Below are some general observations on the National Review Institute Summit held in Washington, D.C. this past weekend on “The Future of Conservatism.”
Despite the setbacks that were experienced at the national level in 2012, there was a palpable sense among speakers and attendees that the Republican Party has a stronger bench heading into 2016. That much is for certain since there are 30 Republican governors, many of them right leaning, and many of them advancing innovative police solutions rooted in conservative ideas.
Go back over the past few decades, and it would seem governors typically make for compelling presidential candidates than U.S. Senators. Then again, those same U.S. Senators were weighed down by long-careers with public records that could be picked apart. Barack Obama broke the mold here; rising GOP stars like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul can too. Whoever does emerge will need to address the “demographic challenges” that also figured prominently in the discussion.
Here are a few of the highlights:
- Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin offered up his own version of Richard Nixon’s “Silent Majority” in his talk. Yes, there were thousands of well-organized protesters who turned out in force to keep their taxpayer-funded union benefits. But they were vastly outnumbered, he said, by citizens who wanted to reclaim control of government.
- Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas advised listeners to “stop reading the New York Times” and to change the national narrative so people understand the “pie is not fixed” but can grow and expand with pro-growth economic policies. Once this happens, redistribution loses its appeal, he said.
- Michael Barone, a resident scholar with American Enterprise Institute, said “Republicans are challenged by demographics, but not doomed.” President Obama only carried 207 congressional districts compared to 228 for Mitt Romney, he said. So a permanent Democratic majority does not appear to be in order. Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, who now heads up the Faith and Freedom Coalition, told audience members that Ronald Reagan would have lost the 2012 election with his voter totals from 1980. Kellyanne Conway, president and CEO of the Polling Company, said that contrary what was been widely reported single woman carry about a lot more than just contraception and abortion.
- A very interesting theory on the re-election of President Obama emerged from the discussion between NR columnist Kevin Williamson, and Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, Inc. Hamm said it was possible that the natural gas revolution made possible by hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) may have, in a roundabout sort of way, helped Obama politically by improving the economy just enough in key states like say Pennsylvania.
- Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATF), reminded listeners that every time Republican presidents tried to deal honorably with Democrats and extract real spending cuts in exchange some tax increases, those spending cuts never emerged. “Step one, don’t raise taxes,” he said.
- Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute, had some interesting thoughts where step two may be involved. “The rival to power is power,” she said. “The rival to Washington, D.C. is the states.” In Arizona, voters rivaled Washington, D.C. with legislation that saved the secret ballot from union perfidy, she said.
There was also a lot of discussion of media bias. But conservatism previously found expression when there was less parity in the media than there is today. The Republican governors, who were such a prominent part of the Summit, are not exactly media darlings yet they prevailed with conservative policies that connected with voters. I agree with that part about a deep bench.