Conservative Old Guard to Moderates: Drop Dead

February 17th, 2010 at 7:15 am | 27 Comments |

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FF Exclusive: FrumForum has obtained an advance copy of the Mount Vernon statement — a document signed by 80 conservative leaders to define what conservatism is – and isn’t.


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The Mount Vernon Statement

Constitutional Conservatism: A Statement for the 21st Century

We recommit ourselves to the ideas of the American Founding. Through the Constitution, the Founders created an enduring framework of limited govern­ment based on the rule of law. They sought to secure national independence, pro­vide for economic opportunity, establish true reli­gious liberty, and maintain a flourishing society of republican self-government.

These principles define us as a country and inspire us as a people. They are responsible for a prosperous, just nation unlike any other in the world. They are our highest achievements, serving not only as powerful beacons to all those who strive for freedom and seek self-government, but as warnings to tyrants and despots everywhere.

Every one of these founding ideas is presently under sustained attack. In recent decades, America’s principles have been undermined and redefined in our culture, our uni­versities and our politics. The self-evident truths of 1776 have been supplanted by the notion that no such truths exist. The federal government today ignores the limits of the Constitution, which is increasingly dismissed as obsolete and irrelevant.

Some insist that America must change, cast off the old and put on the new. But where would this lead—forward or backward, up or down? Isn’t this idea of change an empty promise or even a dangerous deception?

The change that we urgently need, a change consis­tent with the American ideal, is not movement away from but toward our founding principles. At this important time, we need a restatement of Constitutional conservatism grounded in the timeless principle of ordered liberty articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The conservatism of the Declaration asserts self-evident truths based on the laws of nature and nature’s God. It defends life, liberty, and the pur­suit of happiness. It traces authority to the consent of the governed. It recognizes man’s self-interest but also his capacity for virtue.

The conservatism of the Constitution limits gov­ernment’s powers but ensures that government per­forms its proper job effectively. It refines popular will through the filter of representation. It provides checks and balances through the several branches of government and a federal republic.

A constitutional conservatism unites all conser­vatives through the natural fusion provided by American principles. It reminds economic conser­vatives that morality is essential to limited govern­ment, social conservatives that unlimited government is a threat to moral self-government, and national security conservatives that energetic but responsible government is the key to America’s safety and correct place in the world.

A constitutional conservatism based on first principles provides the framework for a con­sistent and meaningful policy agenda.

  • It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.
  • It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.
  • It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.
  • It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end.
  • It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.

If we are to succeed in the critical political and policy battles ahead, we must be certain of our purpose. We must begin by retaking and resolutely defending the high ground of America’s founding principles.

<p><span style=”color: #ff6600;”>FF Exclusive:</span> <span style=”color: #000080;”>Frum</span><span style=”color: #ff6600;”>Forum</span> has obtained an advance copy of the Mount Vernon statement — a document signed by 80 conservative leaders to define what conservatism is – and isn’t.</p>

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27 Comments so far ↓

  • sinz54

    The self-evident truths of 1776 have been supplanted by the notion that no such truths exist….The change that we urgently need, a change consis­tent with the American ideal, is not movement away from but toward our founding principles.
    It’s odd that they didn’t explain just what those “truths” and “principles” are.

    I’ve had discussions with numerous hard-core leftists, who told me sincerely that they just didn’t believe in the notion of “unalienable rights.”

    So a discussion of this concept, and what it implies for a civilization, would be worthwhile.

  • Jim_M

    I don’t find it at all odd that statists don’t believe in the truths, principles and unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit if Happiness. The concept of self government is abstract to them.

  • Jim_M

    It would be nice to have an edit feature, no?….
    Need a second cup of coffee…anyway.

    I don’t find it at all odd that statists don’t believe in the truths, principles and unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. The concept of self governance is abstract to them.

  • sinz54

    Jim_M: I don’t find it at all odd that statists don’t believe in the truths, principles and unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit if Happiness.
    You and I know that.

    But I still think it would be a revelation to many average Americans that the hard-core Left doesn’t believe in unalienable rights–i.e., they don’t believe in our Declaration of Independence.

    That would be a powerful argument against them.

  • Kevin B

    The dictionary built into my computer’s OS defines “inalienable” as “unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor.” It defines “unalienable” as a synonym. A quick google search revealed a reference to a court case defining “unalienable” rights as those that could not be taken away or given away, and “inalienable” rights as those that could not be taken away, but could be surrendered with consent.

    I wonder how the death penalty or even incarceration can be compatible with the Declaration of Independence on this point.

    To my mind, the DoI is a high-minded document written by revolutionaries. The Constitution, ratified more than a decade later, is a more cautious, defensible, and practical document. It doesn’t use the word “unalienable.” In the fifth amendment, it specifies “due process” as the prerequisite for depriving any person of life, liberty, and property.

    Does anyone define “unalienable” as “unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor without due process”?

  • Jim_M

    Spiritual voids are filled ultimately…with something.

  • Kevin B

    I was almost to the end of my post above when it suddenly disappeared. Apparently, the page refreshed, and I had to type it in again. The main difference after the refresh was the headline, which went from something like “Advance Copy of the Mount Vernon Statement” to “Conservative Old Guard to Moderates: Drop Dead”.

    I didn’t find the document to be especially egregious. It’s written in vague enough terms to allow a lot of wiggle-room. (e.g., “nature and nature’s God” is nonspecific enough to include pantheists and deists. Even atheists, if they’re willing to see it as metaphorical. And “faith” is not capitalized.)

    There are plenty of code words in the document, but I don’t think moderately conservative politicians would have any problem signing it, then continuing to be moderate. Doesn’t “defense of family” apply to gay families? I could imagine President Obama signing it.

    Compared to the previously presented “purity test”, this one doesn’t seem to try and shut down debate on any specific policy points.

  • ProfNickD

    Unless one is a liberal-left-progressive-type, what’s to disagree with?

  • DFL

    This is an inside-the-beltway document and stroy, doomed to be as remembered as Marlon Brando’s failed dozen movies of the 1960s. The next Washington Wizards basketball fiasco will be better remembered.

  • Chekote

    This document was signed by Tony Perkins who has been tirelessly working to abolish the principle of separation of church and state. Who would codify into federal law his personal religious beliefs as to when a person begins. Who would strip women the right to dictate what happens to their body. Who would deny same sex couples even basic rights like the right to choose who visits them in the hospital, whom to leave their inheritence. As long as the GOP palls around with the likes of Perkins, their calls for limited government and individual freedom will have a very hypocritical sounds to them.

  • GOProud

    Chekote pines: “As long as the GOP palls around with the likes of Perkins, their calls for limited government and individual freedom will have a very hypocritical sounds to them”.

    Hardly Chekote but it’s a nice try to isolate faith-based politics to the fringe. Some might think your brand of anti-religion humanistic activism is equal to a New Age Religion. Faith-based politics is here to stay as Obama proves in extending Geo Bush’s precedent in creating a faith-based political operation inside the WH.

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/ObamaAnnouncesWhiteHouseOfficeofFaith-basedandNeighborhoodPartnerships/

    But that’s not as hollow as Democrats’ calling for al Qaeda terrorists to get top billing in NYC mega-media trials, contending to the world’s muslims that American justice is fair, transparent and resilent and then telling US voters that DOJ will get convictions.

    Why didn’t the great DOJ Obami lawyers begin with instructing the US voters that, under the DOJ Obami Plan, all terrorists are innocent until proven guilty and have a new international right to a free, fair trial under American justice? Are they all Cowards in the War on Terror?

    Innocent terrorist until proven guilty, isn’t that it? Did KSM get his Miranda moment? Can we view the video tape of DOJ Obami lawyers mirandizing KSM?

    Where’s all that Honesty and Hopey Changey Thing that Obama promised? Is the Obami treating all terrorists in a pre-9/11 fashion: innocent until proven guilty?

    Maybe that’s what Obama was doing when he first called the Christmas Bomber an “alleged terrorist” acting in isolation? Does anyone other than Rev Wright and Bill Ayers and George Soros think KSM or the Christmas Bomber are innocent?

  • grackle

    It’s written in vague enough terms to allow a lot of wiggle-room.

    Maybe a bit too vague.

    I’m fine with this:

    It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.

    And this:

    It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.

    Also this:

    It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.

    Uh oh. In this next point supporting “America’s national interest in advancing freedom” is good but the “opposing tyranny” part is troublesome to me. Does it mean that we should start doing everything we can to bring down the present tyrannical regime in China? How about the Saudis, one of our important allies in the Middle east? As a matter of practical fact it is my belief that the US must sometimes necessarily form alliances with some unsavory regimes.

    Myself, I really don’t care much about the relative freedom of the folks living under various regimes on the world stage. I think folks generally get the amount of freedom they deserve and that they desire.

    As long as a nation’s economic interests coincide with ours, as long as their leaders are not hostile toward America and American allies and they are not overly belligerent toward their neighbors as far as I’m concerned we should leave them alone, maybe even actively support them under some circumstances. Carter turned Iran over to the Mullahs under the same rationale contained in the statement below. Look where THAT got us.

    It supports America’s national interest and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end.

    There’s a lot that bothers me in the final point. My “family, neighborhood, community, and faith” is no one’s business except my own and I don’t want government types, however well-meaning, to muck around with these things. There’s a role for government and it’s definitely not messing around with my “faith” or my “family.” While I’m at it, the government should also steer clear of my neighborhood and community, too. We who live there are quite capable of tending to things without the government’s heavy hand.

    It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.

    All in all, It’s not a document I would sign.

  • DFL

    From the very beginning of Anglo-America in the early 1600s, America has never been some sort of libertarian paradise laced with radical individualism, Chekote. I recommend you read David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed.

  • Chekote

    What is constitutional, conservative or federalist about faith based initiatives? Why in the hell should we fund such programs? Apparently Farrakhan’s group has been quite successful in fighting drug addiction. I wonder if Perkins and the other TheoCons infesting the Republican party feel about giving federal fund to the Nation of Islam. As long as those elements are in the party, they will continue to undercut the limited government message.

  • Chekote

    It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.

    Not if Tony Perkins and his ilk are signatory. The man would be thrilled to have a HUGE federal government if it meant imposing his brand of Christianity. He does not believe in women’s rights or right to privacy. What a joke!

  • DFL

    I would agree that President Bush’s faith-based initiative was not only unwise but goes against American tradition. However, America has been a society of laws and regulations, even laws and regulations that would prevent people from acting upon an absolute freedom.

  • franco 2

    “Centrists” to Conservatives: US Constitution Is Irrelevant

  • tvchurch

    I did not learn much from the document. It consists of platitudes that will change no one’s mind.

    I do enjoy the distinction among economic, social, and national security conservatives.

  • GOProud

    DFL invents with “I would agree that President Bush’s faith-based initiative was not only unwise but goes against American tradition.” LOL, no one was arguing that nonsense, DFL; put down the bong.

    Actually, the American tradition is freedom of religion –your special take on the Constitutional right and American tradition is to rewrite it into “freedom from religion”… which puts you more at home with the Puritan zealots that pre-date the Founding Fathers than any American tradition post 1776.

    Of course, the Puritans, if allowed, would probably put you under a groaning door or flog you or dunk you in the village pond until the bubbles stopped rising if they had their way with your special blend of humanistic secularist war on religion. But that’s what you get when you make your bed with the Puritans.

    Freedom of religion –not freedom from religion. Maybe you should watch a few segments of Glenn Beck’s educational news show… you could use some ‘learning ’bout da founding fathers.

  • sinz54

    Chekote: separation of church and state
    Separation of church and state was NOT a universally accepted principle in America till the last 50 years or so. Thomas Jefferson had made some noises about it, but he didn’t push it and those words never made it into the U.S. Constitution.

    Whether you support a total separation of church and state is one of the things about which conservatives disagree with each other.

    The fact that Tony Perkins could sign this document of basic principles doesn’t mean that you or I can’t also agree with what it says. I do.

  • sinz54

    DFL: I would agree that President Bush’s faith-based initiative was not only unwise but goes against American tradition.
    Are you serious???

    School-sponsored prayer in public schools, particularly in the Red States, was an American tradition for over 160 years, till the Supreme Court struck it down.

    Publicly sponsored displays of Christian icons were common throughout public buildings across America for over 180 years–until the ACLU got the Supreme Court to strike them down.

    The “American tradition” included active government sponsorship of Christian traditions.

    Secularism is what’s new.
    Christianity is what was traditional.

  • sinz54

    Chekote: He does not believe in women’s rights or right to privacy.
    I wish we could just put you pro-choice advocates and a pro-life team led by Tony Perkins on a remote tropical island and let you duke it out, just like on that TV reality show “Survivor.”

    And that way the rest of us could discuss issues of GENUINE national importance.

    Abortion is way, way down on the list of priorities, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care whether you’re for it or against it. I just don’t give a damn about it.

  • BoolaBoola

    The world is SOOOO different today from when these principles were laid down. How can you have minimal government when it is necessary for government to do things like license and oversee nuclear power (and other environmentally-big businesses), and medicines (FDA) and so on? The idea of a minimal Fed is totally unsuited for the 21th Century and young people look at language like in this document and scratch their heads.

  • BoolaBoola

    Sinz54, I agree with you, abortion is not that important. HOWEVER, the fact that a small minority of right-to-lifists is forcing a policy on the USA by means of murder and terror is VERY important.

  • DFL

    I may be mistake, but Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative was that the Federal Government gave money to religious institutions to run welfare-type programs. Am I mistaken? And when have religious institutions relied on the Federal government teat? No, Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative seems to have been an attempt by the Federal government to pork barrel favored religious welfare programs.

  • GOProud

    DFL asks: “Am I mistaken?”

    In a word, Yes. In another word: Again.

    Sigh.

  • GOProud

    When BoolaBoola, the only guy who beats TeaBagged on the farLeft spectrum, agrees with Sinz54, we got a problem Houston.

    Sinz54 said “Abortion is way, way down on the list of priorities” –yeah, about as far down as a Carbon Tax or fixing global warming.

    But that doesn’t stop some from trying to make it the big cause 24×7, no? Like with BoolaBoola’s ridiculous claim that right-2-life supporters approve of murder or terror.

    That’s usually been the sole province of Planned Parenthood and the abortionists who kill babes in the womb for convenience and publicly practice terror on the psyche of inner city women to great effect.