No Permanent Victories,
No Permanent Defeats,
Only Permanent Battles
Edwin J. Feulner
Edwin J. Feulner was our keynote speaker for our 54th annual dinner on October 14. This essay is the speech that he shared with us. Edwin J. Feulner was the founder, and long-time President, of the Heritage Foundation. He is now retired. For almost 50 years, The Heritage Foundation has advanced the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. It has led the way for reforms in every policy area — from taxes and regulation to crime and national defense.
Thank you, President Barry MacDonald, and thank you, Chairman Michael Swisher. And thank you to all of the members of the Religion & Society Foundation Board, and all of the staffers at the St. Croix Review.
The St. Croix Review is an integral longtime leader of America’s conservative movement. The conservative movement is where a myriad of institutions — national, regional, and local — work together to promote our shared ideas and ideals: Ideas based on individual responsibility, our Founding Documents, the rule of law, a free economy, and a world safe for America and Americans.
I have been Washington’s congenital conservative optimist for the last 55 years that I’ve been involved in the public policy process.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin with a bit of “scene setting,” specifically about my alma mater, The Heritage Foundation.
At Heritage our vision is simple: “The Heritage Foundation is committed to building an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish.”
Our aims are also clear: We believe in advancing public policies consistent with limited government, the free enterprise system, a strong national defense, traditional American values, and adherence to the rule of law.
I say this because I assume I am with a group of conservatives who share these commitments with me, so that tonight I am not in the business of conversion but rather in the business of a conversation with like-minded conservative friends.
So, let me make three basic points this evening:
We’ve been electorally down before in recent history. In the past, with the right leadership, endorsing and advancing proven good ideas, we have prevailed. There are clear ways ahead for America to change to a more positive outlook for our political future.
- We’ve had big challenges before:
- There was Barry Goldwater and the “Glorious Defeat.”
- There were the seeds of an emerging conservative movement, led by Richard Viguerie, who invented new communications tools, such as direct mail advertising.
- The Philadelphia Society brought ideas, and idea people, together.
- Yes, we were down in 1964.
- We were back in 1968 with Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.
- We ended the war in Vietnam.
- Nixon resigned, and Gerald Ford acceded to the presidency.
- After the Watergate scandal, the American people refused to identify as Republicans, and the Republican National Committee actually ran TV ads headlined “Republicans are people, too!”
- There was the Carter malaise, and the misery index, with out-of-control inflation and interest rates.
- The Carter presidency paved the way for the Heritage Foundation, and the “Mandate for Leadership” with Ronald Reagan in 1980-81.
My point is: we’ve been here before. I believe we will overcome our present-day hurdles, including those several new hurdles that we, as a nation, and as a conservative movement, have never had to deal with before.
2. We will find the right leadership to keep us moving in the right direction. What are some of these challenges?
Big Tech — Yes, they control too much of our communication channels across the political spectrum. Yes, they are hard left, and anti-conservative in their outlook, and in their controls. But — for those of you in the younger generation — I remember when TV had only three networks, all of them controlled by the establishment Left; when print media was dominated by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and a few others — all controlled by the Left. It was our add-on small publications like The St. Croix Review, The National Review, and Human Events that held the flag high for conservative ideas and policies.
Today, we do have our daily printed outlets: The Epoch Times, The Washington Times, The Washington Enquirer, and The Wall Street Journal editorial page.
Electronically, we have: Breitbart, Fox News, Fox Nation, Real Clear Politics, The Daily Signal of the Heritage Foundation, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, etc.
We have podcasts from dozens of groups and individuals, including a good friend of mine, Bill Walton. There are also the Heritage Foundation’s three to four podcasts produced every week on issues of concern to all of us. The American Enterprise Institute has podcasts also.
So, before we despair, look around at what unites us — not just what divides us —and at what challenges us. To be successful, we have to add and multiply, not subtract and divide.
I look to Ronald Reagan’s “Mandate for Leadership” in my chronology. Today, some of us call the Reagan era the “golden age of conservatism.” It was, in many ways, but there have been other inspiring successes since the Reagan era. In1994, for first time in 40 years, the Republicans took over the House under the leadership of Newt Gingrich, with his “Contract with America.”
Where are we now?
3. Several months ago, I gave a conservative perspective on President Biden’s first hundred days to a London audience. Here is the short list of what I opened with:
- The Biden Administration canceled The Keystone Pipeline, disrupting relations with our neighbor and our largest trading partner, Canada. The cancellation cost 41,000 jobs, and sacrificed America’s role as the world’s leading energy producer and supplier.
- The Biden Administration OK’d the Russian Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, waiving sanctions on the Russian company building it, and on the former East German intelligence officer who is the company’s president. Nord Stream 2 makes Europe, especially Germany, much more dependent on our shared adversary, Russia.
- As we saw at the G7 meeting, NATO and the G7 love us again, because the Biden Administration is not holding them accountable for paying their fair share anymore.
- The Biden Administration ignored the cyber-attacks on our fellow American companies: Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods. These American firms were hacked by criminals located in, and almost certainly controlled by, Russia.
- Meanwhile, Russia is amassing troops along its border with Ukraine.
- North Korea is testing missiles again, and resuming its nuclear weapons program.
- China? Well, that’s a separate subject for a whole speech, but let me just say again that even with Biden in the White House, the U.S. is not going to go back to the “good old days” of the George W. Bush and Obama presidencies regarding U.S. policy towards China.
- Closer to home, our southern border is a disaster, with illegal crossings at a level not seen in more than 20 years.
- Gas prices are up 56 percent in 12 months (highest since Carter).
- Steel is up 45 percent.
- Lumber is up 300 percent.
- Wheat is up 25 percent; soybeans is up 71 percent; the overall food price index is up 35 percent.
- Copper is up 50 percent; oil is up 65 percent.
- 6.1 percent of the U.S. population (about 4.9 million) are currently receiving unemployment benefits, while 9.3 million jobs remain unfilled. Why the imbalance? Because so many workers are making more take-home income than they did in entry-level jobs.
- The consumer price index is up over 5 percent in 12 months, but is up 2.9 percent since Biden became President, which is an annualized rate of 9 percent!
- Meanwhile, the Administration is proposing a tax policy to penalize entrepreneurs and businesses, and also to significantly increase the death tax to hurt the little guy.
- Government spending: How can we even measure it?
- A trillion is a thousand billion, and a billion is a thousand million, and we are calmly talking about two, or three, or maybe four trillion? That is four thousand billion!
- No wonder no one in Washington is upset when we learn that stimulus checks totaling an estimated $400 billion ($400 x 1,000 x 1 million) have been stolen from the government’s payouts by state actors in China, Russia, Iran, and even Nigeria.
That was the situation in May. Here we are, five months later, and:
- We’ve now been exposed to the disastrous and humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan.
- We’ve seen the likelihood of an expansion of big government far beyond even the dreams of President L.B.J. and his Great Society cronies.
- We’ve seen the expansion of “woke” society, and “woke” laws, redefining our whole traditional set of moral standards.
- Illegal aliens are flooding into the U.S. at unparalleled levels, affecting the social services and the basic institutions of civil society throughout our nation.
- We’ve been told by “the scientists” that COVID-19 restrictions mean we can’t go to church, but we can go to casinos; we can’t celebrate Christmas, but we can riot, steal and murder in our cities. As a native of Chicago, I cry every day for the lawless disorder prevailing there and elsewhere, as is reported in the national news.
So, in circumstances like these, how can we be optimistic? Why should we have a happy face when we confront these national policy proposals?
America has always had just the right leadership, at just the right moment when America needs leadership — whether it’s Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, William Buckley, or Milton Friedman. We always find the right leadership, both politically and intellectually, when we need it; and we can reply to the Left with specific alternatives to the insanity that confronts us, both in Washington, D.C., and in St. Paul. But meanwhile, let me return to Newt Gingrich.
He’s at it again, returning to the role he played in developing and building the conservative majority in the House during his tenure as Speaker in1995 to 1999. His theory:
build an American majority — not Republican, not even conservative, but American — on issues that are overwhelmingly endorsed by a majority of the American people.
Yes, overwhelmingly! Here are some specifics of what his polls have revealed:
The Southern Border — 90 percent of all Americans want everyone entering the U.S. illegally to be tested for COVID-19 before U.S. Customs and Border Protection releases them — so say 92 percent of Latinos, 90 percent of Democrats, and 85 percent of African-Americans. The Pelosi political machine has been blocking every effort to have a vote on this simple issue. Eighty-seven percent of respondents want mandatory deportation for noncitizen gang members, including MS-13 gang members and others. The Democrat machine opposes a vote on this issue. Seventy-five percent oppose taxpayer-provided giveaways to illegals (welfare, health care, free college), including 60 percent of the Democrats.
Law enforcement — 80 percent of Americans want the police fully funded (69 percent of Democrats; 57 percent of African Americans; and 70 percent of Latinos). Seventy-four percent want mandatory life sentences for cop killers (67 percent of Democrats). But we’ve seen no action from Democrats in Congress. Seventy-two percent of Americans want mandatory prison sentences for attacking police (61 percent of Democrats).
School Choice — COVID-19’s positive result: 81 percent of all Americans favor school choice for every student in America (including 74 percent of Democrats!), despite the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Associations hold by the Democrat politicians. COVID-19 gave us a shift in public attitudes that Milton Friedman and we policy wonks could never achieve!
Other Issues — 81 percent want photo ID requirements for voting. The bill HR1, For the People Act, says no.
We are witnessing “wokeness,”gender neutrality, and insanity when the Deputy Budget Director testifies about payments to, in her words, “birthing people,” because she could not use the word “Mother,” as it might offend some people. The Democratic House passed new rules, in the House rules document, on the first day of the new Congress to eliminate 25+ gendered terms, such as man, woman, mother, father, son, daughter, etc. Even among Democrats, 62 percent favor using traditional terms, like mother and father. As Newt Gingrich says, on behalf of the American majority: “It’s just crazy!”
Big tech— 75 percent of all Americans support anti-trust legislation applied on Big Tech to protect competition, free speech, and privacy.
Taxes and Economy — The Biden Administration wants higher taxes, but 75 percent of all Americans want their federal taxes cut (40 percent “strongly”), including even 72 percent of Democrats.
Green New Deal vs. America —75 percent of all Americans want the U.S. to maximize the production of American oil and natural gas to keep America energy-independent, including 61 percent of the Democrats.
Health Care — 85 percent of those polled want more consumer choice through private sector competition and consumer choice in health care, including 83 percent of Democrats. Sorry, Bernie Sanders!
Newt Gingrich and his colleagues are winning the polls on these and other issues where the clear majority of Americans is on the rational side of virtually every issue.
So, yes! — there is still a solid majority of the American people who are on our side on all these major questions.
One of the main lessons I have taken from my decades in Washington is that in Washington there are no permanent defeats. But neither are there permanent wins for those who are in the battles. In conclusion, let’s continue to read The St. Croix Review, and support the Religion & Society Foundation. Thank You for being here tonight! *