Tyler J. Poff

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Elizabeth Fones-Wolf

Committee Co-Chair

Ken Fones-Wolf

Committee Member

James Siekmeier


This study examines the growth of the conservative movement in twentieth century America through the political network built by conservative activist, Paul M. Weyrich. Weyrich is heralded as a founding father of the New Right political movement and credited as a founding member of three major political think tanks. This study aims to more accurately understand America's rightward political turn, while simultaneously exploring the breakdown of the New Deal Democratic Party coalition. Chapter one offers readers a review of the historiography of conservatism coupled with detailed outlines of the body chapters. Chapter two begins with a biography of Weyrich discussing his entrance into politics, while also providing insight into the Washington political arena Weyrich entered in the late 1960s. The chapter also examines the American Legislative Exchange Council, a think tank devoted to conservative policy at the state level. Chapter three covers the Heritage Foundation, the premier think tank of the right, responsible for much of the conservative intellectual revolution at the national level during the Reagan administration. Chapter four is devoted to the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress (later referred to as the Free Congress Foundation). This chapter examines the organization's role first as a political action committee, devoted to a grassroots movement aimed at ousting liberal Congressional incumbents in favor of conservative representatives. In the late 1970s, this group restructured to become the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, a think tank responsible for conservative social policy. Chapter five provides concluding remarks as well as a brief history of American politics following the Reagan administration.