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
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
- 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
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