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The Passing of Paul Weyrich

2:30 PM, Dec 18, 2008 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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The conservative movement lost a leader today. Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation and Free Congress Foundation and philosophical father of numerous other organizations, spent his life confounding the Left. He built coalitions and pushed conservative principles when the idea of doing so in Washington was novel, and the possibility of success near nil.

He did not despair at the sometimes achingly incremental progress of conservative ideals in the capital's political culture, but commissioned similarly determined soldiers to fight on all fronts. He saw much success for the things he believed within his lifetime, and was handing out action items for upcoming battles until the end.

Jen Rubin notes that Weyrich's passing is another reminder that conservatism must cultivate new leaders to follow in the steps of his generation:

The identity of the individual or individuals is not clear, but the need is apparent.

There is a gap currently on the Right. On one hand, there are familiar groups (e.g,. NRA, Right to Life) and conservative think tanks. But these don't provide the electoral machinery to groom candidates and to win elections. And their reach beyond hardcore conservatives is limited. The former have lost some of their relevance as their single-issue causes fade in importance, while the latter are not designed as political action groups.

On the political side is the creaky RNC, which is technologically bereft and nearly irrelevant as a political institution. Young techo-whizzes therefore have popped up, promising to revive the party with innovative marketing and technology. But they lack content. What do they want to organize for? What do conservatives want to social network about? It is not at all clear.

The time therefore is ripe for a new generation of conservative leaders who have the ability to organize, invigorate, and give purpose to conservatives outside the Beltway. It is not enough for conservatives to oppose cap-and-trade policies - they need an alternative to left-leaning environmental action groups. It is not enough for pundits to bemoan the lack of Republican appeal to nonwhite voters - they need Hispanic, African-American, and Asian-American conservatives to organize in their communities, support new candidates, and translate the conservative agenda into alternatives to the NAACP and LULAC...

So if Weyrich's passing gives conservatives time to reflect, they might recall two accomplishments of his generation. They built structures that advanced the conservative cause. And they had a good time doing it. That's an example worth following.

The Heritage Foundation has a slideshow of Weyrich, and collected tributes to him from Tom DeLay, John Boehner, Mike Pence, and Heritage alum who knew him well. May he rest in peace.