June 14, 2005

SUMMER LEAGUE:

Next Generation of Conservatives (By the Dormful) (JASON DePARLE, 6/14/05, NY Times)

The summer interns of the Heritage Foundation have arrived, forming an elite corps inside the capital's premier conservative research group. The 64 interns are each paid a 10-week stipend of $2,500, and about half are housed in a subsidized dorm at the group's headquarters, complete with a fitness room.

Unusual in its size (and in its walk-in closets), the program, on which Heritage spends $570,000 a year, is both a coveted spot on the young conservative circuit and an example of the care the movement takes to cultivate its young.

Scott Hurff, a senior at Wake Forest University, wanted the internship so badly that he filed three applications. Rachael Seidenschnur had set her eyes on Heritage since her youth in Little Rock, Ark., where she revived the teenage Republicans club at Central High School.

Kenneth Cribb came with family ties and a book by the conservative author Russell Kirk, which he said "sends chills up my spine." Daren Stanaway and Brian Christiansen welcomed Heritage as an escape from the liberal orthodoxies they said they experienced at Harvard and Yale.

"In the face of derogation, many intelligent young conservatives have simply responded by hiding their beliefs or going with the crowd," Ms. Stanaway wrote in an application essay. "I refuse to be one of them."

Like all Heritage applicants, she also answered a 12-item questionnaire designed to ferret out latent liberalism with questions about guns, abortion, welfare and missile defense. (If you agree with the statement that "tax increases are the most appropriate way to balance the budget," this is probably not the internship for you.)

Sitting in his supersized office atop the organization he has spent three decades building, Edwin J. Feulner, the longtime president at Heritage, cited the sign over a Heritage auditorium - "Building for the Next Generation" - as evidence of how central to his mission leadership development is.

"If we can get young people involved, they will continue to support Heritage, our idea and our causes," Mr. Feulner said. "We almost think of ourselves as a college."

Arguing that liberals dominate most campuses, Mr. Feulner said, "We've had to cultivate our alternative."

It is an alternative with few rivals. The Brookings Institution, a centrist group more than 50 years older than Heritage, has no paid interns. Neither does the Progressive Policy Institute, which promotes a centrist version of liberalism. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a premier antipoverty group, has 10 paid interns. People for the American Way, a bulwark of Beltway liberalism, has 40 - but no dorm.

"There's no question that the right wing over the last 25 years did a much better job of creating a farm system," said Ralph G. Neas, the president of People for the American Way. Like many other liberal groups, his has recently expanded its campus outreach activities in an effort to keep pace with the right.

"They invested in young people," Mr. Neas said. "We're trying to catch up."

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 14, 2005 12:00 AM
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