The Right and the Left tend to have different reactions to losing elections. The Left goes on paranoid benders. The election was stolen! Dogs kept our voters from the polls! The voting machines were rigged — and we have the lack of a paper trail to prove it! At least judging by the 2006 elections, the Right instead settles in for a healthy debate about what went wrong and what to do about it.
It is in that spirit that the National Review Institute is holding a “conservative summit” next weekend in Washington, D.C. NRI held a similar event after the 1992 election, a galvanizing event in the conservative revival that took place in the run-up to the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994.
The recent history of conservatism is that in disaster there is renewal. Barry Goldwater’s shellacking in 1964 paved the way for the conservative transformation of the Republican party. Jimmy Carter’s 1976 victory paved the way for Reagan. And Clinton paved the way for Gingrich. Will Nancy Pelosi pave the way for something positive, and if so, whom or what?
We don’t know the answers to those questions. One of the purposes of the conference is to begin to answer them. Newt Gingrich, a one-man think tank, will kick off Saturday’s agenda with a breakfast speech. Then, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, arguably the most innovative Republican officeholder in the country the last few years, will talk over lunch about winning ideas in the states.
This is not an event meant simply to cheer up the choir. We want to debate and suss out the way ahead. Ralph Reed and Ryan Sager will debate the Religious Right and its role in the GOP. Mark Krikorian and Tamar Jacoby will do battle over immigration reform. And we will have a debate on energy policy and the Iraq war. All should be entertaining, hard-hitting affairs.
Ramesh Ponnuru, John O’Sullivan, and Robert P. George will give policy presentations on domestic policy, foreign policy, and the social issues respectively, laying out the way ahead for conservatives in those areas. Top conservative analysts will comment on their presentations, as we begin the process of creating a consensus on the most important issues facing the right.
And there will be much, much more. Click here for a copy of the agenda, still being finalized.
I don’t want to suggest though that the conference will all be all about eating your policy spinach. It opens Friday night with a cocktail party with John Bolton, and then a “night owl” session with Mona Charen, Laura Ingraham, Kate O’Beirne, Michelle Malkin, and Kathryn Lopez that will be an informal discussion of whatever is on your mind — after everyone has had a few drinks. There’s another cocktail party Saturday night, then a dinner MC’ed by Mark Steyn (and headlined by Mitt Romney), and finally another night-owl session with Mark, Jonah Goldberg, and Rob Long.
I can guarantee you will have a good time. The conference is not just a chance to hear a lot of smart people discuss the future, but a chance to weigh in yourself — sessions will leave time for your questions. The word “summit” is used advisedly. This is a gathering of conservatives to meet, debate, cajole — and we hope — inspire one another. If you care about the future of conservatism and its animating ideas and principles, you’ll want to be a part of this event.