THERE ARE FEW FIXED POINTS in politics these days. No more so than on the political right, where President Donald Trump has set charges to some of the Republican Party’s philosophical foundations. So, what does it mean to be a conservative in America in 2019?

A few of the movement’s luminaries convened at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum in October to answer that question. George Will, the veteran Washington Post columnist and commentator; Jeff Flake, the former Republican senator from Arizona and an Institute of Politics fall fellow; and Arthur Brooks, the former president of the American Enterprise Institute and an HKS professor of the practice of public leadership, were joined by IOP Resident Fellow Alice Stewart, a CNN commentator and formerly Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign communications director. All touched on conservatism’s emphasis on maintaining order and stability while giving free rein to the liberty and creative energies of the people.

With the backdrop of an impeachment probe, the speakers addressed the question of allegiance to party, to country, and to principle. Brooks advised young conservatives to “stay close to first philosophical principles and not hard party principles … because, in an environment of tribalism, the worst thing that we can do is align ourselves with the party.” More important, he added, is “the moral obligation … in a free society … to speak according to our principles and, furthermore, to respect the principles of other people—to stand up not just to the people with whom we disagree, but on behalf of those with whom we disagree.”

David King headshot.

“It’s a very different ball game now than of course what the Founders ever intended.”

Senior Lecturer in Public Policy David King, speaking at a pop-up Forum in October on the coming impeachment battle.

LaTosha Brown headshot.

“Anything that prevents people from having free and fair access—open access to the ballot—that’s voter suppression.”

IOP Fall 2019 Resident Fellow LaTosha Brown, cofounder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, at a Forum in October on engaging communities of color.

Mark Carney headshot.

“I’m trying to be glass half-full about multilateralism.But it’s not the comprehensive multilateralism that reigned up until the great financial crisis.”

Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, speaking about the value of international cooperation at a Forum in October.

Tara Westover headshot.

“Is your education going to make you arrogant? Is it going to make you persuasive? … It has to be possible to attack prejudiced ideas without attacking human beings or reducing them to that one thing.”

Tara Westover, author and A.M. Rosenthal Writer-in-Residence at the Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics, and Public Policy, at a Forum in November.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala headshot.

“It’s important to look at where we succeeded in the past. ... African policymakers are capable of taking measures that can generate growth.”

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chair of Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and former World Bank managing director and Nigerian finance minister, speaking on PolicyCast.

Lech Walesa headshot.

“You have to do everything you can.”

Lech Walesa, former president of Poland, founder of Solidarity, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, on coming out of retirement to fight against the rise of populism and nationalism.

Photos by Martha Stewart