Tony Blankley
William F. Buckley, Jr., founding father of the modern conservative movement, famously asserted his doctrine of voting for the most conservative candidate who is electable.

Let me presume to add an analytic codicil: The GOP and the conservative movement have tended to support the most conservative policies only when they are understood to be conservative and are plausibly supportable by the conservative half of the electorate.

As the ideological center of gravity on various issues has shifted back and forth across the conservative-liberal spectrum over the decades, so inevitably has conservative policy support. I have in mind four examples: abortion, federal aid to education, "cap-and-trade" and individual health mandates.

As a campaigner for Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Ronald Reagan in all his campaigns, starting in his 1966 campaign for governor of California, I can vividly recall that in 1964, Goldwater and the conservative movement were against federal aid to education -- in its entirety.

But as the decades advanced, even the most conservative voters came to support at least federal loans for college students, if not other federal education aid programs, such as for the handicapped.

As a result, by 1981, President Reagan and Sen. Goldwater were no longer opposed to such federal aid -- even though we were trying to close down the Department of Education for its many other unnecessary intrusions into state and local education. (At the time, I was press secretary at the department.) Today, few members of the public and few, if any, elected officials oppose outright federal college loans, as we did in 1964.

On the other issues mentioned, the movement has been the other way -- from more liberal to more conservative. So, for example, in 1967 Reagan signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act, after only six months as governor. This was before Roe v. Wade. From a total of 518 legal abortions in California in 1967, the number of abortions soared to an annual average of 100,000 in the remaining years of Reagan's two terms as governor.

As the fuller implications of these shocking and unexpected numbers emerged, conservatives started considering the moral implications. Reagan personally started reading deeply on its ethics. For example, he studied the teachings of Catholic philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas. Eventually, the conservative movement and the GOP became anti-abortion.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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