When he is asked about his motivations for moving away from liberalism and toward conservatism, Michael Barone typically offers up a one word answer: "Detroit."
His conversion took root in the aftermath of the 1967 Detroit Riot Barone explained to audience members gathered inside the Kennedy Center last Wednesday for the annual Bradley Awards Ceremony. He was serving as an intern in the Detroit mayor's office when the six day riot claimed over 40 lives.
"I was there in what was inaccurately called the command center and I saw how the city was devastated," he said after accepting the award. "I came to believe that the results sought by Roosevelt are more likely to be achieved by the policies of Reagan." The liberal schemes that sought to create heaven within the inner cities instead created something closer to hell, Barone added.
As a political journalist and historian, Barone gives distinctive depth to reporting on American politics. Now a senior political analyst with the Washington Examiner and a resident fellow with The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research he is also an accomplished author.
"Professionally I've moved from law, to political consulting, to journalism," he observed. "Some people think the pay is arguably less in each one and there's also an argument that the professional ethics is lower with each one of those; I suppose the next step is academia."
Barone is also the principle co-author of the Almanac of American Politics, published by the National Journal every two years and now in its 20th edition. He has traveled to all 50 states, all 435 congressional districts and 51 foreign countries. Barone also noted that he has covered 18 percent of all U.S. congresses as a result of his work on the Almanac.
"As I look back on my work in these different professions, it seems to me that I've spent my career trying to understand and describe as best I can this wonderful country the United States of America and to describe our current politics," he said.
Founded in 1985, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is "devoted to strengthening American democratic capitalism and institutions, principles and values that sustain and nuture it," according to its mission statement. The Bradley Prize program focuses on the ideas that shape good public policy by highlighting the achievements of key individuals in areas that are consistent with this mission.
The other 2010 Bradley Prize Award winners are: Paul Gigot, the editorial page editor and vice-president of the Wall Street Journal, John B. Taylor, the Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics at Stanford University and Bradley A. Smith, the Josiah H. Blackmore II/Shirley M. Nault Designated Professor of Law at Capital University, and a former member of the Federal Election Commission.
Gigot credited the Foundation for "its willingness to fight for ideas even when they seem unobtainable" and told listeners the school movement was beginning to make progress in Washington D.C. and other urban settings.
"You know you've won the arguments when the liberals start adopting your positions while attacking you personally," he observed.
Although the proponents of big government are now in charge of The White House and Congress, new opportunities for the conservative movement are coming, Gigot suggested.
"Thanks to our current government the American people are once again learning what creates prosperity and what doesn't," he said. "This education can be painful at times, but I suspect it will mean more victories for our ideals soon enough."
The Obama Administration is also creating opportunities for the journalism profession, Gigot noted.
"I have sometimes reflected back on the 1992 election and thought had I known then what Bill Clinton would do for my career, I think I would have voted for him. I have not said that about Barack Obama but I am warming to the idea because the unfortunate truth is that the prosperity of journalism is inversely proportional to the prosperity of the nation."
Nominations for the Bradley Prize are solicited from a national panel of more than 100 individuals involved in academia, public policy research, journalism, civic affairs and the arts.
"These accomplished and respected individuals are being recognized for achievements that are consistent with the mission statement of the Foundation, including the promotion of liberal democracy, democratic capitalism, and a vigorous defense of American institutions," said Michael W. Grebe, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Bradley Foundation.