“Heritage wanted young tigers, not old lions, who were excited about engaging in the war of ideas, eager to go into battle, and optimistic about the prospect for victory.” Ed Feulner.
In “Leading the Way,” Lee Edwards has drawn a masterfully detailed picture of how an ambush of young tigers, led by Mr. Feulner, took the idea of a Washington-based “think tank,” turned it on its head and, in the process, created what has become one of the most consequential intellectual forces in American politics: The Heritage Foundation.
Mr. Edwards, the leading historian of the conservative movement, has written or edited some 20 books on the subjects of conservatism and conservatives.
Mr. Edwards‘ detailed documentation of the founding and growth of Heritage in “Leading the Way” will be an important resource for anyone interested in the history of the conservative movement, and a veritable feast for those who knew or wish to learn more about the giants upon whose shoulders present-day conservatism stands.
I may be a little biased in my assessment of the importance of Ed Feulner’s influence. During the formative years of Heritage, Mr. Feulner was a regular participant in the weekly breakfast meetings of the rising leaders of what came to be known as the New Right that I hosted at my home.
To the extent that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “vast right-wing conspiracy” ever existed, those meetings were it.
During those meetings, Mr. Feulner provided much of the intellectual horsepower to translate our conservative criticism of the Democratic Party’s answer to every question throw money at the problem, and the establishment Republican Party’s alternative, throw a little less money at it into policies that offered real conservative, free-market alternatives to both.
As interesting as Mr. Edwards‘ historical perspective on Heritage is, the most important contribution of the book (besides the well-deserved celebration of Mr. Feulner’s career) is to shed light on how Mr. Feulner took the strategy we developed in those meetings of the New Right and, through the Heritage Foundation, helped change America and the world.
The strategic model that we developed, and that could not have succeeded without Mr. Feulner and Heritage, was what we came to call “insideoutside.”
Conservatives knew where the left, and big-government Republicans, were going wrong; the question was how to change it.
As Mr. Edwards documents in “Leading the Way,” the young tigers of the conservative movement outside of government, such as Mr. Feulner, Morton Blackwell, Howard Phillips, Paul Weyrich (who along with Mr. Feulner helped found Heritage) and others joined the young tigers of the conservative movement inside government to advance conservative policies and governance.
While we outside members of the team raised the money and rallied the public to support them, these mostly younger congressmen, such as Newt Gingrich, Phil Crane, Bob Walker, Vin Weber and the other “Reagan revolutionaries,” took the studies and analyses Heritage provided to prove that conservative ideas were not only ideologically correct, but as government policy they would work better than the liberal alternatives.
This was something that was unthinkable before Heritage.
As Mr. Feulner pointed out in his forward to “Mandate for Leadership III,” “We’ve taken what ten years ago was called unthinkable and shown that it’s workable when given a chance the intellectual battles we’ve won over the last decade have established the premises for formulating public policy well into the next century.”
In this, “Leading the Way” is more than just a nostalgic look at conservative successes, and a well-deserved celebration of Ed Feulner’s career and the many people who influenced his thinking or whom he brought together to advance the conservative cause. It is a blueprint that shows how conservatives can continue to win victories for personal freedom and economic liberty if that is, we can continue to find leaders like Ed Feulner.
Richard Viguerie is the chairman of ConservativeHQ.com.