Heritage Foundation

Patriot Movement And Establishment Square Off.

It’s almost comical to see the flying posteriors and elbows of the establishment elitists as they madly scramble to attempt to co-opt the arriving freshmen representatives. Only they’re just not having any luck with this bunch… or very little. Maybe enticing away a moderate here or there, who would have most likely gone RINO on us anyhow. A target for the next cycle.


Boehner, Cantor and Pence.

This new crop has a bone in its teeth. These folks are on a mission and aren’t likely to forget why they were sent to Washington. They have, in addition, the historical perspective afforded them by the Heritage Foundation and the Conservative Republicans. For once, I think we may have some leadership with the plain intestinal fortitude that’s required if you’re going to fight these Marxists, wherever they are.

With guys like Eric Cantor, Darrell Issa, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, Pete Sessions, to say nothing of Mike Pence and Paul Ryan… strong Conservatives all. Tough and no-nonsense, these are the faces of the New Conservative leadership to whom our younger Conservative members will be looking for guidance and inspiration… and not the elitist, erstwhile movers and shakers who until just recently were still congratulating themselves on destroying the chances of some very fine Republican candidates, simply because they were not the choices of the party anointed elite. Yet they were clearly the choice of the American people.

So how should we reply to such blatant skulduggery within our own ‘party’? We watched, we know who you are. When your cycle is up… so are you. We’ve been catching it in the shorts from the entrenched so-called party elite for so long it’s a severe temptation to launch the entire strength of the Tea Party Patriots against them in open internecine warfare.

The result, I fear, would be a wrecked Republican Party and a Patriot Movement forced into governing… something it was never meant to do. No. We’ll have to defeat them at their own game, then throw out the stale rulebook and start again.

The Tea Party will always serve the country best by its dogged determination and its eternal vigilance in the cause of liberty.

Semper Vigilans, Semper Fidelis

© Skip MacLure 2010

On Think Tanks and Mobile Technology

Joining the Brookings Institution, and followed not long after by the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute made a splash in the mobile app world last week with the release of the first Official Cato Institute iPhone Application. The first release of Cato's app features access to the Cato@Liberty blog, a native podcast client and direct access to Cato's YouTube content, and policy studies and scholar op-eds in major publications. You can view screen shots and read more about the features in a blog post I authored the day of the app's release.

As Robert Bluey, Director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation, noted earlier this week, the release of the three applications by Brookings, Cato, and Heritage prompted Nancy Scola at Personal Democracy Forum's techPresident blog to ask, "...does anyone actually use this stuff?" and "...is anyone seeking out these apps as they seek out research, news, and points of view?" Be sure to check out Rob's comments here and here.

Here at Cato, we saw over 2,000 downloads in just 36 hours. As one of the most well-known public policy research foundations in the world, this wasn't too surprising, but we are nonetheless very proud and encouraged by consumers' expressed enthusiasm, especially given that we spent very little money to develop the application. Like Heritage, we don't have access to the demographic data on the app's consumers, although we've received some very positive feedback from media, Hill staff, and other stakeholders in the public policy arena. We are also monitoring and encouraging people to use the #Cato20 hashtag on Twitter, which we are using as a primary feedback loop for people using the application.

But despite this instant success, Nancy's questions still remain. The Obama campaign's development of a proprietary iPhone app was nothing short of a total game-changer in the 2008 election, empowering volunteers with all sorts of tools (phone banking, canvassing tools with interactive maps and voter lists, along with scripts and on-demand campaign platform information, among other features). Do think tanks need tools like this? At Cato, a non-profit research foundation, we never ask anyone to do anything - we don't organize politically. We publish research papers and books (along with other media offerings), and host seminars, workshops, and forums for interested constituents. Our only real need is a steady stream of resources. So it is also interesting to note, then, that Apple won't allow donation buttons in iPhone apps, ostensibly because they don't want to be responsible for ensuring that the total amount of an intended donation actually reaches its destination.

Does this render a mobile application for a think tank useless? I'm not sure that it does, especially since Cato's mission is described thus:

In an era of sound bites and partisanship, Cato remains dedicated to providing clear, thoughtful, and independent analysis on vital public policy issues. Using all means possible — from blogs, Web features, op-eds and TV appearances, to conferences, research reports, speaking engagements, and books — Cato works vigorously to present citizens with incisive and understandable analysis.

A mobile application, then, helps the Cato Institute to continue to develop inroads with stakeholders at all levels by dispersing and distributing information resources to anyone with the technology. And just because Cato doesn't organize people, or ask anyone to write letters to their Congressman or Congresswoman (for example), doesn't mean that there aren't a broad swath of libertarians around the world who are passionate about spreading the message of free markets, individual responsibility, limited government and peace - so having the Cato Institute's scholarship in their hand wherever they are only helps them to achieve their goals.

 

Scola also critiques each application's usability factors, particularly how each organizes content. Her suggestion that it is a drawback to Cato's app for content to organized by date is a fair one, given that we organize content on our website that enables users to search for content by scholar, by research area, by publication title, etc. But subsequent releases of the application will likely remedy this, and at the risk of tipping our hand, we will look to incorporate other features that permit users to share content across the social web directly from their mobile device. We are also currently working to develop applications for other mobile devices and platforms (including Android), and will announce them when they become available to users. We have also begun making many of our books available in e-reader format, including Kindle and Nook.

The lesson from think tank applications, and it will be interesting to continue to monitor how each organization continues to develop their respective technologies, is that, as with any other technology or communications strategy, it's important to know: a) who you are, and b) what your goals are. Only from a coherent understanding of both can organizations from city council campaigns to global public policy research foundations develop and implement tactics that help realize those strategic goals.

George Scoville is the Manager of New Media at the Cato Institute.

RightOnline Day 1 - Building Coalitions

Las Vegas is insane.

Everything I've heard about this Disneyland-for-adults is true: neon, sparkles, bells & whistles, herds (and hordes) of people, STAR WARS slot machines (pictures later)...I will definitely have to come back here one day for purposes other than business. My friend Jon Henke (@JonHenke) and I flew from DC yesterday by way of Newark, NJ and didn't even land in Vegas until 1am PT...it was a long day, and I slept in a bit. It was easy to do in my posh suite at the Venetian, with my sunken living room and remote-controlled drapes! Life is hard.

The first panel I attended today featured Todd Thurman (@toddthurman) of the Heritage Foundation, Brian Faughnan (@brianfaughnan) of Liberty Central, and Alexa Moutevelis (@alexashrugged) of the RNC, all moderated by my Liberty Pundits co-blogger Melissa Clouthier (@melissatweets). The panel focused on connecting grassroots activists in the field to policy shops in DC - like Heritage, Cato, or other think tanks - as well as to communications resources and activism training like those offered by FreedomWorks or the Leadership Institute.

Probably one of the better bits of information passed along during the discussion was the notion that activists in the field shouldn't be shy about engaging DC-based resources. Yes, DC is busy. Yes, DC occasionally has a heightened, over-inflated sense of self. But DC is also sitting on piles of your cash, looking for a way to return value back to you. So don't be shy about sending emails or picking up the phones to ask for help.

But more than just connecting grassroots activists to DC to get talking points and policy papers to support candidates back home, the panel focused on connecting activist to activist using technology - that means Twitter, Facebook, the blogosphere, and other online resources. The RNC announced some nascent, new API and they are transitioning all of their online tools to an open-source platform...the API is apparently already available for developers...more on this later. Despite this move to make RNC resources more available to more people, there was some grumbling in the audience that the RNC fails (on occasion) to return voter vaults back to activists on the ground once they pull out of town following a race. This makes people currently involved with components of the Tea Party movement a bit reticent to cooperate with the RNC in Washington.

After a few questions, and after some dancing around the issue, I asked the panel: is there a sense, going into this November's elections (and subsequently in 2012) that the Right should be worried about the Left exploiting a growing rift between conservatives and libertarians? If so, how can we, or more appropriately, should we be doing anything differently than the suggestions you've all made here today to, strengthen the coalition between these two groups?

The consensus from the panel seemed to be that there's not really any danger this year - libertarians and conservatives agree in principle that the prevailing issue of this election is the economy, stupid. Throwing the bums out is priority #1 in 2010. But the funnel of candidates is currently full, and the new Congressional primary begins, effectively, on November 3 - it is possible that infighting on the Right might get nastier in 2011 and 2012.

Todd Thurman told me after the panel "We just need to make sure we're talking, and that we're sticking together in areas where we agree." I agree in principle with this strategy, but only inasmuch as it's a first step. Because there is potential for infighting to become nastier on the Right as we approach 2012, it's important to talk about areas where we disagree too - libertarians remain (rightly) mistrustful of the Big Government GOP - the same GOP that is trying to ride the Tea Party Tiger into new majorities this fall. Ignoring our differences now can be our foil later.

Cross-posted at Liberty Pundits and Intelligence, Please...

Cato Institute: Actual Cost Of Health Care Bill 6 Trillion Plus And Climbing.

Everybody has heard stories of companies and bookkeepers with two sets of books. Our Congress has put totally new meaning to the words prevarication and fraud. The House and Senate, controlled by hardcore leftist ideologues, have lost all connection with the American people.

We keep telling them WE DON’T WANT THIS..the polls keep telling them. Our visits to their offices keep telling them. Our emails, letters and phone calls keep telling them. And so far, with the exception of a few Democrats and all but one Republican, they have not listened. Or they pretend to listen, babble some garbage about Americans “WANTING” health care, and go right on with stealing our freedoms, enslaving our children and condemning us all to horribly substandard care such as KILLS THOUSANDS of people every year in the UK and Canada. What we don’t WANT is THEIR health care. We don’t want their socialist mandated tyranny. It’s that simple.

When time allows I listen to Mark Levin in the afternoons here. Mark is a constitutional scholar and an unabashed Patriot. If you don’t have his book, “LIBERTY and TYRANNY”, get it. It is simply THE blueprint for the Conservative revolution. Once again, no, I’m not being paid for the endorsement. I learn by hanging around with, and listening to, people who know more than I do. Mark was referring to a CATO Institute report by Senior Fellow Michael D. Tanner on the true cost of the health care fiasco in the Senate now. It’s IMMENSE!! You can link to it on Mark’s web site or Google it. But long story short, they’re not just cooking the books in Washville…they are cooking, baking and barbecuing them.

We are TWELVE TRILLION Dollars in the hole right now..and the debt goes up by FOUR BILLION dollars every day! To this staggering debt, the DeMarxists want us to think the proposed Unhealthy for America bill will ‘ONLY’ cost 849 BILLION dollars. The Heritage Foundation figured it at TWO POINT FOUR PLUS TRILLION DOLLARS. Now the CATO Institute’s studies, investigating much farther into the smoke and mirrors and creative bookkeeping practices employed by Congress and their cabal of criminal cronies, puts the tab at much closer to SIX POINT FIVE TRILLION DOLLARS!!

Meanwhile, the Obama administration and the Congress continue to spend like alcoholics on a binge.Any Republican who says he wants to reach ‘accommodation’ on this bill or ‘FIX’ it, or any part of it, should be run out of office. And we need to tell them just that. It’s time to take off the gloves and go bare knuckles on this Congress and this Administration.

Semper Vigilans, Semper Fidelis

© Skip MacLure 2009

 

The Democratic .44 Mag and the GOP’s Magical 8-Ball.

One of the saddest things about the Crap-and-Trade Bill being passed through the House is how little it would have taken to stop it. Final vote was 219-212.

In the final tally of party betrayals, 44 Democrats voted "nay" and 8 Republicans voted "aye." Surprisingly, if 4 or more of those 8 Republicans would have voted along party lines, HR 2454, or the American Clean Energy and Security Act, would have been defeated. At the least, sending it back to the drawing board if not down the toilet, forever.

Another interesting note coming from Truth and Reason, out of the 52 member Democratic conservative Blue Dog caucus in the House, 22 voted for HR 2454.

If this bill is not resoundingly stopped in the Senate the long term economic cost stands to be painful. As pointed out by the Heritage Foundation's, Senior Policy Analyst for Energy and Environment, Ben Lieberman in his testimony before the Senate Republican Conference .

What are those costs? According to the analysis we conducted at The Heritage Foundation, which is attached to my written statement, the higher energy costs kick in as soon as the bill's provisions take effect in 2012. For a household of four, energy costs go up $436 that year, and they eventually reach $1,241 in 2035 and average $829 annually over that span. Electricity costs go up 90 percent by 2035, gasoline by 58 percent, and natural gas by 55 percent by 2035. The cumulative higher energy costs for a family of four by then will be nearly $20,000.

Given that hardly any of the Representatives read the bill, or its amendment, in their entirety. Or that many Americans, mostly Democrats and Independents, even know what cap and trade is or the economic impact it could incur. The ignorance that is attached to this monstrosity should not be that surprising.

It is incumbent upon the American voter to demand a reasonable and well thought out piece of legislation that matches their future energy and environemental needs. No one, in their right minds,  should be against clean air, clean water, or the best energy innovations American ingenuity can offer. However, these needs should not be used, by public officials,  as propaganda to garner support for central planning styled legislation that will eventually curtail our freedoms or pocket books. It seems more and more that this is about power and control for a few rather than the needs of many.

Rebuild the Right -- the Right Way

Promoted. Debate is good. -Patrick

Last week, my friend Jon Henke wrote a post criticizing Heritage President Ed Feulner and more broadly the entire conservative movement (full disclosure: Dr. Feulner is my boss, but in this post I write only for myself and am representing my own views) .

As you might have guessed, I have to take issue with Jon. While he makes some valid points (as always), I still think he goes too far on a couple.

First, Jon argues that the personnel of the Republican Party apparatus is composed of movement conservatives. As someone who spent a good deal of time working in the Senate, I am surprised that he would make that argument.

I think Jon and I are both painfully aware of some the types of staffers who have clawed their way to the top throughout the beltway-Party infrastructure. In many instances, these are people who have openly disdained us and our ideas. Far too many of them desperately cling to power for power’s sake. And far too many of them wouldn’t know a great, principled policy idea if it smacked them in the face.

To say that the conservative movement should bear responsibility in that arena is something I vehemently disagree with. I mean heck, as a staffer for Jim DeMint over the better part of the last two years, I saw first hand how the good Senator repeatedly went toe to toe with GOP establishment and received nothing but scorn for it – from staffers and senators alike.

And for Heritage’s part, they have been in the battle every step of the way. But frankly, since Heritage got banned from then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s office back in 2003 over our opposition to the prescription drug bill, it has been an adversarial relationship most of the way. And that is as it should be given the makeup of the Party right now.

This adversarial relationship has continued to manifest itself over the years. Whether it be on immigration reform, Harriet Miers, No Child Left Behind or Bridges to Nowhere, Heritage and the broader movement have stood opposed to the powers that be – both elected and unelected – in the Republican Party.

That leads to my second gripe. Jon says we need to push the reset button on ideas. Look, I am somewhat susceptible to this argument. I liked parts of David Frum’s book Comeback, I read Brooks regularly and can even stomach some Douthat on occasion. I certainly don’t agree with all that these guys are pushing, but I love the outside the box thinking when and if it advances the cause. But it is, in my opinion, unfair to write a post that portrays Ed Feulner and the Heritage Foundation as a group lacking ideas.

Stuart Butler, Heritage’s Domestic Policy VP, has been the national leader in pushing the idea of a revamped employer-based health system as the alternative to Obamacare as well as a major reform of the tax treatment of health care – a proposal that would achieve equity while empowering those without employer coverage. Who knows? Heritage’s persistence may even yield successes under our new liberal overlords. The rest of our health care team have been effective as well in pushing “transformational” ideas as evidenced by nearly all the major candidates adopting some form of our proposal.

Or take entitlements. Heritage convinced the top people at left-leaning Brookings and Urban Institute to seriously address this issue. It was Heritage who argued for a transformation in the budget process to “end entitlements as we know them” by putting Medicare, Medicaid, etc. on to the same budget basis as defense.

These are ideas that are, as Jon says, “transformational” and they would be enormously beneficial to the country if acted upon.

There is plenty more.

The problem has not been within the idea incubators, it has been with the politicians who either cannot explain their position, or frankly don’t have the heart and the passion to advance the idea. We make ideas, we don’t coach politicians. Not in our job description.

Finally, Jon ends with a call to “reset the movement” and develop a new guard to “compete” with the old guard. We are conservatives, not revolutionaries. We do not reset. Conservatives build on the past by identifying what has worked and discarding what has not. We stand on the shoulders of giants and we yes, we must train up the next generation. Edmund Burke said the true mark of a statesman is the disposition to preserve and the ability to improve. I bet we both agree that should be our model.

Rebuild the Right: No longer the Party of Ideas

Yesterday, Heritage Foundation founder and President Ed Feulner wrote a post at The Next Right, arguing that the failures of the Republican Party were not a failure of the conservative movement.

At the risk of losing my invitation to the Heritage Foundation Chrismas party: Ed Feulner is exactly wrong. 

The Movement doesn't want to take responsibility for where we are, but "personnel is policy" and the conservative movement is the personnel of the Republican Party.  A political Party is an empty vessel, only as effective and healthy as the ideas and incentives behind it.  We can't buy a "we'd be fine if only we could trust politicians" theory of politics.

Whether it is because the movement's ideas have been ineffectual, because the movement's infrastructure has become complacent and entrenched, or because the movement's incentives have become perverse, the failures of the Republican Party are precisely the fault of the movement. 

The problem is not Republican politicians, although many Republicans politicians are a problem.  The problem is not with the basic ideals of limited government and personal freedom, either.  The problem is a movement that plays small-ball and cedes responsibility for infrastructure to business interests, leadership that rewards those who make friends rather than waves, an entrenched Party and Movement support system that mostly supports itself, an echo chamber that has rotted our intellect, a grassroots that is ill-equipped to shape the Republican Party, and a Republican Party that has replaced strategy with tactics, substance with marketing.

As The Economist pointed out recently, the Right has been losing the intellectual battle of ideas, becoming "a modern-day version of the 1970s liberals it arose to do battle with: trapped in an ideological cocoon, defined by its outer fringes, ruled by dynasties and incapable of adjusting to a changed world."

Unfortunately, the result of that movement complacency has been the erosion of the Right's organizing agenda - its ideas.  There has been a lot of conversation at The Next Right in recent days about that, and at Heritage's conservative blogger briefing on Tuesday, Feulner argued that the Right excels at ideas...

[W]e believe the ideas are fundamental and you've got to get the ideas right before you can start trying to market them. Yes, marketing is important, but that's only the second stage. The first thing is to get your principles screwed on straight and make sure you understand what they're all about.

But is it really true that the Right has the fundamental policy ideas?  What effective ideas has the Right had recently?  How far have those ideas gone?  Where are we?  Unfortunately, we're even farther behind than we were. Government is not more limited; our problems have not been reformed.  Indeed, the problems ahead of us

The Right needs to push the reset button on ideas. 

I’m not talking about the general ideas – free markets, limited government, strong defense – but the way to get from here to there.  Robert Bluey says argues that have an abundance of the policy thinkers.   Well, ok, but yet we haven't had the notable, transformative ideas to move the ball forward on the core ideals.  Sure, we have plenty of ideas for agencies, programs, details, each purporting to keep markets free, government limited and defense strong...but those are ideals, not ideas, and they aren't being matched to a politically viable and organizing agenda.

The current set of ideas either hasn't worked: they either haven't been viable or they've been small.

At this stage, do we need the 900th white paper on trade, even more policy recommendations on Taiwan or new reams of paper devoted to education policy?  Well, yeah, we do.  In theory, those can be important.  But practice is more important than theory, and we've had precious little practice lately.  Our ideas have become brush strokes on a painting, fine-tuning a work that has already gotten too busy to be beautiful. 

The Right has replaced strategy with tactics; pouring gas in a car that isn’t going anywhere.  We are tinkering with an agenda that doesn't capture the public imagination.

Fine-tuning should be secondary to the big picture.

2008 was the year in which that inverted idea agenda, policy and message problems finally extracted its toll and things all fell apart.  The Right has replaced strategy with tactics. We are tinkering with an agenda that is not going anywhere.

Mr. Feulner is wrong.  We have to push reset on the movement itself - not by eliminating the old guard, but by developing a new guard to compete with the old guard - making it better or filling new roles, but always making it work harder.

The Production Cycle of Politics

“Which comes first,” asks Michael Turk, “ideas or the message?” That’s an easy one. Of course it’s ideas. But to understand why, let’s think about politics in the context of the production cycle.

This concept is not my original thinking. It was explained to me a couple weeks ago during a presentation on the future of conservatism as a way to grasp our shortcomings and understand the gaps of our movement.

Let’s start with the basic manufacturing production cycle, which I’ve boiled down to three essential steps: 1) obtain raw materials, 2) turn them into a product, and 3) sell that product to consumers.

Now let’s apply those three steps in the context of producing change in politics:

  1. Coming up with ideas. Academia plays an important role, albeit less significant today due the shortage of right-leaning academics. For example, think about the work of the powerhouse team of political economists at the University of Chicago (Frank Knight, Milton FriedmanGeorge Stigler) and how their ideas on free-market economics began to take shape after World War II.
  2. Turning ideas into public policies. This is role of think tanks -- and on the right there is no shortage of them. Think tanks existed prior to the 1970s, but mostly in the form of academic institutions without students (AEI, Brookings, CSIS). The Heritage Foundation (my employer) helped usher in a new approach. These new institutions (Cato, ATR, NTU) began working directly with policymakers to have an impact.
  3. Implementing policies. Here is where activist groups, media and politicians fit. The left has a superior network of implementers who are effective at shaping a coherent message (MoveOn.org) and using communications channels (full-time bloggers) to sell it. We're about to see how a politician, Barack Obama, achieves this through governing. On the right, groups like Club for Growth and online communities such as RedState fit into this portion of the cycle. Rebuild the Party is an example of an implementer.

The point of this exercise is to understand the imbalance we face on the right. There is a serious deficiency of academics and implementers. We have an abundance of think tanks. Because we lack balance, the production cycle is thrown out of whack and we’re unable to produce change.

You see, ideas alone don’t produce change. And activist groups and bloggers savvy at marketing can’t produce change if they don’t have principled public policies to back up their message. We need a more integrated structure and balanced production cycle.

Now Isn't the Time for Despondency

Promoted: Ed Feulner is the President of the Heritage Foundation. -Matt Moon

[Listen to Feulner and ask him questions today at 12:05 p.m. ET during the Conservative Bloggers' Briefing on BlogTalkRadio.]

Conservatives today need to get their mind right. And the first order of business is to stop equating the Republican Party with the conservative movement.

Our opponents on the left are happy to draw this false parallel. Before the 2006 elections, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne argued, “The decline of conservatism leaves a vacuum in American politics.” According to Dionne, the failures of the Republican Party were a failure of the conservative movement.

A couple of months ago, the left-wing American Prospect ran an article, "The Coming Conservative Crack-up." After describing what he saw as fatal Republican mistakes in the presidential campaign, author Paul Waldman concluded: "In other words, all the pillars that have held up conservatism for so long are crumbling." There it is again: If the GOP fails, conservatism must be crumbling.

Last spring the New Yorker ran a widely discussed article by George Packer, "The Fall of Conservatism: Have the Republicans Run Out of Ideas?" That title commits the same error: Republican failures are interpreted as the fall of conservatism.

I expect this from our opponents on the left. They will seize upon any pretext to announce the death of conservatism. They've been doing it for decades. But too many conservatives today are buying into that fallacy. That is a dangerous mistake, because it will sap your will to fight. If you believe the current sorry state of the GOP is a measure of the health of conservatism, you're bound to conclude that the conservative movement is done for.

If you want to see when conservatives were in trouble, go back 35 years to 1973, the year The Heritage Foundation set up shop. We were just a handful of people in a few rented rooms. At that time there were no cable outlets like Fox News. There was no conservative talk radio, because the Fairness Doctrine was still in effect. Al Gore hadn't invented the Internet, so there were no conservative bloggers exposing the biases of the mainstream media and delivering conservative commentary to millions of readers.

In those days, the conservative movement was in trouble. In fact, it barely existed. Today the Republican Party is in trouble -- serious trouble of its own making. But the conservative movement is not in decline. In addition to Fox News, hundreds of talk radio programs and scores of national magazines, conservatives have achieved a staggering presence on the Internet. Blogs like The Next Right have inspired the next generation of conservative leaders to plot the future.

Given the results of the election, it's obvious that Congress and the White House won't be receptive to many conservative ideas. So we'll be playing a great deal more defense. And there will be plenty of defense to play as liberals try to redistribute wealth, abolish the right of workers to cast secret ballots on union elections, nationalize health care, bankrupt energy companies that use coal -- the list just goes on and on. It will truly be a “target-rich environment.”

But there's good news here, too. Conservative are better equipped than ever before to play defense. We have analytical resources like Heritage’s Center for Data Analysis; we have a vibrant network of allied organizations that can be mobilized very quickly when policy issues come to a head; we have a virtual army of bloggers who can alert tens of millions of Americans literally within hours. And we have some of the best educated and most experienced policy experts in the world.

And while we are playing defense, we must also be educating the American public – both on first principles and on specific strategies to build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society can flourish.

This isn't a time for despondency. It is a time for optimism.

This isn't a time to look backward with regret. We need to look forward with hope and purpose and commitment.

Now isn't the time to let political setbacks drain our resolve. It is the time to remember that progress doesn't follow a straight line. Setbacks are a natural part of gaining ground.

We Need to Move Beyond Reagan

Bottom Line Up Front: No matter what America's short term future holds (a liberal White House, a liberal Congress, etc.), the long term future of the conservative movement depends on our ability to evolve in substance and unify around principles, not personalities.

Anybody who blogs on this site can list the reasons why they're an American conservative. In fact, many conservatives who don't blog, or those who don't even know what a blog is, can list their reasons with an adequate level of logic in their explanation. But not every conservative is called to be part of a conservative movement; or, more importantly, not every conservative is attracted to be a participant of one or more parts of the conservative movement.

The reason I was attracted to the conservative movement as a student at the beginning of this decade was because I felt that the Right, significantly more so than the Left, had a better combination of message and infrastructure that could consistently win elections and legislative battles. One of the reasons why? It seemed to me at the time that the Right was a lot more concerned with principles than personalities when it came to political battles, the old cliche being that "Democrats fall in love, and Republicans fall in line." The Right has lost this advantage, not only because of the Democrats have successfully evolved their infrastructure to fit modern times, as Jon Henke notes; conservatives have also become intellectually lazy. Case in point: our movement's continuing love affair with Ronald Reagan.

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