Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner, who has just written The American Spirit: Celebrating the Virtues and Values that Make Us Great, recalled how the late Jack Kemp, whose infectious optimism was one of his inspirations, was one of the GOP’s best messengers.
Feulner said Kemp “saw what happened to some of his African-American teammates” and fought against that discrimination when he was playing football and “had the courage and the optimism” when he entered the political arena to go into minority communities to promote conservative values and entrepreneurialism. Kemp was also, according to Feulner, “never ashamed to talk about his faith, why the good lord meant something to him and his wife.”
Kemp brought many new people into the Republican Party and showed how important it was for the GOP to have effective messengers, especially when it comes to certain core principles such as “freedom, prosperity, opportunity, and maintaining civil society” that Heritage has always advocated.
Feulner noted, though, that how best to convey those core principles to the American people changes with time, and the medium through which the message is transmitted is often as important as the message or the messenger in this era. Mindful of this, the Heritage Foundation has adapted in recent years to not be left behind, as the political and media landscape today is different from that of 25 years ago when Heritage staffers had to walk policy papers physically across the street to Capitol Hill.
Political battles are conducted online, and there are many new media outlets through which Americans can get introduced conservative politicians and leaders and their points of views on the defining issues.
Feulner said Heritage made it a priority to keep up with the information revolution with in-house television, the weekly Bloggers Briefing, and a bigger online presence to reach not only its traditional audience on Capitol Hill but younger generations across the country and others who, in another era, may not have had the resources or the know-how to keep up with organizations like Heritage. Feulner cited Heritage’s 700,000 dues-paying members as an example of its broad reach.
Last decade, many conservatives worried that liberal think tanks were outpacing conservative organizations that had gone rather stale.
But that cannot be said about Heritage, especially with some of the innovative ideas Robert Bluey has helped implement in the last few years.
Bluey often serves as a conduit between bloggers and others in the online world and the more formal world of Washington, often connecting lawmakers and Republican leaders with the online community to the mutual benefit of both worlds and has been an invaluable part of Heritage’s renaissance in the new media age.
Other organizations, including many on the right, did not adapt to the new media age and are playing catch up. By being ahead of the curve by bringing on conservatives like Bluey who are both fluent in policy and new media, Heritage ensured it remained and will remain a relevant part of the the national conversation.
Graphic: Matt Warren