Paul Weyrich one of the preeminent conservative thinkers of our time was laid to rest yesterday afternnon on a chilly day in Washington. 

Now that the obituaries have been written and the eulogies delivered the hard work really begins.  That is what happens next for the organizations Paul left behind?

I have been thinking about succession issues in the conservative movement for quite some time now.  Many if not all the conservative organizations we are familar with like Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation or Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum  have been led by smart and strong individuals.  And they have been leading their organizations for decades in many instances. 

But as we all know we don’t live forever and choosing a successor so that an organization can live on long past the founder or leader’s life is crucial.  Yet in most cases it also seems to be non existent.

After I heard that Paul had passsed away my natural curiousity took me to the Free Congress web site.  There I looked for names of staff members that might be considered a worthy successor to Paul.  While they are all fine individuals they have largely labored in Weyrich’s shadow and would not be considered as potential leaders.  Next came the Board of Directors.  Unfortunately the site doesn’t list the members though I know at least two of them and their role has been largely ceremonial and they are of an age that  would make them caretakers at best.

So we have a leadership vacuum at an organization that has done a great deal of good for the conservative movement.  While I am at a loss to say exactly what the foundation has done in the last few years except publish Weyrich’s columns, the 501(c)4 organization has provided a pivitol forum for conservative leaders to meet with GOP House and Senate leaders.

All of this is at risk because there wasn’t a clear succession plan in place. 

That isn’t to say that they won’t name someone very soon, but it won’t be easy to find a person who will be able to command the respect Paul did with colleagues and donors.  And without that support the organization is likely to fail.

I hope for the movement’s sake that this doesn’t happen.  Maybe one or more organizations can come to their rescue and absorb the operations and maintain the most critical elements.

It would be a shame that just because Weyrich died so does the organization that he loved and worked so hard to build.

Conservative leaders should watch this case very closely and make sure that they put their egos aside and plan for a future when they are no longer able to lead.  This will be vital if we are to keep the flame of conservative ideas burning for future generations.

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