Tuesday, December 28, 1999

Conservatives now dominate the American political landscape, with a majority of the Congress, governors who represent 70 percent of the nation’s population, and two presidential candidates who easily best Vice President Gore in the polls because they stand on the shoulders of their giant like predecessors.
Although conservatism established its political dominance in 1980, three leaders of the first half of the 20th century laid the essential foundation Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge and Robert A. Taft.
TR is deemed too “progressive” by some, but anyone praised by both traditionalist Russell Kirk and editors of the conservative Weekly Standard for his robust nationalism is conservative enough.
Consistent with the Founders of the Republic, President Coolidge believed that the federal government should interfere as little as possible in the workings of the national economy. But Coolidge was not an apostle of laissez faire he emphasized, as did the Founders, the central importance of moral foundations to America.
Sen. Taft, although failing to win the Republican presidential nomination in 1948 and 1952, revived the GOP during the postwar period and restored a principled opposition to American politics.
Over the next four decades, a disparate group of philosophers, popularizers and politicians built a national political movement that seemed on the edge of extinction more than once. The list could easily be 2 or 3 times longer, but here are the most important movement conservatives:
Author-historian Russell Kirk. His seminal work “The Conservative Mind,” published in 1953, gave the conservative movement its name.
Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, Wisconsin Republican. The senator was stigmatized by the left as the creator of “McCarthyism” (a word that first appeared in the communist Daily Worker), but he drew millions of Americans, including what would later be called Reagan Democrats, to a “common struggle” against communism.
Polymath William F. Buckley Jr. Mr. Buckley is a man of many parts columnist, TV host, debater, novelist, sailor, harpsichordist but his signal contribution to the conservative movement is the 1955 founding of National Review.
Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona. By winning the Republican presidential nomination in 1964, Goldwater broke the hold of the Eastern liberal establishment on the GOP and transformed the Republican Party into the Conservative Party.
Missionary Walter H. Judd. A 10-term member of Congress, Dr. Judd inspired more Americans from the early 1920s through the late 1980s with his speeches, radio broadcasts, TV appearances, and magazine articles than any other conservative.
Entrepreneur Richard A. Viguerie. The Texas-born Mr. Viguerie became the king of political direct mail and provided conservatives with an essential tool to raise money, communicate ideas, and motivate people.
Author-activist Phyllis Schlafly. The redoubtable Mrs. Schlafly formed STOP ERA, which blocked ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the astonishment of the Establishment and was the first pro-family coalition in American politics.
Libertarian Milton Friedman. Winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, Mr. Friedman popularized the free market through his prolific writings and the internationally acclaimed TV series “Free To Choose.”
Neoconservative Irving Kristol. The onetime Trotskyite and Cold War liberal carried the conservative message to political and intellectual worlds where no conservative had dared go before.
Action intellectual Edwin J. Feulner. As president of the Heritage Foundation, the Wharton School-trained Mr. Feulner has helped shape the policy of American government for more than two decades and made Heritage the most influential think tank in the most influential city in the world.
Talkmeister Rush Limbaugh. With his 20 million radio listeners, the witty, provocative Limbaugh is the conservative movement’s leading broadcast spokesman.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Without Mr. Gingrich’s fiery rhetoric and unflagging leadership, there would have been no historic capture in 1994 of the U.S. House of Representatives and no possibility of a historic political hat trick in 2000 the winning of the presidency, the Congress and a majority of the governorships.
And, finally, the colossus of modern American conservatism:
President Ronald Reagan. All this conservative did was to restore Americans’ faith in themselves, win the Cold War without firing a nuclear shot, and set in motion an era of economic growth and prosperity that continues to the present.
Because of the extraordinary legacy of these individuals, the conservative movement is alive and well and very ready for the 21st century.

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