NEWT’S FOUR-PART PLAN Continued…#3
July 18, 2023
In the breakfasts and dinners I mentioned in my recent blog posts, we were strategizing how to build the conservative movement and effectively battle the Left. In June of 1975, John Filka of the Washington Star wrote an article and referred to us as the “New Right.” That phrase caught on. We were clearly new and different conservatives.
The New Right was the same ideologically as the Old Right; however, we were operationally different. We would start our day thinking about what two, three, four things we could do today to advance the conservative cause and liberty, and defeat liberals. Also, the New Right (unlike the Old Right), as well as today’s conservatives, included social/cultural issues as part of our agenda.
The Old Right, personified by conservative giants like Senators Bob Taft, Barry Goldwater, Strom Thurmond, and John Tower, would show up for a vote in Congress, get beat 2-1, and ask “When’s the next vote?” When told, they would say something like, “Ok, I’ll be back.” In other words, as Morton Blackwell said after he had been in Washington, D.C., a year or two, it came as a great shock when he realized Barry Goldwater, Strom Thurmond, John Tower, and other conservative politicians did not meet once a day, once a week, once a month, or even once a year to plan conservative strategy.
In those days, no one was leading the conservative movement. I sometimes describe the conservatives after Goldwater’s 1964 loss and before Reagan’s 1980 election to the presidency as conservatives being leaderless. It was like my friends and I were sitting in the back of an airplane that was going through a lot of turbulence. The plane was bouncing all over the sky. So, Weyrich, Phillips, Feulner, Falwell, Blackwell, Dolan, Phyllis Schlafly, Paul Laxalt, Jesse Helms, Tom Ellis, and others, and I got up our courage, walked to the front of the plane, and knocked on the cockpit door. (You could do that in the 1970s.) There was no answer, so we opened the door and found it empty—no one was flying the plane.
In other words, no one was in charge of the conservative movement.
We all began to take our seats, got out our legal pads, put down our coffee cups, picked up a copy of Human Events, National Review, Conservative Digest, and began a seven- to eight-year process of leading the conservative movement. That lasted until January 1981 when Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the fortieth president of the United States, and of course he became the leader of the conservative movement.
The Old Right operated as a two-legged stool, which is not very sturdy. The two legs of the stool were economic issues (lower taxes, balanced budgets, etc.) and national security (which mostly meant anti-communism). However, under the leadership at first of Paul Weyrich and Jerry Falwell, conservatives began to add traditional values issues to the country’s political discussion, and now conservatives were sitting on a three-legged stool. And by the late 1970s, instead of getting 45, 47, or 48% of the vote, conservatives started to get 51, 52, even 55% of the vote.
Recently I discussed my new book GO BIG: How Conservatives Can Win with Bigger and MORE: Organizations, Donors, Money with a leader of a major well-known conservative organization. We were discussing the part of the book where I stress the importance of planning and she said, “Wow, I need to study that. We’ve had great success since we were founded a few years ago, but we’re winging it.”
Basically, she said, “we’re flying by the seat of our pants, we have no plans short or long term,” and she recognized that was not how she was going to achieve her long-term objectives.
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