Politics

Mount Vernon Mush

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On the left, Glenn Reynolds. On the right, a GOP that takes its libertarian rhetoric seriously.

A bunch of right-wing heavyweights (and middleweights, and lightweights) have put together the Mount Vernon Statement, purportedly a manifesto for "constitutional conservatism." Glenn Reynolds writes that it's "heavy on small-government stuff, and light on social-issue meddling," and he suggests that "this supports the notion of a libertarian shift on the right."

I suppose it's significant that the authors felt their agenda would be more appealing if it were framed with somewhat libertarian language, and if that's all that Reynolds means then I don't disagree. But the rhetoric here is so all-inclusive and platitudinous as to be practically meaningless. Even the plank on foreign policy is carefully phrased so that both hawks and doves can embrace it: The text supports "advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world" while adding that we should "prudently" consider "what we can and should do to that end," a resolution that depending on your concept of prudence could entail anything from cutting a few dictators' share of the foreign aid budget to invading China.

I understand the need to forge coalitions. But there's also a need to weed the serious insurgents from the opportunists whose reaction to every grassroots movement on the right is to try to coopt it on behalf of the party that brought you the K Street Project, Medicare Part D, and the Patriot Act. How much weeding took place here? The first signature on the document belongs to Ed Meese. That should tell you all you need to know.