Conservatives Hug Constitution

Because there can never be enough statements of conservative principle *, a band of conservative leaders today signed “The Mount Vernon Statement,” self-described as “a defining statement of conservative beliefs, values and principles penned by a broad coalition of conservative leaders representing a wide spectrum of the movement including fiscal, social, cultural and national security conservatives.” Without a Constitutional scholar among them. And not actually AT Mount Vernon, but that’s another story.

These conservatives–claiming to number 80 in the press release but numbering only 18 signatories on the web page and thousands more signatories online–are the predictable cross-section of today’s elite conservative leaders from various sectors: media (Alfred Regnery, Kathryn Lopez); politics and policy (Edwin Meese, Edwin Feulner); and social policy groups (Tony Perkins, Grover Norquist, Elaine Donnelly).

They claim to model this act on the “Sharon Statement,” the 1960 statement of conservative principles, signed at William F. Buckley’s house in Sharon, CT., which was actually something new in America’s political stew and which sparked a considerable resurgence of conservatism in American political life, if not an entirely new strain. And this DURING a Republican administration that had been in power for eight years.

But in today’s politics, there’s nothing new here in a group of political and social elites from the conservative side donning the mantle of the Constitution to assert their bona fides. As one of Feulner’s own Heritage Foundation employees notes, “The strength of the American conservative movement has always been its firm adherence to the first principles of the American Founding.” So it has.

Actually, there’s a lot here for liberals as well! Here are statements from the Mount Vernon document and how liberals can take it under advisement:

  • morality is essential to limited government (Great, no more prisoner torture or wiretapping!)
  • unlimited government is a threat to moral self-government (Awesome, now keep your hands off my ovaries!)
  • energetic but responsible government is the key to America’s safety and leadership role in the world (Cool, no more foreign interventions based on lies and trumped up data!).

For Liberals using the Constitution as a foundation for asserting first principles, see Yale’s conference held in 2005.

Finally, Martin Diamond’s 1965 article in The Public Interest, “Conservatives, Liberals and the Constitution is worth reading. Diamond wrote "The Liberal dislikes the Constitution for what at bottom are correct reasons. The Conservative likes the Constitution for what at bottom are wrong reasons. In a sense the Liberal is the intelligent foe of the Constitution and tile Conservative its foolish partisan. Given the dominance of either, the Constitution would perish.” More on that later …

(* See also here, here, and here.)

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