Sunday, January 23, 2005

Billionaires for Liberalism

From The Foward:
A handful of ultra-wealthy Jewish liberals are resolving to do battle with conservatives by providing a big infusion of cash to progressive think tanks and idea mills.

New York-based financier George Soros, Cleveland insurance king Peter Lewis and Oakland, Calif., banking magnates Herb and Marian Sandler made the pledge at a meeting in San Francisco last month.

The new pledge to support liberal causes represents a potentially important infusion into the coffers of the Democratic policy establishment, which generally has failed to keep pace with the massive investments that Republicans have made during the past quarter-century into their intellectual infrastructure, including two influential Washington-based conservative think tanks: the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute.

The question of how to spend the promised funds is likely to become a part of the wider fight within the party over whether to pursue more liberal or centrist policies.

The fact that wealthy liberals are interested in helping to build a center-left counter-establishment is very encouraging. Campaign contributions are not everything and the Forces of the Right enjoy a tremendous built in advantage from the existence of propaganda outlets likes like the NY Post, Fox News and Talk Radio and the nebulea of conservative think tanks. I just hope that the money in question will not be invested primarily in developing "new ideas", at least with regards to policy, because that is not what the Democrats need. In a general sense, we already have the right ideas (tolerance, economci justice and a foreign policy based on our values, interests and an understanding of the limits of our power) and money doesn't really need to be put down in order to make them better. The past 12 years have show very clearly that progressive program works and conservative one doesn't. The real issue is selling our ideas. The folks at the Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute aren't paid to come up with creative policy solutions, they are paid to promote the policy posistions (taxs cuts good, poor people lazy, free markets magical, etc.) that the the Republican party has had for decades. Any successful liberal counterweight will have to be more hackish than academic. If the billionaire liberals mentioned in this article are feeling particularly generous, they ought to make substantial investments in new media ventures as well, a move which would greatly amplify their support in other areas.


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