As much as the surprise retirement of Sen. Evan Bayh (D.-Ind.) and the bright prospects of a conservative Republican pickup of his seat dominated political talk among Washington-area conservatives on Presidents’ Day (February 15th), there was another development that may prove to be equally important.
The just-unveiled Mount Vernon Statement, a document crafted and signed by 80 national conservative leaders that spells out the traditional belief in the principles of the Founding Fathers and in the concept of liberty that is spelled out in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.
A gamut of conservative leaders helped draft and then signed the statement, among them HUMAN EVENTS President and Editor in Chief Tom Winter, RedState Managing Editor Erick Erickson, former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese, Heritage Foundation President Edwin J. Feulner and Heritage Vice President Becky Norton Dunlop, American Conservative Union President David Keene, former Assistant U.S. Labor Secretary Patrick J. Pizzella, Media Research Center President L. Brent Bozell, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins (who is more often identified as a pro-family leader than traditional conservative).
The statement is written in bold but rather general terms. Citing how “America’s principles have been undermined and redefined in our culture, our university, and our politics,” the Mount Vernon Statement decries the federal government ignoring “the limits of the Constitution.” It then calls for “a change consistent with the American ideal,” which it defines as “a restatement of Constitutional conservatism grounded in the priceless principle of ordered liberty articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”
As to what that means, the statement goes on to state that the conservatism in the Declaration “asserts self-evident truths based on the laws of nature and nature’s God” and “traces authority to the consent of the governed
Now just being released to the press and the public, the Mount Vernon Statement is a call to those who have been in the conservative movement for many years and others embracing conservatism only recently — notably those in the growing “tea party movement.” Although there will undoubtedly be interpretations of it by many for weeks to come, my own reading of it yesterday found a not-so-subtle rejection of the “big government conservatism” that so clouded conservative politics in the last decade.
When conservative Republicans in Congress and a Republican Administration were fattening government programs at a pace exceeding that of Bill Clinton, there was a problem, a disconnect between Washington Republicans and conservatives. This was evident in the legions of conservative voters who stayed home in ’06 and ’08, leading to the Republican Party’s worst years at the polls since the Watergate election of 1974.
Now the questions start: will the Mount Vernon Statement be embraced by conservative activists? Will it move those just cutting their political eyeteeth in the Tea Party movement to stay active in politics and perhaps blend and work with those who have been conservative before it was “cool?” And, of course, how will it fare in the long run to the famed “Sharon Statement,” written at the home of William Buckley’s Connecticut home a half-century ago and a document that spoke for and motivated two generations of conservatives?