The Republican party is on its way to rediscovering conservative ideas , reports no less an authority than the New York Times. In an extensive piece for the Times magazine, Sam Tanenhaus profiles the group of reform conservatives (including several frequent WEEKLY STANDARD contributors) who are shaping the GOP's policy agenda:

The challenge was turning policy into politics — how to get these ideas out to more lawmakers than the handful who had been closely following the reformists’ work. The group batted around possibilities — a big public-policy conference, a statement of principles — before settling on, perhaps unsurprisingly, “a collection of essays that we would refine and discuss at a conference,” April Ponnuru recalled. The participants in the conference would be drawn from the interlocking worlds of think tanks and politics, and the expectation was that the time spent working through and refining policy ideas would bring the groups closer together and result in a more rigorous, politically realistic vetting.

The resulting collection of essays, “Room to Grow,” was intended to repackage those ideas into a simple manifesto. Levin, Ramesh Ponnuru and Wehner would all write theme-setting articles — on, respectively, “a conservative governing vision,” “the wisdom of the Constitution” and “the anxieties and worries of Middle America” — and April Ponnuru would recruit policy specialists on subjects ranging from Wall Street regulation to K-12 education. Among those writers was Michael R. Strain, a 32-year-old resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, whose article “A Jobs Agenda for the Right” led off a recent issue of National Affairs and included a raft of reformist proposals, from financial incentives for employers who hire workers off unemployment rolls to a suggestion for setting up public-transportation relays to help inner-city residents commute to the suburbs, or vice versa, depending on where the jobs are. The article attracted comment across the political spectrum — includingtempered praise from liberals — along with an invitation from the Republican senator John Thune’s office to participate in a phone conference in which Strain answered questions from constituents.

“I think there’s more of an appetite by people to listen [to these ideas],” Strain told me. “And that includes elected leaders.” At the moment, he was also on a Twitter binge, urging House Republicans to stop stalling on passing an extension of unemployment-insurance benefits, a lifeline to the long-term unemployed. Some on the right, like Rand Paul, said extended assistance not only coddled the jobless but also stigmatized them, scaring off potential employers. Strain disagreed. “Simple statistics tell the story,” he said. “I don’t see it as a conservative-liberal thing. If you look at research, the best guess is: If you let benefits expire, people will take jobs they otherwise wouldn’t take, but more will drop out of the labor force entirely. Conservatives, because of their conservatism, shouldn’t want that. We’re the party of work, earned success, championing people to lead their own lives.”

Read the whole thing here.

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