Remembering a Man Who Helped Inspire the Modern Conservative Movement

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Phil Crane. Photo: Wikimedia

Phil Crane. Photo: Wikimedia

Phil Crane, the long time Republican Congressman from Illinois and a conservative champion, died Sunday at the age of 84.

The news got my attention in a very personal way. Phil Crane won his seat in a special election in 1969. It was Illinois district 12, where I grew up. It was a crowded field and my mother, Eloise Canfield, then just beginning her own career in local politics, was a leader in the small group of people who backed Crane in a nine-way primary. After winning the primary, he went on to win the general election and serve for 35 years in the House. My mother was integrally involved in his subsequent elections in the ’70s and early ’80s.

I realized even then he stood out. He was conservative when it wasn’t cool. He gave an intellectual heft to the ideas of free markets and a strong national defense during those wilderness years when few on the national scene were talking about such things. He was anti-communist when nobody was.

He didn’t become a political star like his contemporary Jack Kemp, but he did have profound impact on many who shaped the conservative movement of today. He was a pioneer. For starters, Heritage Foundation Founder Ed Feulner worked for Phil Crane on Capitol Hill for four years. Feulner ran the conservative Republican Study Committee, which Crane had fearlessly founded, and took what he learned there to Heritage, which he turned into a conservative powerhouse. Continue Reading »

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