I talked with Virginia congressman and GOP minority whip Eric Cantor for a few minutes yesterday about the National Council for a New America.
As Corner readers know, when I first heard the name of the group, I reacted with sarcasm. And Rush Limbaugh, among others has been critical of the NCNA. We need to teach conservative principles, he has said, not listen and pander.
But after talking to Cantor yesterday, I think the New America project — or at least Cantor’s stated vision of it — may be closer to the Right idea than not.
Cantor, one of the founders of the NCNA, says that it’s all about “bringing people into” the Republican party and the conservative movement (he says these two things separately, a seeming acknowledgement that there are differences). Citing the recent “tea parties” on April 15, he notes that people are angry and seeking to influence the debate in Washington. “We want to harness that energy.”
Rather than pander, he says, the goal of the NCNA is to launch “a wide-open policy discussion,” but one based on conservative principles. He lists free markets, individual freedom, and faith in God as being at the core of the project.
While Cantor makes clear that the Council is an official caucus and not a vehicle for electioneering, he believes it will help Republicans expand their party. Cantor assures conservative critics and skeptics that “conservative credentials are there and are really guiding the effort.” Right now is an “opportunity,” he says, for “our agenda to begin to attract independents.”
And about the name: Cantor says it’s merely a “recognition of the fact we’re in the 21st century,” acknowledging our need to embrace technology, competition, and meet new challenges.
The Council’s initial event in northern Virginia featured Cantor along with Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney.
But what if Tom Ridge and Arnold Schwarzenegger want in on the next one? Cantor dismisses concerns, citing Reagan’s 11th Commandment and emphasizing the importance of coalition building. “We’ve got to rally around the things that unite us,” he says.