Normally, I don’t think grassroots conservatives would have a problem with influential righties presenting an organizing manifesto on their behalf. That’s how the continental Congress worked, after all, and this is very clearly styled as a sort of modern analog to the country’s founding. But at a moment when the deliberately leaderless tea party movement is drafting its own platform — which, it should be noted, is a lot more concrete than this document is — I wonder how much attention rank-and-file cons will pay to it.
Serious question: What is this supposed to accomplish?
A Constitutional conservatism based on first principles provides the framework for a consistent and meaningful policy agenda.
* It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.
* It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.
* It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.
* It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end.
* It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.
The idea, I guess, is that Republican voters can wave this in the faces of wayward congressmen, but the principles here are so broad as to be almost meaningless. Let’s say Paul Ryan proposes a small tax increase as part of a larger plan to pay down the national debt. Does that violate the principles of limited government and market solutions, or is it actually a step towards the greater conservative good of solvency and fiscal responsibility? What about the principle of “opposing tyranny” through “prudent” means? Paulnuts oppose tyranny too (they’re libertarians, after all), but their definition of prudence is so dramatically different from the neoconservative definition as to be unbridgeable. And what about, say, waterboarding? Bob Barr, for instance, would insist that that has no place in any sort of constitutional regime. How much closer does this get us to resolving that dispute?
I’m not even going to touch the part about defending faith. (Defending the right to have faith would have been much better.) Exit question: Read David Frum’s response to the manifesto. Isn’t he right, just this one time?