(Fred Lucas/CNS News) – The nation’s top conservative leaders will gather Wednesday at Collingwood in Alexandria, Va.—a property that was once the site of George Washington’s River Farm—to sign a document organizers are calling the Mount Vernon Statement.
It is designed to signal that a united and resurgent conservative movement is declaring philosophical war against the big government and moral relativism advanced by the nation’s liberal cultural, academic and political establishments.
The statement emphatically says no to the type of “change” pushed by political leaders who ignore the Constitution’s limits on government power.
“In recent decades, America’s principles have been undermined and redefined in our culture, our universities and our politics,” says an excerpt from the statement. “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,” says the statement. “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 we urgently need, a change consistent with the American ideal, is not movement away from but toward our founding principles,” it says.
The full document will be posted online at www.themountvernonstatement.com after 3 p.m. Wednesday.
The statement was drafted under the auspices of the Conservative Action Project, a coalition led by Edwin Meese, who served as a top White House adviser and then attorney general to President Ronald Reagan. Other leaders of the coalition include L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Media Research Center (the parent organization of CNSNews.com); Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner; Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist; Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, American Conservative Union President David Keene, Concerned Women for America President Wendy Wright; Coalition for a Conservative Majority Chairman Ken Blackwell; former Reagan Domestic Policy Adviser Ken Cribb; Let Freedom Ring President Colin Hanna, and Al Regnery, publisher of the American Spectator.
More than 80 prominent conservatives from around the country are expected at Collingwood for Wednesday’s signing ceremony. Among them will be people prominent for their efforts on behalf of the conservative cause in economics, social and cultural issues and national security.
The statement intentionally harkens back to the Sharon Statement of 1960, which was signed at the home of William F. Buckley Jr. in Sharon, Conn. That statement of conservative principles helped launch an era of conservative activism that first led to Sen. Barry Goldwater winning the Republican presidential nomination in 1964 and then to Ronald Reagan being elected president in 1980.
“The whole purpose of it is to give an updated version of what are the principles that draw conservatives together,” said Meese, who came with Reagan from California to the White House in January 1981. “And so it was felt both that it was appropriate to draw attention to the Sharon Statement but also to update that in terms of generally how conservatives think today, which is basically the same principles restated in what you might call modern language.”
“At this important time, we need a restatement of constitutional conservatism grounded in the priceless principle of ordered liberty articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” says another excerpt of the statement released by the organizers.
After President Barack Obama’s election along with a Democratic majority Congress in 2008, some commentators argued that conservatism had perhaps permanently lost its hold on the American electorate and the American mind. Over the past year, however, the fiscally conservative Tea Party movement has risen up from the grass roots, and Republican candidates have won convincing victories in statewide elections in Virginia, New Jersey and even Massachusetts.
Meese told CNSNews.com that if the Republican Party wants to continue this winning trend it must heed conservative principles. “The Republican Party has been successfully when it subscribes to conservative principles,” said Meese. “You go back to 1980, go back to 1994, those were the guiding principles that provided for Republican successes.”
While a number of conservative commentators and organizations will be publishing policy prescriptions this year that they believe can help lead to conservative victories in 2010, the Mount Vernon Statement will not be a campaign document that focuses on individual issues or one election cycle. Rather, it will focus on broad principles, said Media Research President Brent Bozell.
“It’s a document that we hope is going to serve as a compass for the movement so that when we have a debate such as, for example, on socialized health care, there should not be a degree to which government participates in national health care but whether government has the authority, the right to interfere in this issue,” Bozell told CNSNews.com. “If it doesn’t have the specifically enumerated right and responsibility spelled out in the Constitution, then the federal government should not be involved period.”
“Rather than worrying about the size of the deficit and the debt, why don’t we start asking questions about the size of the government itself,” Bozell said. “We need to have that conversation again. Why do we have a Department of Education? Whatever happened to federalism? You’re not going to have that debate until you’re grounded in first principles again.”
When the Sharon Statement was signed, conservatives had only National Review and Human Events to publicize it, said Bozell. But now conservative Web sites, talk radio shows, and social media will make it possible to quickly spread the word to millions about the Mount Vernon Statement.
“Look at the opportunities today,” said Bozell. “When the statement is released, I will be able to send it instantly to 540,000 members of the Media Research Center, grassroots members. The Heritage Foundation has more than 600,000 members. They will be able to send to their membership who will receive it in a matter of minutes.”