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Visionary Conservative Jeff Bell Remembered

Visionary conservative thinker, speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, and former client of the Viguerie Company, Jeffrey L. Bell passed away on February 10. Funeral services for Jeff will be held on Monday, February 19 at 10:30 a.m. at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale.  There will be calling hours at Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home on Braddock Road from 3-7 p.m. on Sunday, February 18.

Author of numerous articles and two thought-provoking books, Jeff Bell also ran three times for the Senate from his native New Jersey, earning the Republican nomination twice in campaigns separated by some 36-years. Jeff BellThough Mr. Bell never achieved victory in the general election his thinking and writing left a lasting impression on conservative political strategy and the conservative movement.

Bell shocked the state of New Jersey's political establishment in 1978, when the then-34-year-old upset four-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Clifford Case to win the Republican nomination for Senate. Bell’s upset win was one of the more notable conservative victories during the rise of the New Right that presaged Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory.

Bell was a key player in the conservative movement that swept over the nation in the 1970s and '80s, wrote’s Brent Johnson.

A Columbia University graduate and Vietnam veteran, Bell worked for Richard Nixon's successful 1968 presidential campaign and was a speechwriter for Reagan's unsuccessful 1976 White House bid.

Bell told New Jersey’s Star-Ledger in 2014 that he initially ran for Senate to help further the conservative brand.

"I was running to develop our issues," he remembered.

And Jeff Bell was a master of those issues and their political power.

As CHQ Chairman Richard A. Viguerie recounted in his book TAKEOVER, Jeff Bell was among the small group of wise party leaders who built the Reagan coalition, joining such leaders as Nevada’s Senator Paul Laxalt, Lyn Nofziger, Dick Allen, Ed Meese, Marty Anderson, Tom Ellis and Judge William Clark, who had the insight—perhaps genius is a better term—to welcome newly politicized social conservatives into the Republican Party.

The importance of Reagan’s addition of social conservatives to the GOP coalition cannot be overstated.

It took, as Jeff Bell insightfully put it in his book The Case for Polarized Politics: Why America Needs Social Conservatism, all three of the legs of the new conservative coalition to create a stable platform for victory: “When social issues came into the mix—I would date it from the 1968 election . . .  the Republican Party won seven out of 11 presidential elections.”

Rich Danker, Jeff Bell’s 2014 campaign manager noted in a recent memorial column for The Weekly Standard, that Bell was struck by social conservatism’s appeal “not just in Republican primaries, but with general election voters who were economically populist, rather than conservative. In a 2012 interview with the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto, he identified states totaling 348 electoral votes where social conservatism held the advantage—almost all of which would go Republican in 2016.”

Quin Hillyer remembered our friend Jeff Bell this way for National Review: “Jeff deservedly enjoyed a high place among the pantheon of true heroes of the conservative movement, with a full half century of signal work in building both our base of ideas and our practical political movement. He also was a wonderful man: sharply insightful, kind, with a quiet but delightful wit.”

Bell’s two most notable books, The Case for Polarized Politics and Populism and Elitism are must-read resources for anyone wishing to understand the conservative – populist politics that gave rise to the election of Donald Trump. There could be no better memorial to Jeff Bell than to read his books and build upon his ideas.

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