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'True North': The Heritage Foundation Lays Out What It Means to Be Conservative During and After Trump

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The Heritage Foundation issued its list of principles of what they see as being a conservative for the first time in the think tank's history.

The list was rolled out during their annual President’s Club Meeting lunch on Monday. The lunch was used to highlight their accomplishes for the year and to explain what they have planned for the years to come. The introduction of their stated principles comes as debate rages over just how much President Trump has changed the Republican party and conservatism overall.


While how to build upon conservatism in American communities was discussed, socialism was heavily targeted by the think tank's leadership. Andrew McIndoe, vice president of development, used his young daughter's ride with her scooter on a steep hill as an example of how the ideas of socialism are exhilarating at first, but then reality, the rock bottom, comes fast and hard. 

"Americans, and young people especially, have been so propagandized by politicians, the media, and, in fact, our failed education system, that they've warmed up to socialism and turned a cold shoulder to bedrock principles like individual liberty and limited government," Kay Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation, said at the lunch.

"Why do [socialists] fear the founding principles so much? Because they put the power in the hands of the American people and not in the hands of power-hungry politicians," she continued.

While the 14 tenants of their "True North" principles do overlap with President Trump's rhetoric and priorities, such as a strong national defense and originalist judges, it does not include actions such as trade wars through tariffs or incurring more national debt. It also says America is strongest when our alliances throughout the world are healthy and preserved:

  1. The federal government exists to preserve life, liberty, and property, and it is instituted to protect the rights of individuals according to natural law. Among these rights is the sanctity of life; the freedom of speech, religion, the press, and assembly; the right to bear arms; the right of individuals to be treated equally and justly under the law; and to enjoy the fruits of one's labor.
  2. The federal government’s powers are limited to those named in the Constitution and should be exercised solely to protect the rights of its citizens. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The government closest to the people serves the people best.” Powers not delegated to the federal government, nor prohibited by the Constitution, are reserved to the states or to the people.
  3. Judges should interpret and apply our laws and the Constitution based on their original meaning, not upon judges’ personal and political predispositions.
  4. Individuals and families—not government—make the best decisions regarding their and their children’s health, education, jobs, and welfare.
  5. The family is the essential foundation of civil society, and traditional marriage serves as the cornerstone of the family.
  6. The federal deficit and debt must not place unreasonable financial burdens on future generations.
  7. Tax policies should raise only the minimum revenue necessary to fund constitutionally appropriate functions of government.
  8. America’s economy and the prosperity of individual citizens are best served by a system of free enterprise, with special emphasis on economic freedom, private property rights, and the rule of law. This system is best sustained by policies promoting free trade and deregulation, and opposing government interventions in the economy that distort markets and impair innovation. 
  9. Regulations must not breach constitutional principles of limited government and the separation of powers.
  10. America must be a welcoming nation—one that promotes patriotic assimilation and is governed by laws that are fair, humane, and enforced to protect its citizens.
  11. Justice requires an efficient, fair, and effective criminal justice system—one that gives defendants adequate due process and requires an appropriate degree of criminal intent to merit punishment.
  12. International agreements and international organizations should not infringe on American’s constitutional rights, nor should they diminish American sovereignty.
  13. America is strongest when our policies protect our national interests, preserve our alliances of free peoples, vigorously counter threats to our security, and advance prosperity through economic freedom at home and abroad.
  14. The best way to ensure peace is through a strong national defense.

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