Who Will Be the Next Paul Weyrich?

Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, the Free Congress Foundation, and numerous other conservative organizations, has passed away. His talent was organization: perceiving that ideas alone would not carry the conservative movement and then going out to create the organizations that would spread conservative ideas, develop future leaders, and energize the grassroots.

His passing comes at a particularly critical time for conservatives and emphasizes the enormous challenges on the Right. The leaders of Weyrich's generation are passing from the scene, the institutions which they founded have matured. But the question remains: what next?

There is not just an intellectual dilemma for conservatives -- which keeps pundits bickering about the meaning and direction of  "conservatism" -- but a realization that the organizational and technological advantage which conservatives enjoyed for nearly a generation has been matched or exceeded by the other side. One can quibble that the liberal opposition is not an intellectually robust or coherent one, but it is a darn successful political force which has swept to coast-to-coast wins in two successive election cycles.

As for conservatives, the existing institutions don't quite seem sufficient to the task of growing the party, developing new talent, and incubating new ideas. Perhaps what is already there can be enhanced, but it may be that entirely new groups must be created to rebuild and revitalize a movement that is not just intellectually depressed but organizationally weak. So, while pundits already obsess over the next presidential nominee, a better question is: who will be the next Paul Weyrich?

The identity of the individual or individuals is not clear, but the need is apparent.