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Conservatives have also seen much of their rhetoric co-opted not only by moderate and mainstream Republicans but even by Democrats, such as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who now at least give a nod to shrinking the size of government and tackling the national debt.
Even the Obama administration has gotten on the small-government bandwagon, putting forth proposals to eliminate duplicative functions, most notably by restructuring the Commerce Department.
Dubbed “The Spirit of Independence,” the meeting of some 50 House conservatives focusing on broad ideological and tactical themes is a marked departure from the retreat’s traditional focus on specific policy issues facing Congress, organizers said.
“At ‘The Spirit of Independence’ we will look broadly at the progressive attack on America’s principles of liberty, opportunity and constitutional government and how conservatives reclaim those principles and our country as we move into the critical year of 2012,” Heritage Government Studies Director Dani Doane said.
For example, Thursday night will feature discussions on “Is America’s Decline Inevitable?” led by the American Spectator’s John Fund, as well as Steve Forbes. Another session will be on the “Back Bone of America,” moderated by Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.). Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton will make a presentation on international affairs.
Other sessions include “Creating Opportunity and Prosperity in the Free Markets,” “What Americans Think of the Federal Leviathan,” “The Founders’ View of Civil Society” and “Civil Society and Poverty’s Rise.”
The retreat will not, however, hold a discussion of military spending — traditionally a mainstay of the events — but will instead focus on the role of the military in shaping the nation.
Participants will also discuss the nation’s historical underpinnings, including a panel on the risks taken by the founders in drafting the Declaration of Independence.
“This retreat is a lot different” from past Heritage events, a source with the foundation said, explaining that the organizers have “seen what we believe is a real growth in the progressive agenda.”
The goal of the retreat, this source said, is to map out a conservative approach to the broad political struggles being fought this year, rather than specific legislative fights.
This year’s political and electoral landscape provides a perfect opportunity for a broader discussion, the Heritage source argued, quipping, “Let’s be honest: This isn’t a legislative year” in Congress.