I am a conservative.

I am a conservative because I believe, in the words of William F. Buckley, that “conservatism is the politics of reality.”

I am a conservative because I believe, above all, in a set of principles that define the world, the country, and all of our economics, politics, Faith, and future.

Ignoring this reality is the prime objective of the progressive, and ignoring reality is precisely what the Democratic Party must continue to do to advance an agenda of retrograde government largess infiltrating and undermining every institution in the nation — our schools and communities, our rights, even our Constitution and our churches. If we continue to elect progressive policymakers, the decline of those institutions and our nation continues unabated.

The stakes in this election couldn’t be higher and conservatives are people of strong convictions.

For many conservatives, it’s our Faith. For others, it’s our longstanding commitments to protect the lives of the unborn, the Second Amendment, freedom of speech, the democratic process, or our desires to raise our families, protect our communities, or care for our loved ones serving overseas. There is always something more important than ourselves and our everyday worries that compels us to be a conservative.

Our principles, rooted in those of the Founding Fathers’ and often taught by our Faith, remain the best guidance for a world that is far different than the one the generation before experienced. The challenges and opportunities we face in the 21st century are different and will require different solutions, but they will always require detailed solutions that rely on conservative principles to be effective — a federal government limited in its power by The Constitution, local control and accountability, personal responsibility, and the rule of law.

But our principles are under attack. Progressives like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton feign no interest in applying such principles to spur economic growth, raise families’ wages, or protect the rule of law. Progressivism has been reduced to a bastardized set of perversions that masquerade as an economic agenda. Resentment, power, and control appear to be the driving forces behind progressive politics.

And if conservatives can’t overcome the politics of envy and redistribution, our principles will continue to be ignored as self-interested politicians and ideologues prey upon the fears and demands of the populace without concern for what actually works, for what keeps us safe or debt-free — with no concern for morality, clarity, or a defined code of law to address the various disagreements and discrepancies that are the lifeblood of a republic.

The country as we know it is certainly changing, by design, and the two progressives leading the Democratic race for President are offering as many unrealistic, unworkable programs as possible in a vicious, vacuous, race to the Left. They know exactly what they’re doing, and they’ve been using the auger of domestic and international crises to implement a disastrous agenda that departs from over two hundred years of American governance.

We have already seen what seven years of this agenda portends for the country. If Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is elected president, one shudders to consider another four or eight years of this.

No, conservatives of all stripes, have only one choice — unite the movement and grow our ranks to defeat the progressives. We must reverse this disastrous path the nation has been put on and elect leaders of principle to realize the enormous potential of this century. Only conservatism offers the set of principles that can address the challenges of our rapidly changing world.

Therefore, these conservative principles compel us to support the best conservative candidate that can win the general election, and, to me, that is Marco Rubio. Marco is an across-the-board conservative that continues to do well in the early polls against Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. He offers conservatives the first opportunity since George W. Bush, and before him Ronald Reagan, of electing a principled conservative steadfastly committed to growing the movement so that our timeless principles continue to rule the day.

But there is trouble before us. Before us now is a rising nationalistic conservativism that is taking root as more Americans feel the pain of the progressive agenda continuing to erode confidence that our best days lie ahead. Years of what many consider betrayal — electing conservatives in 2010 and 2014 to find they show little interest in relying on those principles in office, adding more to the nation’s long-term debt and being forced to fund insidious institutions that are working to undermine the foundations of civil society. Years of globalization and automation are rendering the jobs of the last century obsolete or too remote. These uncertain times are when we should rely on our proven conservative principles the most. A weakened nation can only find strength in the timeless principles that drive us everyday.

Yet today the angry conservative has been offered an enticing opportunity to tap into our own sense of resentment and betrayal. Donald Trump still leads the national polls of Republican voters and is on top in the pivotal South Carolina primary on Feb. 20th. In essence, Trump offers the conservative, and the moderate, a vision of leadership that rights the wrongs of the past thirty years, a nationalistic pursuit of “American greatness” that will bury progressivism forever, replacing it with a bold America-first agenda that apologizes for nothing, obliterates our enemies, and establishes an era in which we “win. We win bigly.”

It’s easy to see why it’s catching on, but it relies on one cardinal rule — Trump can do it. Whatever “it” is, Trump can do it. And since Donald Trump began perfecting this pitch of his tremendous talents in 1989, he has bashed Ronald Reagan’s leadership, embraced progressive wishes, supported Democrat economic policies, and he hasn’t just talked, he walked the walk too.

Trump has been an outright opponent of conservatism. He has donated to many progressive Democrats in crucial elections. Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, and the Clinton Foundation have all received generous donations while conservatives were fighting to stop them and their disastrous policies from taking root. He even donated to the notorious political chameleon, Charlie Crist, as Marco Rubio ran an insurgent campaign against Crist and the feckless Florida Republican leadership with the help of noted conservative warriors such as Jim DeMint.

With a record such as his, it’s imperative to consider the candidate’s value system.

In fact, While editing this piece, conservatives were delivered a powerful blow when news broke that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away. Scalia is arguably the most consequential conservative of the modern era and Ronald Reagan’s greatest legacy. His contributions will forever resonate in American life. He is irreplaceable.

No one should be named to that seat unless they have a proven record of deference to originalism, interpreting of the text of the Constitution as the Framers’ originally intended. Without question, President Obama has no compulsion to follow such a course and Hillary Clinton seemed to welcome the occasion to offer even more liberal dreams to the legion of unsatisfied progressives. The appointment of the next Supreme Court Justice, a lifetime appointment, will likely fall to the next President, and perhaps three or more as well.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for constitutional conservatives.

On the one hand, two articulate constitutional conservatives are running for President, including one, Ted Cruz, with an impressive record in the legal battles of the modern age. The other, Marco Rubio, has shown a clear understanding of originalism and the role of a Supreme Court Justice today. Just a day before the horrible news broke, Rubio said that he wished there were nine justices like Scalia, and his colleague Clarence Thomas. Leaders of principle can recognize one of their own.

On the other hand, Donald Trump, has changed his positions on issues as core to our values as life, the Second Amendment, the promise of a free enterprise system, the rule of law, and competitive economic policies. Instead, he has bribed and schmoozed the most liberal progressives into helping him build a fortune and established a two-way street of gifts and influence that he is currently employing to con conservatives into electing him as the Republican Party’s Nominee for President in 2016.

Make no mistake, Donald J. Trump shares exactly NONE of our principles or values. There’s no telling which will compel him more — his exaggerated view of his own abilities, or the corrupting power of the incestuous Washington favor factory that will suddenly be entirely his to control. Clinton and her allies are waiting at the gates to unleash an unholy cabal of corruption should she be elected. It wouldn’t be any better in Donald Trump’s paws. Despite his rhetoric lambasting special interests and the corrupting power of political donations, he has lived very richly bribing and cavorting with top liberal lawmakers to best advance his own interests.

The only thing that compels Trump is Trump.

FDR had the New Deal, Teddy Roosevelt the Square Deal, and we’d be asking the entire nation to embrace the concept of The Art of the Deal — whatever’s good for Trump is good for us. Trade deals would be negotiated by an unprincipled cipher that campaigns to “make America great again” yet manufactures products overseas. His plan for immigration is to deport millions of hard-working undocumented noncitizens and then “let the good ones back in.” After seven years of a President that has praised the rule of law in public to violate it repeatedly with unconstitutional executive orders, Trump has not once committed to restoring the power of the Constitution and the rule of law on immigration or any other issue.

The stakes could not be higher. For conservatives to exalt an unprincipled charlatan that doesn’t share our values, we would be placing the future of The Constitution and our nation in jeopardy.

If a nationalistic conservatism is indeed on the cusp of replacing the more international aspects of Reagan’s conservatism, then let it be led by a true believer and not an unmoored cipher that simply says what he knows people want to hear.

Conservatives have had a a few rough elections and this is one in which we can legitimately say that despite some differences with some of the candidates, they are running for the right reason.

There’s a reason every past President has served in elected office or the armed forces. They are the sons of a political dynasty forged in the Reagan years, a Harvard Law graduate that has successfully defended the Constitution nine times in front of the Supreme Court, a married 44-year-old father of four that attests to his love his country as the son of Cuban immigrants — all have dedicated their life to public service and we can all see how their decision to run for President right now hasn’t been entirely easy on them or their families. They, like all of us, are drawn to fight for something greater. They have spent hours as Governor, Solicitor General of The State of Texas, and U.S. Senators, proving that something continues to compel them to spend endless hours on the road campaigning for what is supposed to be a mostly thankless and ungratifying job.

But nothing is ungratifying if it is a calling. And it is a calling to these men. Is it a calling to us?

New Hampshire isn’t a typically conservative state and 46% of resentful independents helped insure a conservative wouldn’t win the New Hampshire primary. But South Carolina has an open primary and a strong Southern conservative bend. The majority of the Republican primary electorate there, and elsewhere, is conservative. Conservatives and moderates deserve to have their choice among the principled, proven leaders asking for the opportunity to return our principles to the White House. South Carolina, therefore, has the opportunity to reject the advancement of a moderate Republican to lead the political vessel of the conservative movement.

Is this really what we want for the party of Abraham Lincoln, of Ronald Reagan?

Whatever compels us to be conservative, or to prefer conservative principles guiding our policymakers, it compels us to accept that there will be some differences but no disagreements on the values we share, and we must defeat Donald Trump to ultimately offer the country a platform of consequence before progressivism truly takes this nation on an irreversible path to debt, decline, and depression. The fight for the future of conservatism will continue well into this election cycle, but first we must excise this blight of Donald Trump’s vanity campaign — the charade has gone far enough already.

Whatever compels you to conservatism, it compels you now to stop Donald Trump.

So what compels you?

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