than before, who seek to blunt the Statist's counterrevolution -- not to imitate it -- and gradually and steadily reverse course. More conservatives than before will need to seek elective and appointed office, fill the ranks of the administrative state, hold teaching positions in public schools and universities, and find positions in Hollywood and the media where they can make a difference in infinite ways."

We appear to be living in a paradigm shift, during which the government is taking over in unprecedented ways. If you're uncomfortable with what you're seeing, get to work.

There are countless historical examples of American citizens with concerns similar to Levin's who went into politics. One of Levin's contemporary favorites, as anyone who regularly listens to his syndicated radio show knows, is Michele Bachmann. She's a congresswoman from Minnesota who the left loves to hate -- she almost lost her seat last year under threat from a loony liberal barrage.

After one of her foster children (she and her husband have taken care of 23 such kids over the years, in addition to five children of their own) came home from high school with an assignment for math homework that centered on coloring, she realized there was something wrong with the public-school standards area, and started working to change things. Her efforts would eventually take her to the state senate and now the U.S. Congress. Ask her about her experiences and you'll have the sense of a woman who does not have an office in mind, but a country.

Talk to Bachmann about politics and the future, and it is clear that she has "liberty and tyranny" on her mind (both literally -- she cited the book on Sean Hannity's show -- and more foundationally). Her high-minded conversation seems to be stemming not from political ambition but from those initial concerns that spurred her into politics. She views herself as a backbencher with an opportunity and a responsibility during a crucial time in American history. She's a former federal tax litigation attorney who now sits on the Financial Services Committee. A small-business owner and an educational entrepreneur (she helped found one of the first charter schools in the country, which is still running) Bachmann brings a breadth and depth of experience to Washington tables to which "gotcha" sound bites do not do justice.

On Levin's show late last year, Bachmann was open about her amazement that anyone would want to subject themselves to the harrowing rigors and painful exposure of the political process. There's little question that she's felt that way since, as her every word continues to be parsed and highlighted by the liberal media and its legion of faultfinders and scandalmongers. Bachmann was doing more than her part before she ran for Congress, before she ran for state office, before she and her husband welcomed a gaggle of foster children into their home. But she, like Levin, knows America needs all hands on deck. Consider it the real, substantive, bipartisan "yes we can" message. It's the message of the citizen-politicians of America's founding era.

In his best seller, Levin prescribes a way to combat "the ascent of a soft tyranny" rampant in the United States today. Rather than ask the government to fix everything, we must "return to founding principles," which involve "a free people living in a civil society, working in self-interested cooperation." This is what Bachmann gets up every morning and starts doing. We can't all be members of Congress, but we each have a sphere of influence upon which we ought to be full and informed participants. That doesn't just mean a vote and a letter to the editor now and then. We need to teach our children that which is worth preserving. We need to engage with our friends in a smart and respectful way. The future of liberty depends on it -- on us.

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