Every day, as I cringe, observing the fleshing out of the BushCo / neocon vision for America-- the selling off of the environment, the de-regulation and selling off of the commons that we all should own and share, the erasure of centuries old freedoms and rights, the throwing away of long valued international relationship assets, I keep telling myself and anyone who will listen that the left desperately needs to take the think tank route that the right has been so successfully taking for decades.While it may not have been screamingly obvious even two years ago, we now know that the right's think tank program must be recognized as the most powerful political weapon on the face of the earth, and more important, in the US.
The right has spent more money on think tanks than they have on elections. The left has spent next to nothing. This must change if the left is to have any hopes of taking back the White House and Congress.
There's an article in this Sunday's NY Times, The Young Hipublicans, on the new conservative students, how there are all these right wing organizations cultivating them. Where do you think these organizations come from, and who funds them? BushCo has very strong backing of many religious groups. The right wing think tanks worked long and hard to nurture those relationships, to create the sales pitches which sold the right's policies to the religious groups as compatible.
The goal of the right wing think tanks is to bring about a conservative "devolution." To make that happen, they come up with goals for what they want to accomplish-- policies, actions, legislation, organizations to be formed, demographic groups to be converted to allies and supporters of the policies. There are five or six of these think tanks that have been doing this work for up to thirty years and now we know. Their work is fabulously effective.It's clear that on its own, the democratic party is drowning without a paddle-- no big picture vision, no robust policy positions, not agreement amongst the leadership, no clear leaders who reliably draw respect and inspire. Potential democratic candidates have no depth or platform to offer to a people who would be thrilled to embrace something, anything that would make them feel good and safe getting on a democratic bandwagon. But we don't have that. We don't have any great goals. We have criticism of Republicans. We have fixer-upper health care plans. We have criticism of George Bush. We don't even have good answers to the mantras the right wing talk show hosts repeat to attack and put down liberals and liberal ideas-- class war, communism, socialism, tax and spend, wimpy, big government-
We need answers for each label and criticism but we need much more. We need a dynamic, courageous, tough platform that calls for a combination of solutions and visionary bridges to the future-- bridges which will inspire hope and pride in America-- pride that comes from building and creating, from bringing people together. And we must do this knowing that we are fighting in a cold war against a right wing enemy that is doing all it can to create fear and contempt and enmity for our ideas and our very persons. Listen to Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Sliwa, Wiener-- they all refer to Liberals with such venomous contempt. It's not hard to imagine them encouraging listeners to go out and shoot us, to beat us up, to ruin our businesses. Yet, we must not go down to their level. We must be tough, and refuse to accept their lying, their labels, their distoritions and outright fraudulent statements and claims. But we must take the high road.We desperately need for the wealthy, liberal individuals and foundations to come forward now to put up serious seed money for a group of think tanks that will build the policy platforms, the multitude of organizations needed to go out and turn the public around to see the reasons why the progressive view is the way to go.
We cannot depend on corporations to do this. They will support republicans in democrats' clothing. It may be necessary to take money from outside the US. Since these think tanks are non-partisan-- not specifically supporting democrats, republicans or greens-- there is no reason why private money, foreign money cannot be contributed to help build them up.
We're talking about needing at least $50 million in the first year, and eventually, $100 million a year, just to catch up with the right wing think tanks. This will enable us to create organizations which support progressive state legislators, organizations that develop local college and high school chapters, organizations that develop within all the different religious groups. The progressive conscience and ethic should be very attractive to principled members of all varieties of religion.
I'm not sure the progressive think tanks are built for this job either. When the rifle was built, it wasn't like you could retrofit bows and arrows to be converted in rifles. The existing progressive think tanks do good works by focusing on specific causes and issues. This is almost diametrically opposed to what we need in the new think tanks that will take on the Cato Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, and Project for a New American Century (PNAC).
But it would probably be valuable and useful for some of the leaders of those think tanks to play participatory roles in the new think tanks that must be formed. If we look at the founding members of the PNAC, we see former elected and appointed officials and we see publishers. So we might do well bringing together publishers of leading and cutting edge progressive media-- print, electronic, internet.
One resource the left has, an advantage over the right, which we don use effectively is support from the world of celebrities. The right has the support of a handful of macho actors who play war roles, a senile former Moses, and some redneck country singers and that's about it. It would make sense to involve the Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandons, Danny Glovers, Dixie Chicks, Martin Sheens and others who are willing to work as team members towards building a progressive think tank "engine" that has a five, ten and twenty year plan of growth and development, and full implementation of campaigns which capitalize on their celebrity. This could include getting out the vote campaigns, ad programs to persuade young voters that is cool, even sexy to be a progressive, that true strength lies in the courage of convictions, in kindness, in responsibility....
But this will all take serious money. If each person who voted for Al Gore contributed two dollars, that would be plenty. If just two percent of the 50,996,064 people who voted for Gore contribute twenty five dollars, and the progressive foundations match it, we'll have Fifty Million dollars. If France and Germany and Japan and Russia kick in $25 million each, then the $100 million will be reached.
This can be done. It must be started. Perhaps if the leading progressive media carry this message, or a message like it, there will be enough support to make it happen. Good people who can do the work are ready to start. They're not trying to get rich. There's no doubt that once the structure starts to form it will develop and grow to something that is better and bigger and stronger than the "death star" think tank engine the right wing has built.
If you are reading this, then you are a good place to start. How much can you afford to give to help get this off the ground? Who do you know you can talk to or email who can contribute ten times or one thousand times more than you? Talk to her, or him. We need to make this happen if we are going to take back America and democracy. We need to do it now.
Willing to Get things started? Contact me, not with money, but with your commitment. If enough people start, then we can get things rolling. Rob@opednews.com
Rob Kall email@example.com is publisher of progressive news and opinion website www.opednews.com and organizer of cutting edge meetings that bring together world leaders, such as the Winter Brain Meeting and the StoryCon Summit Meeting on the Art, Science and Application of Story This article is copyright by Rob Kall, but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached