WASHINGTON—Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts today outlined a bold vision for conservatism and his priorities as Heritage’s new leader. Appearing in National Review, Roberts’ essay is a sobering look at the state of American conservatism, but also a hopeful prescription on how the conservative movement, led by organizations like Heritage, can emerge from a turbulent time, even stronger and in position to take back the country from the radical left.
Roberts argues that although the conservative movement faces challenges from the forces arrayed against us on the left, “many see little reason for optimism. But if history is our guide, then we have every reason to believe that the golden era of American conservatism will soon emerge.”
A lifelong educator, historian, and movement conservative, Roberts is taking the helm of Heritage after successfully leading the Texas Public Policy Foundation and previously serving as president of Wyoming Catholic College. He’s also the founder of John Paul the Great Academy, a K-12 Catholic liberal arts school in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Having fought many policy battles as a D.C. outsider, Roberts said he’s ready to step into the ring to counter the left’s efforts to implement the most radical policy agenda in American history. He’s currently leading Heritage’s lawsuit against the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate—the first lawsuit in the organization’s 48-year history.
In the National Review essay, Roberts outlines the challenges facing conservatives and the opportunities to take back America.
“Since Heritage’s founding, conservatives have created and financed a sprawling network of political, policy, and media organizations. Yet in that same period, the woke left has seized control of just about every major institution in American life and turned America’s classrooms, boardrooms, and newsrooms into ideological reeducation camps. …
“And so, 48 years on, the bad news is that conservatives are once again weaker than the left— culturally, institutionally, and politically. But the good news is that we have been in this position before and turned it into triumph—massive, long-lasting policy triumph that has defined the last half-century of American greatness. So conservatives today face not a moment for resignation or revolution, but a time for choosing.”
If conservatives are to have lasting success, we must look beyond just the next political cycle, and figure out what we stand for, what our policy priorities are going to be, and how we will communicate them to an American public desperately suffering under the weight of the Biden administration, Roberts writes. Politics and policy are downstream of culture, and we must get serious about engaging not just policymakers, but the broader cultural questions and concerns across our country.
Conservatives, no matter where on the spectrum they fall, must rethink the challenges America faces—and our solutions to those challenges—if we are to regain the trust of working Americans and implement a positive agenda for the country:
“We need to rethink China, Big Tech, and education from pre-K to college. Today, the breakdown of the nuclear family is a much bigger problem than the lack of economic dynamism—what does that mean for taxes, trade, regulation, and welfare programs? What does the collapse of organized religion and the traditional married, two-parent family unit mean for conservatism’s commitment to civil society? How should the geographic polarization between rich, blue, coastal hubs and the great red middle of the country shape the way conservatives think about infrastructure, health care, finance, and transportation? How, at long last, should conservatives finally act on immigration: incrementally, or all at once?
“These are questions conservatives haven’t asked enough, in or out of power. And many D.C. conservatives will probably be content not to ask them now, either…”
The answer to these questions is not going to be found in Washington, D.C. The battle will be won only if conservatives dedicate ourselves to seeking out, understanding, and addressing the concerns and cares of those outside the Beltway, beyond the corrupting reach of the Swamp.
“The future of the conservative movement is not in Washington, D.C., at all. It’s everywhere else. Here, professional conservatives learn to tiptoe around cultural issues, either for fear of being called names by media hypocrites, or to keep future job prospects viable with woke corporations. We cannot change those incentives, so we have to change the setting.
“I think the American people already intuit this. What we are seeing now, with parents’ pushback at school-board meetings, with the explosive growth of home-schooling since COVID-19, the national grassroots repudiation of critical race theory and trans extremism—that is the future of the right. If the left’s power is in elite institutions—of government, media, academia, corporations—then conservatives’ response must be to smash those institutions’ power and return it to the nation and the economy.”
Roberts makes clear: from Day One of his leadership of The Heritage Foundation, he will represent the interests of those Americans who feel left behind and those who feel they have no voice in the current climate. Heritage’s policy recommendations will be built on a foundation of freedom and opportunity, from a passion for helping others, and from respect for the norms and values that make America the greatest country in world history.
“Going forward, it is the job of conservatives inside the Beltway to better connect with conservatives outside the Beltway, and not the other way around. We need to open up the movement to fresh American air, and the people we seek to serve.”
Conservatives have powerful adversaries on the left who also want to win the hearts of the forgotten man—or, failing to do so, simply overcome resistance to their political agenda via oppressive mandates and opportunity-killing policies. Despite our differences, conservatives must be united in common cause to once again unleash true freedom, save our country, and restore her greatness.
We should use this moment to resolve our disunity, and together break down walls we never dared scale before. We can and will have policy disagreements, but such disagreement and debate should be the iron sharpening iron that leads not to a historic victory for the left, but for the renewal of the conservative movement and an unprecedented era of American freedom and prosperity.
The opportunity is there. We have only to seize it. And as president of The Heritage Foundation, Kevin Roberts will be a leader in doing so.