Jordan, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, also said the elections would have far-reaching consequences.
“This is, in my judgment, a watershed election. A ‘two different visions for America’ election. And the fact that we’re spending three days refocusing on those fundamental principles that started this experiment in liberty we call ‘America’ is critical,” Jordan said Friday.
And organizers said that was exactly the point of this year’s retreat. Eschewing its traditional focus on specific policy issues, Heritage put together a program focused on broad themes designed to reinforce conservatives’ perceptions of the nation’s history and the struggle between conservatives and progressives.
Shortly after gathering in Philadelphia, Members were taken on a tour of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Founding Fathers gathered for months to draft the Declaration of Independence. The field trip was a not-so-subtle reminder of what conservatives should fight for, organizers said.
During Thursday’s session, Members gathered in a conference room 50 floors above the city as speakers ran through subject matter as sweeping as the vistas — the history of the republic’s founding, as well as the ideological war between conservatives and progressives that has dominated American politics for 100 years.
“This year we thought, ‘There seems to be more at stake,’” said Michael Franc, vice president of government studies at Heritage. “This seems to be a big watershed election in the sense that a hundred years after the 1912 election, this really is a referendum … for how popular or not popular modern progressivism is. How do you take what [President] Theodore Roosevelt and [President] Woodrow Wilson started in their intellectual brain trust back then and translate it into the modern time?”
Even the name organizers assigned to the various panels — “Is America’s Decline Inevitable?,” “The War of the Century, the Battle Engaged,” “Creating Opportunity and Prosperity in the Free Markets,” “What Americans Think of the Federal Leviathan” and “The Founders’ View of Civil Society” — underscored the seriousness of the fight conservatives believe is coming to a head.
According to Franc, a major part of the retreat was “not just understanding progressivism … but also its application ... what we call ‘cronyism,’ picking winners and losers,” as well as increased regulation, “class warfare” and other areas.