Two National Review reporters have taken prominent positions in right-leaning institutions. This is good news for the country.
Over the last eight or so years, a group of conservative writers (Ross Douthat, Yuval Levin, Reihan Salam, Ramesh Ponnuru and many—-though not enough—-others) have tried to shift the right in the direction of a middle-class politics that focuses on the problems of today rather than the problems of the Reagan Era.
That is difficult for multiple reasons. Many people in the conservative base (which skews older than the country in general) had their sensibilities formed in the seventies and eighties. Earlier in the week, a local conservative talk show host asked callers to talk about when they shifted right. The most recent conversion experience I heard recounted was set in 1984. The reformist writers lack the audience of the right-leaning talk show hosts. They also lack the money of the lobbyist-industrial complex. Since the reformist conservatives can’t command or buy a huge audience, their influence comes much more slowly by making individual converts among younger activists and established political elites. Some of the progress of these reformists can be seen in recent speeches by Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee.
National Review has (along with the Weekly Standard and National Affairs) been supportive of conservative reformism. That is why I take it as a good sign that NR’s Jonathan Strong is going to take over Breitbart’s DC office and Katrina Trinko is going to take over the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry site. Breitbart is a major source of news among conservatives who affiliate with the Tea Party. Sometimes it means people clicking on the site, but other times Breitbart is filtered through other right-leaning media. Just today, I heard our local conservative talk show host mentioning a Breitbart story about the state of the economy. When it comes to conservative foundations, AEI and the Ethics and Public Policy Center are more my style, but Heritage is probably best known among rank-and-file conservatives. Whenever there is a big scrap between the Tea Party and the lobbyist-industrial complex (whether over immigration policy or the government shutdown), Heritage has played a major role encouraging the insurgents—-sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.
I think it is healthy that young NR alums are going to shape Breitbart’s political reporting and Heritage’s new Wonkblog-style news and policy site. It could bring the Tea Party and conservative reformism a little closer together.