You probably had trouble avoiding a story today about the Mount Vernon Statement — a declaration of principles drafted by rightwing activists of the old school, including Brent Bozell III (a New Right legacy pledge), conservative vanity press operator Alfred Regnery, Tony Perkins of the super-fundamentalist Family Research Council, et alia.
The signatories today held a ceremony some miles from the Mount Vernon estate of George Washington (which denied them access). A Washington impersonator was enlisted to suggest a relationship anyway; Dave Weigel got a picture.
You might think these activists’ handiwork would be as important as a new call to get fluoride out of our water, but Republican Senator Jim DeMint has announced that this is the new Gospel for the movement, and that leaders who can’t get behind it “should be replaced.”
The driving force between this latest press opportunity is the Tea Party movement, which has both given new hope to conservatives who felt out of sorts after Obama’s election and motivated those who were not quickly aboard the Tea Party train to show their relevance. Thus, claims like “‘Mount Vernon Statement’ to unite conservatives” in sympathetic outlets, and Vernonite statements like that of former congressman David McIntosh, “We’re hoping this will be picked up by the Tea Party activists as a framework.”
Even some conservatives find the sentiments in the document vague, but the words aren’t as meaningful as the symbolism: Mount Vernon, Geo. Washington, fifes and drums, etc. “The truths we endorse once again have not changed since the American Revolution,” says signatory Grover Norquist, which might make a reasonable person wonder why they didn’t just sign in the margins of the Declaration of Independence rather than writing something new.
The Tea Partiers took their very name from a Revolutionary act, and they love 18th-century drag. It may be these conservative greybeards figured, hey, we have colonial-style furniture and eagles on our walls, too — why aren’t we getting any of this action?
It’s too early to tell if the TP people will go for it. But they might. It’s supposed to be a non-partisan movement, right? But they ought to be careful about letting the old-timers anywhere near the control switches. They were in charge the last time the conservative movement crashed into the rocks.