The legal organization’s president talks to Michael E. Hartmann and Daniel P. Schmidt about some of the reasons for its accomplishments, including the nature of its philanthropic support, and how the Left is now trying and whether it will be able to mimic its progress.
Eugene B. Meyer has served as executive director, president, and/or chief executive of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies for more than three decades. Throughout his tenure at the Society, it has always been and remains a standout exemplar of success among conservative policy-oriented nonprofit organizations.
Meyer has a deep knowledge and keen understanding of conservatism, including the ideas in which it’s anchored and the challenges and opportunities of implementing it in practice.
Homeschooled by his mother and father—political philosopher and founding National Review editor Frank Meyer, architect of the “fusionism” that synthesized and united different ideological strands of conservatism for decades—Gene Meyer earned a B.A. in history from Yale and an M.A. in political science from the London School of Economics. He holds the title of International Chess Master.
With other founders and leaders of the Federalist Society, Meyer is a recipient of the Bradley Prize, and he serves on the Sarah Scaife Foundation’s board of directors, among other boards.
Meyer was kind enough to speak with us late last month. The almost 15-minute video below is the first of two parts of our discussion; the second is here. In the first part, we talk about some of the reasons for the Federalist Society’s accomplishments, including the nature of its philanthropic support, and how the Left is now trying and whether it will be able to mimic its progress.
As for the Federalist Society, “I think a lot of success has been a function of sticking to ideas and to principles,” Meyer told us. “The focus on ideas is key to getting things done in the long-term,” which “tends to be underrated in the hurly-burly of the political world.”
As for philanthropy, ideas “are more difficult to fund and support,” he said. “It is easier, relatively speaking—it’s never easy, but it’s easier—to get support for political ideas.” In the long term, however, “ideas are even more important, although I certainly would say short-term ideas matter, too. …
“There is always pressure for any philanthropist, it doesn’t have to be a conservative one,” having to deal with the objection, “‘Well, well, that’s all very nice, but X is happening today.’ Yeah, X happened today—and Y will happen tomorrow, and both matter …. I think that’s a constant pressure.”
In the conversation’s second part, Meyer addresses the different attributes of today’s law-school students, the state of conservatism in general and its current internal debate about “fusionism” in particular, and what and how conservative policy-oriented philanthropy should consider funding moving forward.