The new chief of The Heritage Foundation wants to start winning.
Kevin Roberts, son of the Louisiana oil patch, college president, founder of schools and state think tank president, is not your usual tweedy academic. He sees the challenges the United States faces and has a simple and direct conclusion: “I think there’s a perception that as the country has changed much more rapidly than any of us who are conservatives would like, Heritage along with the entire public policy sphere on the right has been slow. So, I was motivated to take the job because of my love for Heritage, the knowledge that all of my colleagues are ready to fight and are looking to be led. I can report 10 months in that … we’re putting lead on the target, and we’re looking to take more prisoners from the radical left.”
In short, the new boss wants Heritage to be what it once was — the unquestioned leader among thinkers on the right.
As part of that, he has engaged with national conservativism — a policy approach that emphasizes the health of the nation and its constituent components (the individual, the family, the community). He has taken the lead in opposing increased aid to Ukraine absent some sort of discussion about what we ultimately hope to accomplish there.
He is refocusing the organization on seven priorities that include education, China, government spending, protection of life, immigration, elections and Big Tech. He has increased the strength and scope of Heritage’s oversight capabilities — an especially important effort as the Biden administration heads toward its regulatory apex.
Under his leadership, the foundation has embarked on Project 2025, which is an effort to plan in depth for the next Republican presidential administration. The project has knitted together the conservative ecosystem to think about policy, structure and even personnel.
“We’re building on that by recruiting not a hundred, not a thousand, but at least 10,000 people to go into the next conservative presidential administration … actually training them, pre-vetting them … This is a huge project that extends well beyond Heritage, and it’s really important to us that this is … a conservative movement-wide effort,” Mr. Roberts noted.
His goals for The Heritage Foundation itself? “Number one, that we remain zealously focused on the issues that matter. … Number two, we want to be sure that when there are conservative majorities in House and Senate, that … they actually have a governing agenda in terms of policy. That means that we at Heritage have to be at the top of our game when it comes not just to research and not just to messaging, but to advocacy for those ideas. Third, I want Heritage as a result of its good work in those arenas to give genuine, substantive reasons for hopefulness by the American people that we’re going to be able to take back this country.”
Beyond immediate goals, however, and even beyond preparing the ground for a presidential administration to come, Mr. Roberts and his crew understand that the challenge we face is generational and extends beyond the boundaries of government policies. “I know from traveling around the country, visiting with supporters, not just of Heritage, but of the entire conservative movement that they’re saying, ‘Kevin, what we need more than anything else is a plan. The plan to take back the country.’ That’s what we’re working on here, moving from the what’s needed in the immediate, the very tactical … to the ultimate goal, which is restoring self-governance to the individual.
“The plan that I’m referring to is the plan … that rests control from the radical left when it comes to our institutions and to government. It is a version for us on the right that the left has been implementing certainly since the New Deal, accelerated in the 1960s and in the last 15 years.”
“Can’t we render Washington a hell of a lot less important if we focus on institutions and rebuilding families? What does policy need to look like at the federal and state level to make that happen?”
Mr. Roberts finished by directly and simply noting: “There are a lot of problems in the United States of America. … We know that it’s time to fight. It’s time to be on offense.”
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, co-hosts “The Unregulated Podcast.” He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.
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