Always the Optimist, Feulner Has High Hopes for Conservatism

Gerrit Lansing /

Ed Feulner in November 2008 (Photo by Chas Geer)

Today at the Conservative Bloggers Briefing, Heritage President Ed Feulner described a path back to dominance for conservatives that relies heavily on viral marketing and communicating via the Internet.

He described an interaction in the last couple days with an unnamed Republican in Congress who gloated about “6,000 emails lauding his opposition to the TARP bailout.” Feulner asked the congressman what he did with the email addresses. The congressman responded, “Well, I read most of them.”

Feulner sees this as a too-common and dangerously naive response on behalf of conservatives today. “Some of them don’t realize what incredible potential tools they’re sitting on.” Conservatives need to learn “how best to integrate [6,000 emails] into an asset that literally you can use as you reach out to the grassroots.”

President-elect Barack Obama understood the power of these new tools and continues to use them to his advantage. “With the exception of a few people around the table, like [Newt] Gingrich and some others, there are very few who’ve got as much gray hair as I have who understood what the potential of this is on our side of the movement. Which is why getting together with people who do understand it … is so important.”

That’s about as close to a hand-written invitation that young leaders of the conservative movement will ever get from an an old Washington lion like Feulner. He knows it can’t be done by the current leadership. “Try and explain [text messaging] to John McCain and it’s like talking to a blank wall. It doesn’t work.”

Conservative ideas, no matter what party wins elections, remain empirically true. What’s needed is an understanding of principles articulated through digital media that will mobilize people. As Feulner’s Facebook profile says: “Successful politics is about addition and multiplication, not division and subtraction.”

The Internet is that multiplier, with exponential potential.