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“Mount Vernon Statement” Erases Equality, Rights

Conservative leaders’ pompous and self-congratulatory “Mount Vernon Statement” twice refers to the line “self-evident truths” from the Declaration of Independence. Conspicuously absent, however, are two of those self-evident truths: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed with unalienable rights.

I don’t think it was an oversight. The omission gets to the heart of the deeply authoritarian personality of the contemporary conservative movement, or movements, as the case may be. Oh, the Mount Vernon document mentions “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But universal rights and equality are anathema to conservatives. How would they justify oppression if everyone was equal and had equal rights?

In the authoritarian worldview, some people are just naturally better than others. Or, as George Orwell famously put it, some are more equal than others. For conservatives, government’s only proper role is in enforcing the inequality. And that begs the question: if it’s so natural, why does it have to be enforced at all?

It is striking, in a Tiger-Woods-on-chastity kind of way, to see a collection of gouty royalists like Ed Meese and Alfred Regnery masquerade as the true defenders of the American democratic tradition. These posers are idolatrous hierarchs who have spent all their lives building their rodent tunnels under Constitutional barriers to plutocracy.

The MVS says:

The self-evident truths of 1776 have been supplanted by the notion that no such truths exist. The federal government today ignores the limits of the Constitution, which is increasingly dismissed as obsolete and irrelevant.

These words from the defenders of the idea that corporations are people, too, people who are, incidentally members of the “most equal” club. Just where in hell is that in the Constitution? These are the people who scrapped habeas corpus and the right to privacy, who oppose voting rights and brag about how they subvert the public will with elaborate voter suppression schemes.

These are the defenders of the democratic tradition? What mad cowshit is this?

The conservatism of the Declaration asserts self-evident truths based on the laws of nature and nature’s God. It defends life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It traces authority to the consent of the governed. It recognizes man’s self-interest but also his capacity for virtue.

See, no “created equal” or “unalienable rights.” I don’t know what to make of their reference to the Declaration’s mention of the “Laws of Nature.”  These conservative corkscrews spend much of their time on their flat earth ridiculing Nature’s laws for political and economic gain. Oh, I see they also mention “nature’s God,” which gives them an out. “Did we say nature’s laws? We meant Pat Robertson’s laws.”

And what happened to the upper case “N” in the Declaration’s “Nature’s God,” which in the MVS becomes “nature’s God?” Upper cased Nature, after all, might belittle the rightful dominion of God’s Elect. It is unnervingly polytheistic. The hell with the Founders’ language! So much for the MVS signatories’ claim to be defending the Founders against the “sustained attacks” of constitutional heretics.

Still, nothing so clearly reveals the conservatives’ true authoritarian mission better than the omission of the Declaration’s very first self-evident truth: “That all men are created equal.”

That beautiful phrase does away with the cornerstone of conservative thought, which is that some are born to rule, others to be ruled. Quite conveniently, conservatives place themselves in the former category. People have an essential nature. People of unwhite skin are lazy, unintelligent, and undeserving of the rewards that naturally acrue in the bank accounts of their betters. Many are born to be poor, many to die young, many to be imprisoned.

This Declaration’s phrase puts the torch to that particular pile of manure. It tells us we are alike in our hopes, dreams and aspirations. It tells us specifically that we are not born unequal. We certainly live unequal lives, though. So if conservatives agreed that we were born equal they’d have to account for (among other things) the great disparity in wealth and opportunity.

Such an accounting, of course, would end their masquerade. It would reveal that disparity to be their only real achievement and their only real goal for the future.

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Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith