The conservative movement as we know it today was largely built by Paul Weyrich, who died Dec. 18 at age 66. He was the key institution-builder of the 1970s New Right — he established the Heritage Foundation, gave Jerry Falwell the name and inspiration for the Moral Majority, and founded a number of other influential, but less well known, groups, including the Free Congress Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council. Social conservatism and the Religious Right, in particular, are political forces because of Weyrich. (This is something I touch upon in the new issue of TAC, in an essay looking at how the conservative movement changed in reaction to the McGovern revolution on the Left.)

Like a lot of social conservatives, Weyrich was not entirely happy with the results of this movement-building: in 1998 he urged conservatives to forget about politics except for purely defensive purposes. Paraphrasing Timothy Leary, he advised turning off, tuning out, and dropping out of the political and cultural mainstream. But of course, many conservatives thought that voting for Bush was a defensive maneuver, and the “values voters” who said they wanted to be left alone in fact empowered the biggest spender, most reckless militarist, and greatest political centralizer since LBJ. The idea of conservatives conserving their own communities first, however, was sound. Weyrich and Bill Lind expanded on their ideas for a reinvigorated cultural (as opposed to merely political) conservatism in an essay for TAC last year — “The Next Conservatism.”