It's good to be back in the Sooner State after spending four days in the nation's capital with several of my compadres in the state think tank movement. On Friday at the Heritage Foundation we heard from conservative Congressman Mike Pence (R-Indiana), himself a former think-tanker, who recently fell short in his bid to be elected House Minority Leader. Pence lauded the work of the state think tanks, calling them "a source of great confidence about the future of this country." After all, he said, not many good ideas are being cooked up in the corridors of the U.S. Capitol building. "All the best ideas in America come from America," he said.
Next we had lunch with Jason DeParle, a reporter who covers the "conservative beat" for The New York Times. (I know, it's a bit patronizing. It's as if Times editors discovered some sort of alien species and decided to start covering us.) Nevertheless, DeParle is a smart guy and seems like a reasonable and fair reporter, and I thanked him for his recent article on state think tanks.
DeParle said that while covering conservatives he has learned a few things that he had not expected. First, he said he was surprised to learn "how intellectual the movement was," how extensive was "the reach of books and ideas" among conservatives. Time and again in conversations with conservatives, he said, "it became obvious there was a conservative canon that people took seriously." Second, he was surprised to discover "the vast reach of the conservative civilization," saying "it's like an alternate universe out there." Third, he noted that "people on balance have been very open to me," inviting him to all manner of gatherings of the vast right wing conspiracy. And fourth, he was surprised to discover how diverse the movement is (the folks at Cato are different from James Dobson, who is different from Dick Armey, etc.).