The Cornerstone of the Conservative Movement

I am struck by a life recently passed, that of Chuck Heath. His life challenged the common pursuit of political power through his uncommon pursuit of political philosophy. He leaves a shadow in which we all should wish to stand, of political solutions based on considered values, not of win-at-all-costs rhetoric.

Many national politicians are motivated primarily by gaining what they perceive to be power. The problem comes that once achieved there is a vacuum of values from which they have to draw upon to guide decisions. Rarely does a party or leader appear to concern itself with any philosophy other than winning. Consequently voters are forced to choose from bland national leaders who rely on thirty-second sound bites of half-truths to gain attention; if elected they are driven by whims of the moment.

Mr. Heath understood the values and concepts which should guide and govern. He espoused a philosophy from which he encouraged others to draw. He enumerated this in speeches and books in a way no other has from Cleveland County.

The timing of his passing is poignant, given the action of the recent Republican convention and that of 1976. Traditionally, delegates were chosen to represent the vote of their state in choosing the party’s nominee. Rules adopted this year allow the presumptive nominee to essentially pick delegates, who in turn choose the nominee who chose them. This ensures a smooth, scripted convention made for television by forcing voices out of the system.

Gerald Ford assumed the Presidency in 1974, and was the presumptive nominee and establishment’s choice in 1976. He received a stiff primary challenge from Governor Reagan. As convention began, the President did not have enough delegates to win the nomination, generating much debate. The strength of the Reagan delegates, including Mr. Heath, gave Reagan clout throughout the convention. Ford won, but the process positioned Reagan to be elected 1980. Had the new rules been in place, Reagan may have never become President; Ford could have essentially ‘unseated’ Mr. Heath and others, rendering Reagan politically impotent.

Mr. Heath’s principled philosophy led to his early support of Jesse Helms, who credited Mr. Heath for his role in not only his own election, but also Reagan’s first primary win, North Carolina. While modern Republican’s claim Reagan’s linage; it was Mr. Heath who defined ‘conservative’ for North Carolina, paving the road for Reagan’s first victory. But his legacy is more palpable than memories of Reagan. Following the acceptance speeches of both Governor Romney and President Obama, Mr. Heath’s granddaughter, Hadley, appeared as an analyst on nationally televised programs. She enunciated to the nation the same values Mr. Heath set forth decades earlier in NC. His other granddaughter, Amanda Lake, gave a fitting tribute at the last GOP meeting, reading a passage of his writings.

Chuck Heath was the philosophical cornerstone of the conservative movement in Cleveland County and the state. His writing and conservative philosophy offers the same solutions today as it did when first articulated.

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