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Restoration Weekend: Like an Immigrant to Conservatism – It Can Take Time to Realize You're Home

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Posted on November 26 2009 12:00 pm
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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Like my colleagues Joe Klein and Chris Yogerst, I too had the joy of attending this past week’s Restoration Weekend at the Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida.

I imagine I went into the weekend with a bit more anxiety than Chris and Joe — I had to give a short speech on Sunday for the One-Party Classroom panel. David Horowitz had asked me to briefly tell my unusual story of how I came to work for the Center. (Videos from the weekend are in the process of being posted and can be found here. As soon as the video of my speech is up I’ll link to it.)

Nervousness about the speech I was to give was not the only issue weighing on me throughout the Weekend, though.

On Friday afternoon — the first full day of the Weekend — I emailed Michael van der Galien, NewsReal’s assistant managing editor and my dear friend, to let him know how out of place I felt in such a classy resort surrounded primarily by people older than me who had a more traditional conservative background. I pointed out how different I felt from them — particularly in the kind of conservatism I possessed. He responded back:

How is their conservatism different from yours? And, also important, is it intellectually stimulating nonetheless?

I sent back a brief email at the time but elaborated more on it the next day:

Michael,
You asked me earlier to explain my statement that my conservatism feels different from the conservatism of many of the people around me and most of the speakers at Restoration. I’ve been pondering that question beyond the brief answer I gave you earlier.

The difference between mine, David Horowitz’s and other ex-leftists’ conservatism vs the conservatism of those who have generally always been conservative is akin to the difference between the person who immigrates to America and becomes a citizen vs someone who was born in America. Or another metaphor: it’s akin to someone who learns English as a second language vs someone who grew up always speaking English.

Same conclusions, same mission, same values, same love of America. Despite all that, though, a part of me will feel like the immigrant talking with the accent when surrounded by natural born citizens.

Eventually my sense of awkwardness started to melt away, though. By Sunday morning I started to feel more at home.

More importantly, though, I began to realize how superficial and ultimately unimportant these very real differences were. Looking back the confirmation for this was Newt Gingrich’s keynote address. At the core of Gingrich’s speech was this point which I’ve been advocating myself: those on the Right need to realize how marginal the Left’s ideas really are start stating conservative principles in a unifying fashion to create a new Right-Center coalition. Watch his whole speech. Gingrich effectively argued that conservatives need to isolate a few key issues on which the country is with us and then run on them.

For me other highlights of the Weekend included:

If you were not able to attend this year, certainly make a point to in 2010.

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