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The Future of the Right

A report from Thursday's gathering of conservative leaders in the Virginia countryside on the future of the movement.

By 11.6.08

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About two-dozen conservative leaders met today at the Stanley, Virginia home of Media Research Center President Brent Bozell in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains to discuss conservatism's future in the wake of Tuesday's election results.

TAS Publisher Al Regnery and editor in chief R. Emmett Tyrrell were on hand, along with leaders from policy groups and grassroots organizations representing each pillar of the conservative coalition, from Christian conservatives to libertarians, and everybody in between.

"As the afternoon went on, it didn't take long for attendees to become resolute in their resistance to moderates and to the opinion that the conservative movement will become the opposition to Obama," Tyrrell said.

One attendee said, "We're no longer going to support Republicans who want to 'improve' a bad bill. We're going to oppose all bad bills."

Morton Blackwell of the Leadership Institute, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, pollster Kellyanne Conway, and direct mail guru Richard Viguerie were among those present.

The meeting began at 11 this morning and adjourned at around 4 p.m.

There's a strong feeling, Tyrrell said, that social conservatives, free market conservatives, and national security conservatives will all be able to work together.

He also said that "there's a sense that the Republicans on Capitol Hill are freer of wobbly-kneed Republicans than they were before the election."

Regnery said, "The consensus was that this was not a mandate for Democrats, that this country is still center-right. The overriding fear was that the Republican Party does not represent conservatives," and there was a desire to get behind genuinely conservative candidates.

Much of the discussion focused on taxes, spending, judges, values issues and how libertarians and social conservatives could work together.

Looking back at the campaign, they felt that John McCain wasn't really a conservative, and that Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber were the two best things that happened because of the way they connected with people.

Although polls show that "conservative" is a more popular word than "Republican," it turns out that "Democrat" is a more popular description than "liberal," and the sentiment was that tougher language needed to be used to define Barack Obama and other Democrats as liberals.

Regnery thought it was significant that "two days after the election, conservative leaders took the day off in order to start the process of putting together an agenda for where we go in a couple of years."

In the coming months, there will be follow-up gatherings in different locations to chart the path forward.

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Philip Klein is The American Spectator's Washington correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/Philipaklein