Carving new roads where old arguments have worn seemingly impossibly deep ruts.
John Jay Institute Alumnus
John Jay Fellow
B.A. in Political Science, Rutgers University
M.A. in International Relations and International Economics,
Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
current position and location
Analyst, Washington, D.C.
One of the roles of the John Jay Fellow, says Nathan Hitchen, is to “pioneer intellectual and professional paths that set examples for newer fellows to follow in.” And Nathan takes that role seriously, as year after year he does what almost no one in national politics seems able to do: Carve new roads where old arguments have worn seemingly impossibly deep ruts.
A 2007 graduate of Rutgers and a member of the first class of John Jay Fellows, Nathan has worked since the fellows program to provide innovative solutions—at various think tanks, as a senior analyst for the Corporate Executive Board, in advanced international studies in Johns Hopkins’ immensely selective master’s program, and beyond in his own research and writing. But despite our image of history, he explains, the best solutions don’t come from a lone individual taking a stand. “The John Jay Institute placed me in a network of like-minded, similarly talented, ambitious men and women. That network is the key to having influence and leadership, because it enables me to marshal the thoughts and perspectives of people for questions and tasks I couldn’t accomplish alone.”
Case in point: in 2013, Nathan wrote the acclaimed marriage public advocacy plan entitled You’ve Been Framed: A New Primer for the Marriage Debate, which proposed totally reshaping pro-marriage PR strategies by utilizing insights from cognitive science. Thanks to his Institute network, that document got onto the desk of every influential marriage advocate in the country; it was discussed at the highest levels and written about by the most thoughtful columnists. Less than two years later, it had informed the strategies of nearly every pro-marriage organization in the country, and on November 6, 2014, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the traditional definition of marriage in DeBoer v. Snyder in language that drew almost word for word from Nathan’s document.
Following this success, in 2014 Nathan began working to prepare a new strategy proposal for conservative organizations. Says he: “The idea is to establish an intra-movement strategic foresight group that can identify and analyze future-oriented questions relevant to the conservative movement’s interest.” The academic field of futurism, he explains, can be useful to conservatives, who at their best can present an optimistic vision of the future in light of lessons learned from history. The past provides an important perspective as a policymaker considers the potential consequences of a law or policy—but so does the future, so strategic foresight allows conservatives to take new methods of creative thinking to analyze what could happen. Nathan published an initial survey of his objectives, entitled “Futurist Conservatives?” in December 2014, which can be found on the website of the John Jay Institute’s Center for a Just Society.