Do conservatives really think that two of history’s most radical documents – the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution – were conservative?
Have you heard the one where Ron Paul, Pat Robertson, and John Bolton walk into a bar? According to the “Mount Vernon Statement,” the declaration of first principles signed yesterday at part of George Washington’s estate by conservatives of varied persuasions, the punch line would be “Constitutional conservativism.” Led by Edwin Meese, President Reagan’s attorney general, the collection of prominent economic, social, and “national security” conservatives aimed to clarify and recommit themselves to conservativism’s bedrock political philosophy.
They modeled the project self-consciously on the 1960 Sharon Statement that ushered in "new conservativism" when the Young Americans for Freedom signed it at William F. Buckley Jr.’s estate in Sharon, Conn. Like those young activists, Frank Meyer's and Mr. Buckley’s vision of a theory able to “fuse” disparate American conservative ideologies inspired Meese and Co. The resulting mix of pabulum, historical revisionism, and internal inconsistency sheds light on enduring and contemporary tensions within American conservativism.
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