Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.
— Horace, Ars Poetica, 139
A number of prominent big-time Conservative Movement figures have been working for over a year on the text of a new Conservative Manifesto, apparently intended to represent a set of defining principles for a new Tea Party Movement-associated national coalition.
One can tell exactly how old a lot of these people are by the fact that the new manifesto is an obvious take-off on M. Stanton’s Evans’s famous Sharon Statement, written in 1960 as the guiding principles of the newly founded Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). 1960’s YAF-ers are the senior citizens of 2010, and the Mount Vernon Statement is, by comparison, intentionally cagey and coy, trying to point eloquently in the general direction of some never explicitly identified “ideas of the American Founding” in as discreet and noncommittal a manner as humanly possible.
The Conservative Movement is, of course, already a tent covering an unruly collection of highly opinionated, intensely argumentative camels, representing very different libertarian and traditionalist strains of conservative opinion, who don’t necessarily like one another very much. Attempting to include an inchoate mass of centrist independents, mostly inclined toward fiscal conservatism but in general lacking any particular enthusiasm for censorious social conservatism was bound to represent a challenge.
One can sympathize with the difficulty of the drafters’ task, however, without being carried away with admiration for their results. The Mount Vernon Statement ended up proposing more syntactical than philosophical occasions for controversy. The fingerprints of an overly large committee are all over it, and though it carefully avoids affront (except to those who care about good prose), it also never particularly inspires.
Its intentionally marmorial, issued in a from-atop-the-mountaintop, inscribed-by-the-finger-of-God, style of presentation seemed a bit incongruous in the light of the missing line feed 8 paragraphs from the bottom. Doesn’t God proofread his tablets anymore?
Michelle Malkin, who is today a lot more significant a conservative figure than just about any of the Mount Vernon Statement signers (except perhaps Richard Viguerie), raises the very valid issue of the appropriateness of David Keene and Grover Norquist appearing these days in this particular kind of role.
Grover Norquist has moved in an alarming direction in recent years, developing ties to Islamist organizations, and (along with Keene) participating in the Constitution Project, a group taking liberal pro-jihadist rights positions.
The appearance of either Keene or Norquist in major Conservative Movement leadership roles at the present time is unacceptable to a great many Conservatives, and their participation in the drafting of Conservative manifestos was inappropriate.
I don’t happen to agree with Michelle Malkin on Immigration but, in my book, Michelle Malkin does speak for the mainstream Conservative Movement on the overwhelming majority of issues, and David Keene and Grover Norquist no longer do.
Richard Viguerie agrees with me, describing the Mount Vernon Statement as “pablum.”