EDWARDS: Roaring along conservatism’s rocky road

Heritage’s Ed Feulner was there to light the way

Question of the Day

Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

View results

Political wise guys would have you believe that conservatives these days have but two options: either assisted living in a senior community or a bed in a hospice. We are headed for the ash heap of history, where we will be buried without honors — a footnote, at best, to 20th-century politics.

At least that’s what William F. Buckley Jr. biographer Sam Tanenhaus (“The Death of Conservatism”) and New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (“The age of Reagan is officially over”) are saying.

But do not despair, conservatives, we have been here before — in 1964, when conservative Barry Goldwater was trounced in the presidential campaign; in 1976, when conservative Ronald Reagan lost the Republican presidential nomination to Jerry Ford; in 1992, when liberal Bill Clinton won the presidency; in 2008, when progressive Barack Obama was elected.

Each time, conservatives came roaring back.

Just four years after his landslide win, President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not run for re-election, and Goldwater was easily re-elected to the Senate.

Only four years after Reagan lost the nomination to Ford, he was handily elected the 40th president of the United States.

Just two years after Mr. Clinton was sworn in, Newt Gingrich and his conservative cohorts proposed a Contract with America that enabled Republicans to capture the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.

Only two years after President Obama was first elected president, the grass-roots movement known as the Tea Party exploded into existence, and Republicans recaptured the House and almost the Senate as well as a majority of state legislatures.

Was all this luck? Divine providence? Proof that American politics swings back and forth every generation or so between the left and the right?

I believe in providence, but I also believe in free will. Conservatism rose from the ashes of defeat every time because of the enduring ideas of F.A. Hayek and Russell Kirk, because of popularizers such as Bill Buckley and Rush Limbaugh, and because of charismatic leaders such as Goldwater and Reagan, who ran without apology on the first principles of the American Founding.

Where did Reagan get the ideas for his successful presidency? Who deepened and widened the conservative movement that Buckley tirelessly championed?

Time and again, these conservative giants turned to the Heritage Foundation and its president, Ed Feulner, to guide them on the rocky road to ordered liberty.

President Reagan described Mr. Feulner as an “intellectual, administrator, politician, diplomat, but most of all, dreamer and darer.” He understood, the president said, that “the best way to ride the tide of history is to make a few waves of [your] own.”

Mr. Feulner has done more than that. He changed the tide of history.

Before Reagan made the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) the cornerstone of his arms negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev, Heritage underwrote the groundbreaking study “High Frontier,” which outlined a missile-defense system that would knock down incoming Soviet missiles.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story
Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks
You Might Also Like
  • Maureen McDonnell looks on as her husband, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, made a statement on Tuesday after the couple was indicted on corruption charges. (associated press)

    PRUDEN: Where have the big-time grifters gone?

  • This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014,  shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gesturing as he answers a question during a news conference  at the Statehouse in Trenton.  Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme orchestrated by key aides. The early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will make a case Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014, that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically, according to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    BRUCE: Bombastic arrogance or humble determination? Chris Christie’s choice

  • ** FILE ** Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

    PRUDEN: The question to haunt the West

  • Get Breaking Alerts