The Mount Vernon Statement Won't Fix What's Broken

Indeed, are conservatives now to start acting like liberals and pick and choose which parts of the Constitution we wish to adhere to and which parts we wish to do away with? Defining some parts of the Constitution narrowly and other parts broadly is arbitrary and capricious.

Even more vital than a return to first principles, it is important that there first be a recognition that conservatives were complicit in the movement away from those principles under the administration of George W. Bush and that it was done to aggrandize power to the movement and for political gain. Before grandiose pronouncements that claim we can fix what ails us, there must come a reckoning of our own responsibility in this crisis. Many conservatives were willing to support a president who was the antithesis of the ideals laid out in the Mount Vernon Statement. Until acknowledging that fact, we will show that we have learned nothing and are likely to repeat the mistake.

Only the spectacular incompetence and overreach of the Obama administration is reviving conservatism now, not the promise that conservatives will more strictly follow constitutional principles. No manifesto, no statement of principles will imbue lawmakers of both parties with the backbone to fix what they have broken. The efforts of citizens can be helpful, but ultimately it is the 535 members of Congress and the president who must act.

Allahpundit at Hot Air sums up the futility that the Mount Vernon Statement represents in this regard:

The idea, I guess, is that Republican voters can wave this in the faces of wayward congressmen, but the principles here are so broad as to be almost meaningless. Let’s say Paul Ryan proposes a small tax increase as part of a larger plan to pay down the national debt. Does that violate the principles of limited government and market solutions, or is it actually a step towards the greater conservative good of solvency and fiscal responsibility? What about the principle of “opposing tyranny” through “prudent” means? Paulnuts oppose tyranny too (they’re libertarians, after all), but their definition of prudence is so dramatically different from the neoconservative definition as to be unbridgeable. And what about, say, waterboarding? Bob Barr, for instance, would insist that that has no place in any sort of constitutional regime. How much closer does this get us to resolving that dispute?

Allah mentions the tea party movement, many members having already sniffed at the odor of establishment conservatism and found the manifesto wanting. Their independence guarantees that for the tea partiers, the Mount Vernon Statement will have little relevance and less impact on their own efforts at formulating a platform.

Those efforts are about to bear fruit as a coalition of tea party groups are looking to develop a "Contract for America" that attempts to give some coherence to the endeavors of tea party organizations across the country. There is a better chance that the tea partiers will have success with politicians in inculcating a greater respect for the Constitution than the Mount Vernon group will have in influencing conservatives. But that just shows the relative strengths of a grassroots movement versus the establishment when it comes to true political power.

As an earnest attempt to give voice to the movement back toward a stricter adherence to the Constitution, the Mount Vernon Statement is a fine effort to unite the various conservative factions under one overarching set of ideals.

But there is no practicality in it and there are no applicable lessons to be imparted by writing it. In that sense, the signers might have done just as well to republish the Sharon Statement and acknowledge its permanence as a founding document of modern conservatism.