Many of America’s founders thought the original Constitution, without a specific statement of individual rights, would protect the rights of individual Americans.

Today we know better.

Who thinks we’d still have the freedom to speak our minds, to publish our opinions, to worship as we choose, to bear arms or to own property without these having been specifically amended to the Constitution through the Bill of Rights?

Which right or freedom is most important to you? That’s a multiple-choice question with no wrong answer. You might give “all of the above” some consideration because the diminishment of one seems to encourage attempts to weaken the others.

Those paying attention know many of our traditional, unalienable freedoms are under assault, and it’s abundantly clear the onslaught is being led from the left — that is, by Democrats and progressives.

On many college campuses — purportedly bastions of free expression and diverse intellectual debate — intolerant politically correct leftists intimidate speakers and muzzle speech with which they don’t agree.

Further, around the country, the religious freedom of certain flower shop owners, bakers and other small businesses are being subjected to the same progressive vigilante harassment.

Though our rights are constitutionally defined in plain English, arguments for their reinterpretation to fit “modern” society are continually made. Many have been challenged, modified or expanded — even to include a license to kill — not through the consensus of the amendment process but through “living” interpretations of the Constitution by left-wing judicial oligarchs.

Ronald Reagan asserted, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction” and warned, “We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed to them to do the same.”

Progressive Democrats claim Donald Trump is an “existential threat to America.” No. Donald Trump is an existential threat to progressivism.

The existential threat to America — and to freedom — is progressivism.

Bernie Sanders says his campaign is about “transforming this country.” In this he follows the rhetorical and ideological footsteps of Barack Obama, who claimed his administration would lead a “fundamental transformation of the United States of America.”

The intent of Sanders, Obama and their progressive cohort is to transform America away from the idea that government exists to secure and protect the unalienable rights of its citizens to one where citizens exist to serve aims dictated by government.

Individual liberty rights are to be eliminated or modified as necessary to accommodate “claim rights” — rights (more accurately, entitlements) to free tuition, to paid leave, to health care and a “living” wage — their scope without limit and their provision taken as necessary from citizen-servants of the state.

Following the rhetoric and policies of today’s extremist progressive Democrats reveals they believe everything belongs first to government.

Listen to them. Calling tax reductions “tax giveaways” implicitly confirms government has first claim to everyone’s earnings. Can you detect any limit whatsoever to what government can demand or provide? Is “fair share” ever defined?

Progressivism/collectivism has an arrogant high-mindedness that brushes aside reason, appealing emotionally to the “we’re all in this together” ethos. That spirit, along with selective notions of fairness and justice, lend themselves to the virtue-signaling and moral sanctimony that justifies imposition of their agenda.

Regardless of the lure, intent or even merit of the progressive utopian dream, an agenda that de facto treats citizens as subjects, conscripting their service to the progressive will, is incompatible with and would be the end of American federalism and individual freedom.

Giese, a Dubuque native, owns Jim Giese Commercial Roofing. His email address is jimgiese@me.com.

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