Another week, another manifesto proclaiming conservative principles for America.
Today’s edition is titled the Mount Vernon Statement, and it includes some heavy hitters from the conservative movement: Edwin Meese, Ed Feulner, Tony Perkins, among others.
In light of the explosion of conservative manifestos as we enter the 2010 election season — HotAir.com says there are at least seven — it may be tempting to portray them as the attempts of various center-right groups to grab the reins. I think it’s a little more complicated than that.
The Mount Vernon Statement, for one, is pretty broad and generic. Not much for anyone to quibble with there, except to the degree that far-lefties who fancied themselves ascendant in the past year have demonized words like “market.” But it is a bottom line.
The debate will come in the platforms stacked upon that one. So far, elected Republicans haven’t laid out anything explicit, only hinted at something approximating a warmed-over Contract With America. If their list(s) sounds more like Newt Gingrich ca. 1994 than Paul Ryan’s much newer Roadmap, they will face the question of what’s new — not to mention why anyone should believe them this time.
On the other hand, nothing is more grassroots than the Contract From America springing up from the Tea Party Patriots. Activists voting online will select 10 planks from a list of 21 nominees, ranging from a balanced-budget amendment to auditing the Federal Reserve to passing market-based health-care reform. (Note that none of the 21 relates explicitly to anything one might call social conservatism.)
At HotAir.com, Allahpundit warns conservatives not to get too attached to any one entire list:
Progressives thought that 60 Democrats meant 60 liberals, or at least 50 liberals plus 10 weak-tea centrists who could be bullied, but of course it hasn’t played out that way. The balance of power is in the center, which is why people like [Joe] Lieberman continue to be able to dictate terms to Harry Reid. When the GOP regains power (and even in 2012 or 2014, it’s unlikely to be with a 60-seat majority), they’ll face the same problem with [Olympia] Snowe and [Susan] Collins and Scotty [Brown]. Point being, you’re going to have to water down conservative programs to keep moderates like them in the fold or draw off people like Ben Nelson, and watering down programs necessarily means compromising on core principles sometimes. Unless you think you can elect 60 hardcore Reagan Republicans — which, I hasten to add, even Reagan couldn’t do while the Reagan revolution was in full swing — you’re bound to see those principles betrayed. Which isn’t the end of the world: It helps to stick a firm stake in solid conservative ground so that the Republican chieftains who are leashed to it don’t stray too far. But they will stray, because they have to in order to pass legislation. We’re all on the same page about that, yes?
Well, are we?