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. In the first of two parts of our discussion, which is here, 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.
In the just more than 15-minute video of the second part below, we cover 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.
While “fusionism” is a term his father never used, Gene Meyer notes, its “important idea is that Western civilization—which is really, on balance, the best human beings have done for governance—is based on two key elements.” They are “the importance of the freedom of the individual and the importance of what might be called, broadly speaking, traditional values—which would include religion, would include respect for the past and respect for the structures of society ….
“Both things are deeply a part of the human experience,” Meyer the son continues.
They’re not fused, but they are both dependent on each other to a significant degree. It's hard to foresee a free society working as well as one might like without some decent foundation in morality—in the old verities, truth beauty, justice, etc. And it’s hard to see a society that's not fundamentally free being able to sustain those ideas for a long time, either. … I think when we have the discussion of fusion … it often misses that point. …
Meyer’s “starting point” would be to ask fellow conservatives what we believe. “If they share either of these two fundamental principles, I think you can explain why the other principle ought to matter to them, at least to some degree.”
Conservative philanthropy should foster serious consideration of these ideas and their interaction, Meyer recommends, and help counter what certainly appears as if it will be a growing number of attacks on them.