This past weekend, conservative activists from around the country descended on the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas for Americans for Prosperity’s fifth annual RightOnline Conference.

The event drew the conservative movement’s most prominent new media personalities and others who are on the cutting edge of conservative citizen journalism, with keynote speakers that included Sarah Palin, Michelle Malkin and Scott Rasmussen.

Sessions provided attendees tools and invaluable information on issues ranging from mastering social media and growing influence to investigative reporting and a crash course on  interviewing.

The event was very well-organized and attended, and it provided attendees not only very useful information, but also great networking opportunities, which is absolutely vital to the development of any movement.

There is no question that bloggers and other conservative new media types are the conservative movement’s permanent foot soldiers. Political campaigns come and go and many of those who volunteer for them often distance themselves from politics until the next election cycle. Not so with conservative bloggers and citizen journalists.  They continue fighting the good fight immediately after the election night victory party hangover wears away.

Winning elections is important, but what happens after the win? Those who support conservative lawmakers need to be equipped to not only support their public policy initiatives, but encourage them to pursue the right ones. This is where conservative or otherwise free market think tanks come in: they analyze government and society’s problems and harness the free market and our conservative founding principles to offer specific meaningful reforms.

National think tanks such as the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, and yes, the one I work for, R Street, do all the work–the tedious, scholarly and empirical research, publishing their findings and proposing good, viable solutions. Their studies and publications are usually available to lawmakers, activists and the public in general to use as free resources. There are also great state-level think tanks such as the James Madison Institute in Florida that provide similar resources.

There is no question that there is a lot to discuss politically between election cycles, but eventually it will be time to govern. Conservatives will then need to hold their own accountable and ensure that they support the right policies while in office–and back them up when they do. One way to influence the policy-making discussion and process is by becoming experts on the specific public policy reforms championed. Think tanks can provide that expertise, and I encourage activists to tap into them.

It may very well make for an informative RightOnline breakout session.

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