By: Michael Johns
When I first became engaged in national public policy and politics in the mid-1980s, the conservative movement had a saying, which I believe originated with former Heritage Foundation president Edwin Feulner: “People are policy.” In essence, the phrase represented our collective recognition that success (or lack thereof) ultimately rested with the people of our movement. Without capable and committed conservatives, little was possible. But with them, nearly anything was.
In the years since, we have lost a number of American conservatives who were more than just capable and committed. They were and are conservative icons whose work helped shape and develop American conservatism—and our Tea Party movement—as the major global political and intellectual force it is today.
Who are these icons?
- Austrian school economist Ludwig von Mises, who provided much of the intellectual foundation of today’s free market economic thought, left us in 1973 at age 93.
- Prominent anti-communist Whittaker Chambers, who fled the Communist Party, went on to articulate fundamental truths about communism and ultimately outed State Department employee Alger Hiss as a Soviet agent, died in 1961 at age 60.
- Author and intellectual Russell Kirk, who helped define many of the enduring principles of conservatism, died in 1994 at age 75.
- Ayn Rand, whose individualist fictional writings have proven hugely inspirational to our national Tea Party movement, died in 1992 at age 77.
- William F. Buckley, Jr., who inspired many of today’s most prominent conservative intellectuals and writers, died in 2008 at age 82 (read my 2008 tribute to him here).
- And of course (most prominent of all), our 40th president, Ronald Reagan, who proved that conservatism can win and succeed as a governing political force, died in 2004 at age 93.