WASHINGTON -- Asked for his take on the nation's sharp right turn after its leftward lurch under Barack Obama, Heritage Foundation founder Edwin Feulner replied, "The political pendulum always swings back."
The longtime president of America's foremost conservative think tank has seen many presidents come and go, but he has never lost his deep and abiding faith in an informed and aroused electorate.
Heritage, with its vast army of conservative analysts, researchers and experts in multiple fields, spends its multimillion-dollar budget informing Americans about many things, especially the benefits of a free-market economy and the threats that big government, excessive taxation and overregulation pose to our freedoms and our economic future.
But the one lesson Feulner said he has relearned lately is that "there are no permanent victories or permanent defeats in Washington. It is always a permanent battle" of ideas.
Obama was able to convince an angry, frustrated and fearful nation that government was the answer to all our concerns, but that myth lasted less than a year before the electorate rebelled against the direction he was taking the country.
Feulner quoted Thomas Jefferson in the late 1700s when the young nation seemed to be moving in the wrong direction for a time, raising taxes and enacting the Alien and Sedition Act that restricted freedom of speech.
"The spirit of 1776 is not dead. It has only been slumbering," Jefferson wrote. "The body of the American people is substantially republican. But their virtuous feelings have been played on by some fact with more fiction; they have been dupes of artful maneuvers, and made for a moment to be willing instruments in forging chains for themselves. But time and truth have dissipated the delusion, and opened their eyes."
"That's what is happening today across the body politic," Feulner said in an interview. America has taken a wrong turn in recent years, and our country and its economy have become "less free."
The most alarming manifestation of this can be seen in the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom (www.heritage.org/index/), which shows that the United States has slipped among the economies of the world.
The U.S. economy still remains in the top 10, "but the score went down to such an extent that it went from the 'free' category to the 'mostly free' category," Feulner said.