Last weekend’s gathering of conservatives in Harrisburg at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference (PLC) was perhaps the most consequential of all.
Six months before, the man most responsible for the very existence of the PLC and the surge of the conservative movement in Pennsylvania, Frederick W. Anton III, passed away in Philadelphia. With the radical left on the march after the 2016 Presidential election, Anton’s forceful, candid style and consistency in messaging about the urgency of the conservative cause is needed now more than ever.
The fight to protect our fundamental freedoms, under its greatest threat from an emboldened left and its rethink of the Constitution, now falls to a new generation of leaders. Lowman S. Henry, the President of the PLC and Chairman of the Board of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association (PMA) and David N. Taylor, PMA’s President and CEO, will carry forward the enthusiasm and common-sense clarity Fred brought to the conservative movement. Henry and Taylor welcomed attendees to the two-day conference by invoking Anton’s repeated warnings of both complacency on the right, and the left’s corrosive attacks on our individual freedoms and economic growth.
One of Anton’s preemptive admonishments — and one cited by Henry in his welcome message on Friday– is that the PLC is not some adjunct to the Republican Party, or a shill for it.
“Conservatives tend to vote Republican, but not all Republicans are conservative,” Henry said.
As example, Henry cited the budget Congress recently approved, with bipartisan support, that will increase spending by a staggering $400 billion through September 2019. The spending bill also suspends a 2011 budget law, championed by conservatives, that not only placed caps on discretionary spending but included an automatic trigger known as “sequester” cuts if Congress attempted to break through those caps.
And carrying on Anton’s warnings of complacency, Henry noted the alarming judicial activism of the state Supreme Court in its redrawing of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts — part of a national effort by Barack Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder to secure power for Democrats in Congress.
Anton also liked to remind us of the inextricable ties between individual liberties and the creation of wealth – a message more important now than ever since many of our schools are no longer teaching it. State and federal government is often the antithesis of that message, bending to the will of the radical environmentalists and the public-sector unions
“Fred wanted the unions to go out and earn their members one at a time, just like businesses have to earn and keep their customers every day,” Taylor said.
For decades, the unions have grown wealthier and even more powerful thanks to special interest laws in many states, including Pennsylvania, that coerce people to paying money to government unions as a condition of employment. In February, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees on the constitutionality of those state laws. More on this to come.
Fred was also a fierce proponent of school choice, where he again clashed with the public-sector unions, and warned about the radical environmentalists’ attempt to squash the growth of business by taxing drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
This year, conservatives nationwide celebrated what William F. Buckley Jr., who died ten years ago, meant to the rise of the conservative movement in America. Ten years on and beyond, Fred Anton will likewise be remembered for reminding us of the eternal power of individual liberty in our commonwealth and our country.
View a video tribute to Frederick W. Anton, III