In 1938, the American Enterprise Institute was founded (then the American Enterprise Association), to little immediate effect, to combat the seemingly ever-rising tide of statism here at home. In 1955, National Review was launched to "stand athwart history, yelling Stop." In 1973, the Heritage Foundation was established to push back against the liberal GOP policies of the Nixon White House. In 1982, the Federalist Society was created to provide professional and educational support for conservative lawyers and law students dissenting from the doctrine of the "living constitution." In 1996, Fox News was launched in part to appeal to that boutique market niche -- i.e., roughly half the country -- that felt the media had drifted too far left. In 2009, the tea parties were ridiculed as a racist hissy fit.
At each of these junctures, conservatives were ridiculed for their fool's errands and fretted over their lost causes. When former Soviet spy Whittaker Chambers famously migrated from left to right, he said, "I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side, but it is better to die on the losing side than to live under communism."
But Chambers was wrong. He joined the winning side, the side with the better arguments. The other naysayers were wrong too. Some of the New Deal survived, but many of FDR's statist ambitions were quashed. National Review didn't stop history, but it certainly changed it. The Federalist Society now claims Supreme Court justices as alumni. Nixonian liberalism is gone from the GOP. Fox News crushes its competitors. The tea parties fueled one of the biggest midterm landslides in a generation.
These successes were real and important. But they were not total because times change, and more to the point, total victories don't exist in politics so long as the losing side doesn't surrender. Just for the record, I see dismay, even despair, out there. But I don't see much surrender.
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