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Traditionalist v. Reformer? The One True Test Of A Conservative

Tuesday, November 11, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

David Brooks’ column this morning predicts battles between two camps within the conservative movement.

It is a fine column and sure to get e-mailed around, sparking snarky comments along the way.

But it vastly understates the complexity of the situation within the conservative movement and the GOP today, and largely because most of the names it names are Manhattan-Beltway media or organizational elitists. Many of these folks are my friends and colleagues and they do great work, but they don’t and can’t drive a movement or a party. Leaders and activists do that, and they do it from outside of New York or D.C.

I am off to Phoenix to address the Center for Arizona Policy tonight, one of the vast network of activist organizations across the country that will play a large part in the renewal of the conservative movment and thus the GOP. That renewal will not be a elites-led effort, but a party-led effort that will draw on the energy and ideas of the folks Brooks names and the state organizations. The key is the levelling effect of the new technologies and the model built by Team Obama and the activist groups on the left. The worst thing would be for anyone to attempt to drive anyone “out” of the conservative movement, or to engage in denunciations of this or that particular camp except for the always necessary effort to guard against extremists eager to nest inside of a larger coalition.

The best rule of politics I have ever heard was the direction to unify our side and divide theirs. The latter is going to take care of itself in short order as the demands of the Democratic coalition cannot all be met, even in significant part. The task for the GOP and conservatives is to make sure the big tent is still standing and that everyone, even media elite pundits, are welcome there if they can agree on the one true test: Ronald Reagan was a great president.

That’s a great test for getting into the tent.

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