While the nation’s attention has been squarely on President-elect Donald Trump’s win in recent weeks, election night also saw several significant losses for conservatives.
Among these is Colorado’s Proposition 106, known as the End of Life Options Act, which passed by an astounding two-thirds percentage and effectively legalized suicide in that state.
Proposition 106 signals a stark shift in the cultural and legal landscape in one of the nation’s most purple states. Colorado became one of the first two states to legalize marijuana in 2012, and over the past four years, it has been one of the top two states in receiving an influx of young professionals under 40.
Even though local mainstream media and editorial opinions that are not typically conservative came out strongly against the measure, it still passed at the ballot box.
Proposition 106 was carried forward on a palpable cultural perception of “freedom” that is now markedly different from traditional conservative definitions of liberty, which had shaped red states in elections past.
Conservatives and certainly our Founders recognized that liberty is the self-governing right to live and therefore act freely within certain universal moral parameters. But that orthodoxy is now shifting.
Our culture now largely perceives the liberal contention that freedom is the universal ability to live and therefore act outside of any presupposed moral construct.
Freedom, the 2016 progressive agenda says, is not just my right to believe anything, but also my “right” to do literally anything I please, so long as I personally believe my actions are valid.
The year 2016 saw this leap from belief to action (the natural consequence of beliefs) on a bigger scale than arguably any prior year in American history.
From the Obama transgender mandate that told educational institutions they had to allow the supposed “freedom” to act incongruently with one’s actual gender to the rising acceptance of legalized marijuana, the cultural mandate is asserting that freedom means action without moral restraint.
The right to believe whatever one chooses, particularly in a religious context, is a hallmark of American jurisprudence. But even the Supreme Court has never stated that a person has the liberty to act however he or she chooses. Actions are always governed by the rule of law, and this orthodoxy is consistent with American principles of liberty and freedom.
But assisted suicide—the action of deliberately ending one’s own life—quietly became law amid this wave of redefined freedom. The culture is now asserting unrestrained self-identity and unrestricted freedom nonsense, as well as the liberal notion that every person should be “free” to subjectively self-identify his or her own quality of life, even to his or her own objective detriment.
This is not legitimate freedom or liberty. This is redefining the value Americans have always placed on genuine freedom and liberty. Once we frame liberty with a broad brush that any action—even self-selected suicide—is permissible, we lose the true moral definition of freedom, and perhaps we lose freedom altogether.
While Colorado is not the first state to pass assisted suicide (as of 2016, five states have legalized assisted death), Proposition 106 does not place any restrictions or safeguards against “doctor shopping” or encouraging insurance companies (who could providing kickback incentives to doctors) to push cost-effective provisions in aiding dying rather than costly lifelong medical care.
Once the law grants this “freedom” to subjectively choose the value of one’s life and when it should end, the law becomes meaningless to restrain certain harmful acts and to protect people from those acts.
The rule of law has always been used to impose morality upon society and the individual, under the basic premise that certain actions are universally wrong and harmful to society. This is why we have a criminal code that prohibits certain behaviors, which is society’s expression of objective values and morality.
When the law fails to serve as the civil mechanism for preserving and protecting true liberty through moral restraint, the law then loses this inherent legitimacy and important governmental function.
The Founders recognized in the Declaration of Independence that objective truth exists, and that fundamental human rights (including life and liberty) come from an objective source—our creator. Assisted death expressly contradicts this truth by giving people the ability to subjectively determine—and fully deny—the value of their own lives.
It is often said that politics is downstream from culture, and our culture is redefining the moral virtues of freedom and liberty. Conservatives must not ignore the significant losses in 2016 (though thankfully few), but rather engage at the cultural level, while also keeping active in politics and law.