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The third generation: young conservative leaders look to the future.

The Third Generation: Young Conservative Leaders Look to the Future.

Ben Hart, ed. Regnery Books, $17.95. The biggest moment in Ralph Reed's life came when he saw the film "Patton.' He was a freshman at the University of Georgia, sitting in a packed movie house, when up on the screen Patton told Ike that he wanted to roll the Russians then and there. That, Reed remembers, "elicited a spontaneous and uproarious standing ovation from the students in the audience. For several minutes the theater was the scene of near pandemonium. I became convinced at that moment that a political earthquake was taking place within my generation, a shift in values and attitudes that would have major consequences for the future direction of the nation.' Ralph Reed, "most likely to succeed' in the senior class of 1979 at Stephens County High School in Portsmouth, Virginia, class president, varsity debater, and junior assistant scoutmaster, had come of age.

There are dozens of stories like this in Hart's book. He has carefully transcribed and edited the right-wing pep rallies he hosts twice a month at the Heritage Foundation, adding a handy list of recommended reading (Lord Action, David Hume, Phyllis Schlafly), plus a complete biography of his movement's very best and very brightest. The result is a portrait of young conservatives and the frightening incidents that pushed them right.

Consider what happened to Dinesh D'Souza. "Originally from Bombay, India, he did not consider himself political when he first arrived on the Dartmouth campus. But then he received an invitation to a college-sponsored dance. When he arrived, he found that the men were dancing with the men and the women with the women.' Today Dinesh works for the White House.

These are passionate young men and women, always on the moral offensive, ready to take on liberalism wherever they find it. But there's nothing stuffy or pretentious about them. According to his Third Generation bio, Adam Myerson, the editor of the Heritage Foundation's flagship, Policy Review, is "willing to publish a risky or a zany article, as long as the thesis is supported by hard data and sound reasoning.' The fact is, as Gregg ("the most promising young journalist of his generation') Fossedal puts it in the book's opening chapter: "Culturally speaking, surf's up in America.' This is a golden era for young conservatives who want to cut loose intellectually. "Outrageousness, for one thing, is back . . .. Movies designed to raise our consciousness are bombing, while people line up for pure entertainment, such as "Back to the Future,' "Top Gun,' and anything with Rodney Dangerfield, the comic who has everyone laughing.'

Just listen to the kind of ideas that get tossed around at a typical meeting of the Third Generation. Laura Ingraham, distinguished alumna of the Dartmouth Review, leads a fascinating discussion in chapter three ("Going on the Moral Offensive') on why the right has to borrow from the tactics of the radicals of the sixties. For example, liberals use the specter of Joe McCarthy to make it "impossible for conservatives to point out that there are people in this country who are, in fact, working in concert with the enemy.' She wants the right to pick a bogeyman of its own, someone as big and as bad as McCarthy to put liberals on the defensive. Her suggestion? Get this: Sydney Schanberg. Laura now works in the White House.

You may laugh, but this kind of thing goes over big in the conservative hinterland. The Third Generation was published by Regnery Gateway, the right-wing press, apparently because the Heritage Foundation agreed to buy up most of the first run itself. They plan to use it as a fund-raising tool.

Ben Hart and Ralph Reed, Dinesh D'Souza and Laura Ingraham, the young and the restless of the New Right, are the conservative movement's aces in the hole. Forget Irangate. As Pat Buchanan testifies on the dust jacket, the real political story of the decade is "how Ronald Reagan robbed Teddy Kennedy, Gary Hart, and the "Party of Compassion' of tomorrow's best political minds.'

The First Generation of conservatives, you see--men like Friedrich Hayek, Russell Kirk, and Whittaker Chambers--had only limited impact. They were intellectual ground-breakers, but they didn't understand politics and power. They were Goldwater men. The Second Generation learned from the mistakes of the first, building think-tanks, raising money, and organizing politically. Norman Podhoretz is a Second Generation man. So are Jerry Falwell and Richard Viguerie, and of course Heritage Foundation grand poobah Ed Feulner. But these guys have lost their edge. The future belongs to the energy and the street smarts of the Third Generation.

Take, for example, a right-wing issue like the Soviet attack on KAL 007. For the First Generation, it's a clash of philosophies, Marxist brutality, Western open skies. The Second Generation might commission a two-year study on Asian flight paths and original intent. But the Third Generation? "When 269 people are killed we think in terms of what slogan to produce,' says Amy Moritz, Maryland's outstanding young Republican of 1978. "Two-hundred-sixty-nine fits on a button or a bumper sticker.'

In a way, one imagines, this is progress. As they studiously transcribe what they have learned in movie theaters and dance halls onto bumper stickers and buttons, the Third Generation will reach a far greater audience than right-wingers ever have. Of course, something of conservatism's substance is lost in the translation, and there is a certain aimlessness in ideology so crudely rendered. But no one seems to mind. By all accounts the First and Second Generation are content to be led passively into battle by their progeny, triumphing over experience, the blind leading the bland.
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Author:Gladwell, Malcolm
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1987
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