Yesterday, conservative leaders and activists from around the country signed a document called the Mt. Vernon Statement. It outlines what the writers feel are the keystones of the conservative movement. I won’t waste column space here repeating the whole document verbatim, please read it for yourself. (Also, isn’t it amazing how the page font, layout and colors are so similar to this blog? Pure coincidence!)
The Mt. Vernon statement has been praised as “an elegant tribute to limited government and the Founding Fathers” by Michelle Malkin. Senator DeMint (R-SC) called for the replacement of any member of Congress who did not sign the statement. It, the Mt. Vernon Statement, is being hailed as the Sharon Statement and Contract with America of the new century.
CPAC also begins today along with warnings from political strategists, most notably Karl Rove, that the tea party movement must not try to re-invent itself as a third party option for the upcoming election cycle.
It is important to pause and consider that while conservatives and tea party activists seem to have a great deal in common right now, they- we- are not identical faces of the political coin.
Broader conservatives principles, as outlined multiple times and constantly revised for political necessity or pure sound-bite palatability, encompass social as well as fiscal issues. My own statement of conservative principles can be found here. Put one hundred conservative activists in a room and you’ll come out with 75 different variations of what it means to be a conservative. If you doubt me on this, spend a few days at CPAC. I’ve seen it happen, in living color so to speak.
The Tea Party movement, however, is not about social conservatism, or even Republican social issues. The broad appeal of the Tea Party is that it appeals to a vast swath of Americans tired of having to tighten their own belts while the government continues to spend our money as if it is a never-ending well of goodies. The Tea Party-goers who staged such loud and vociferous protests over the health care reform bill were not united about the social implications regarding national health care- they were protesting the astounding, bankruptcy inducing, costs of the measure.
Parties like to define themselves. It is part of the political process. “We stand for this while those guys over there are against it!” Just as human beings instinctively seek someone or something to blame for hardships and misfortunes, we also seek to define the world around us. All too often we broaden party definitions in order to garner more support- the “Big Tent” phenomenon. After a few years that party is so inclusive of different ideas that it no longer resembles the original. The backlash is often punctuated by a watershed document, statement, or referendum outlining the “true” platform of the party. We see this happening now in the Republican party as the conservative base of the party re-assert their political, and literary, muscle.
The Tea Party movement, and the country, cannot afford to engage in the cycle of inclusiveness and contraction that our political parties endure. Fiscal responsibility and reform are unifying issues that can, and rightly should, garner support from Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals, libertarians and independents.
We should not be appointing leaders of the Tea Party, signing broader conservative mandates, or demanding loyalty to a specific establishment party platform.
We should be electing leaders who agree with what members of the Tea Party are saying, signing laws reducing spending and the role of government, and demanding loyalty to the Constitution.
The Constitution is the ultimate manifesto of American politics. It is the only one with which elected officials and the American people, need to adhere.