How It Happened and What to Do About It

excerpted from the book

No Mercy

How Conservative Think Tanks and Foundations
Changed America's Social Agenda

by Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado

Temple University Press, 1996, hardcover



How should we see the extraordinary successes of the New Right in the last decade and a half? Many liberals profess astonishment, as though the string of victories happened by some sort of magic trick: "They stole our country." But it was not a trick. Conservatives deployed a series of shrewd moves, orchestrating one campaign after another with the aid of money and brains.

How They Did It: Techniques and Strategies the Right Used to Turn the Country Around

What, then, have been the principal techniques the right deployed in changing the country's social and economic agenda over the past fifteen?

Greater Focus on a Small Number of Issues

In contrast to liberal foundations and think tanks, which back a wide variety of studies and good works, ranging from poverty to cultural activities, to advocacy on behalf of political prisoners and refugees, food production in Third World countries, and ear]y childhood education, the right's efforts are narrowly focused. Only two or three issues are on the front burner at a given time. Although there are differences among the right-neoconservatives, cultural conservatives, and traditional, Buckley-style conservatives have somewhat different agendas, as do the more individualistic libertarians-the right seems always to tackle only a relatively small number of targets at a time, moving on to new ones when victory is accomplished ... conservatives backed English-only, first at the state, then the federal level. Much of the momentum for a national English-only bill comes from victories in states where the Hispanic immigrant population is large and perceived as a threat. Then, many of the same people who backed English-only moved over to immigration reform. Much the same happened on the nation's campuses. At first, rightwingers targeted speech codes and multicultural curricula and theme houses. After rolling back these liberal features, they moved on to attack affirmative action itself. Now that that campaign is nearing completion, conservatives are intensifying their campus efforts on training young conservatives who, in turn, will lead government and society into the twenty-first century.

Careful Selection of Issues: The Multiplier Effect

Not only does the right focus on a smaller number of issues than does the more diffuse left, it chooses them carefully. Conservatives seem better able than liberals to select issues that will pay off in the future-by bringing benefits, not so much to humanity at large, but to the conservative movement itself, strengthening it in preparation for the next campaign. Recall, for example, how much effort the conservative movement has invested in leadership courses and other opportunities for young conservatives. This investment is beginning to pay off: Trained undergraduates have been able to throw aging liberal professors on the defensive, so that they do not respond so forcefully to the establishment of a conservative newspaper or cutbacks for ethnic studies departments. Graduates of these early campus programs (like Dinesh D'Souza) are finding work for Republican congresspersons, writing conservative books, gaining fellowships in conservative think tanks. Soon they will move on to become newspaper editors, heads of new think tanks, directors of foundations. Within a few years, they will be in Congress and perhaps the presidency.

Conservatives seem to have a gift for thematic coherence as well. Consider the campaign for immigration reform. More stringent rules kept out immigrants, of course. Most immigrants join the Democratic Party. Immigration reform thus immediately benefits Republicans vis-a-vis Democrats. And the very campaign against immigrants draws on middle- and working-class people's fears, painting foreigners and immigrants as the source of their economic ills and uncertainties. This splits the working class, neatly deflecting attention from what is going on at the top-the tax cuts, mutual favors, tort revisionism, and corporate maneuvering that drastically affect the lives of working-class people by closing factories, sending jobs overseas, reducing worker-safety regulations, union-busting, and sacrificing research and development in favor of corporate raids and takeovers. It also prepares the public for other conservative efforts that tap many of the same fears, such as the drive to reduce affirmative action. This seamless quality, with issues reinforcing and dovetailing with each other, characterizes much of the right's agenda. Everything works together in a flawless design.


Conservatives tend to have more money than liberals. (This is in the nature of capitalism.) But they also raise it more effectively and spend it more wisely than their counterparts on the left. They know how to tap corporate coffers for tort reform, but an entirely different set of constituents for immigration reform or English-only. They thus not only target issues intelligently, they raise money for those issues shrewdly and professionally. And the money they do spend goes to good effect... the Pioneer Fund supports a single issue: the link between race and intelligence. It selects the best proposals from the best scholars and funds them amply; grants of $200,000 and more are not rare. Known as the preeminent sponsor of research in this area, it is spending so lavishly that it appears to be depleting its capital so that it may eventually disappear. But before this happens, it will have achieved a remarkable record. Much of the research relied on in the influential book by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Bell Curve, for example, was financed by the fund...

Use of the Media

The right also are far more adroit than the left in their use of the media. Indeed, making the most of their opportunities with the popular press seems to have been a conscious policy of the right since the mid-1970s. Recall, for example, how FAIR and other immigration-reform organizations used talk shows, direct-mail campaigns, newspaper ads, and skewed scholarship to persuade the public that immigrants (who, according to most economists represent a net gain to the economy) are actually a drain on government and the taxpayer. Recall how these organizations mobilized sentiment among the elderly and retired with scare messages implying that the high cost of services for the families of immigrants will endanger Social Security. (Of course, the opposite is true: Most immigrants are young, vigorous, and employed. They contribute much more to the Social Security system than they are ever likely to take out.) Tort reformists used many of the same methods plus slick television commercials like "Harry and Louise."

Recall, too, the media blitzes, information packets sent to members of Congress, and the press conferences and speaking tours that launched books like Illiberal Education, Losing Ground, and The Bell Curve toward best-sellerdom. Recall the catchy phrases that conservative publicists and media experts have coined: "reverse discrimination," "political correctness," "innocent white male," "immigrant horde," "balkanization," "Tower of Babel." "When the Zulus produce a Tolstoy, I'll read him." The reader is invited to ask himself or herself: When, in recent memory, has the left coined even one such memorable phrase?

Conservatives established programs for young journalists to counteract what they believe is the liberal bias of the nation's journalism schools... organizations such as M. Stanton Evans's National Journalism Center and Morton Blackwell's Leadership Institute have trained a cadre of conservative students to enter the print and broadcast media... Reed Irvine created Accuracy in Academia, a junior version of Accuracy in Media, to show students how to monitor faculty they suspect of liberal bias and expose their slips in AlA's monthly newspaper distributed free to hundreds of colleges and high schools across the land.

The right also capitalizes, consciously or not, on double or even triple feedback loops that give its media efforts even greater success than they would otherwise command. For example, in marketing an idea, a conservative group such as the Heritage Foundation will often send a report or position paper to Congress and to leading newspapers simultaneously. Then, as a major newspaper "bites" and publishes a story featuring the proposal or idea, the organization will photocopy the story and mail it to the same sources in Congress it targeted earlier. The result is that a busy congressperson will get the idea that the proposal is beginning to be backed by a growing consensus across the nation... major newspapers have just broken the story that a poll, stage-managed by Newt Gingrich to show widespread public support for his Contract with America, was fabricated. Many members of Congress apparently voted for measures out of the mistaken belief that they were what the American people wanted, although the real level of support was much lower. The same targeting and phasing of appeals is visible in the direct-mail campaigns... The busy fax machines in conservative offices and think tanks churn out letters and requests to the faithful, alerting them to the need to send money, write letters to editors, make telephone calls to their member of Congress, and so on. The right's complexes contain thousands of journalists, congresspersons, and other opinion makers on their rolodexes-individuals known to be receptive to conservative ideas and swayable by a letter or telephone campaign. They also have handy a list of 133 labels prepared by GOPAC, the Republican advocacy group headed by Gingrich, to praise each other or put down liberals-terms such as sick pathetic, incompetent-or confident, moral, candid.

Conservative public relations machines and fund-raisers work hand in glove. The more the right is able to get media attention directed to an issue, the more money rolls in. And with more money, the propaganda machine is able to conduct even more effective media blitzes, and so on in a self-reinforcing cycle. People read; people give; capitalism gains; corporate money flows into the coffers; Congress votes according to what it sees as the new consensus; tax proposals and deregulation favor the rich; more money flows; culture changes; momentum builds. And the whole country moves further to the right.

Better Use of Brains, Authority, and Expertise

Not only does the right make better use of money, it makes better use of brains. On college campuses-where most scientific and social science expertise is located in our society-the prevailing orientation is liberal. Yet, expertise is essential to any campaign to change social policy: One needs facts, evidence, analyses, arguments, expert opinion. Precisely because most of the leading social scientists in the United States are liberal, conservatives have neatly circumvented this difficulty in three ways. First, they have channeled lavish amounts of support on scholars willing to orient their research in directions conservatives hold dear, such as defending the Western canon, tracing the race-lQ connection, or demonstrating the biological impossibility of feminism. Second, conservatives have adopted a grow-your-own approach, funding law students, student editors, and campus leaders with scholarships, leadership training, and law-and-economics ,classes aimed at ensuring that the next generation of academic leaders has an even more conservative cast than the current one.

Third, conservatives have "cut out the middle man" (so to speak) by setting up their own mini-college campuses in the form of think tanks and institutes. These organizations provide support staff, access to the like-minded, prestige, and in many cases handsome stipends. A fellow in one of these institutes has many of the perks of academia without the messy business of teaching classes, grading bluebooks, or undergoing peer review. Many conservatives-Dinesh D'Souza and Charles Murray are examples- have never taught a class, suffered the anxieties of a tenure review, or sat on an admissions committee reviewing hundreds of files of would-be law or graduate students. Yet, to a busy congressperson or news editor, a report or book issued by the Heritage Foundation looks as authoritative as one authored by a busy academic squeezing time in between other duties, agonized over for five years, and published by a university press. Liberal think tanks do exist, of course. But they are not nearly so well funded or numerous as their conservative counterparts. A hypothetical young scholar weighing the option of spending time at the American Enterprise Institute or at the liberal Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and deciding purely on the basis of prestige and material support, would surely choose the former.

... right-wing legal foundations, with the aid of conservative funding and lavish pro bono help from prestigious law firms, have sued, threatened to sue, and pressured campus administrators to further the conservative agenda. Not only have they circulated legal reports and opinions widely to policymakers, judges, legal scholars, and university presidents, they have litigated selected issues intelligently and with precise focus and timing. In some respects, their approach to rolling back affirmative action, hate-speech codes, and other liberal measures is reminiscent of the campaign the NAACP Legal Defense Fund waged on behalf of school desegregation, culminating in Brown v. Board of Education fifty years earlier-but, of course, in reverse.

Finally, consider how the right shuttles key players from issue to issue as the need arises, making the best possible use of the available talent. A liberal scholar is likely to spend an entire career on one issue-for example, world hunger, voting rights for blacks, or low cost housing. Conservatives have no such limitation. Quite the contrary, conservatives expect to win on the issues they are currently working on; thus, the idea that they will move on to another one next year, and another the year after that is not at all strange to them. Moving from one issue to the other has a further advantage: It reminds the key player that he or she is part of a larger conservative agenda. A liberal working on a single issue (say, low cost housing) is likely to view himself or herself more in terms of that issue than of liberalism as a whole. If conditions change so that the worker is needed more urgently on a different campaign, he or she may decline, preferring to continue to work in a familiar laboratory or office on the issue he or she knows well.

... many conservative figures-Irving Kristol, Lawrence Pratt, Linda Chavez, William Simon, David Horowitz, William Bennett have - play[ed] leading roles in one conservative campaign, then another ... Lawrence Pratt .. was instrumental in orchestrating the campaign for official English as well as funding anti-abortion efforts. He oppos[ed] Latin American liberation movements and supporting Oliver North's gun-running escapades in Nicaragua. Recently he gained the limelight as executive director of Gun Owners of America. Or consider ... John Tanton, who first appeared as a conservationist, then prominent spokesperson for population control. After wearing out his welcome with those movements, he went on to form a leading organization waging war against immigration-FAIR. When that organization refused to jump aboard the English-only bandwagon, he simply switched causes, establishing U.S. English. Or, on a different level, consider the scholarly career of Charles Murray, author of the leading tract advocating elimination of welfare for the poor. After completing his 1984 Manhattan Institute book Losing Ground, Murray produced a number of minor reports and monographs, then resurfaced ten years later at the American Enterprise Institute as co-author of an audacious volume, The Bell Curve, that has proven as instrumental in the race-lQ/eugenics debate as his earlier volume was in the war against the poor. The left boasts very few such all-stars.

Cradle-to-Grave Job Security

As was mentioned earlier, the right takes pains to inculcate youth with conservative values and to promote and train those who show particular promise. The effort begins early in life. Conservative money pays for training in the principles of freemarket economics as early as high school... right-wing foundations fund conservative campus newspapers like the Dartmouth Review, where Dinesh D'Souza cut his teeth. These newspapers not only serve to raise issues on campus, they provide fertile training grounds for young writers who later will staff conservative think tanks and begin to take over the nation's major news rooms. Conservatives have established programs for young journalists to counteract what they regard as liberal bias in the nation's newspapers. A number of conservative philanthropies fund leadership programs in which conservative college students learn how to take notes, hassle a progressive professor, write a letter to the campus newspaper complaining of liberal bias in the classroom, and establish conservative forums, speaker series, and support groups. These camps, often conducted during the summer, provide the skills their graduates will need to become congressional interns and junior fellows at conservative think tanks following graduation. The liberal reader is invited to consider whether he or she knows of a single program (since the virtual demise of the Peace Corps) that serves a comparable function for young progressives.

Why It Was So Easy

One reason why the right has been ascendant over the last two decades is that they are simply shrewder. They use resources more precisely, concentrate their efforts on a few targets at a time, and make sure various campaigns reinforce and dovetail with one another. They move personnel from one front to another and train the young to take their places in a future conservative regime.

Could the left emulate these features and techniques? Of course, and it should. Unfortunately, we believe that even doing so may not be enough: The left must try even harder than the right, for a number of features of American society suggest the country finds conservative change easier and more congenial than the liberal version. We set out several- below; and the next section predicts what will happen if the country remains, as it is now, seriously dominated by just one faction.

Better Narratives

Not only do conservatives have more money to spend (and the determination to spend it well), the nature of their rhetoric, slogans, metaphors, heroes, myths, rallying cries, and stirring causes is more calculated to rally support among the uncommitted than those the liberals have to offer. As everyone knows, our country is based on a free market tradition. Many of the things we are proudest about have to do with inventors, railroad builders, lunar explorers, pilgrims, frontier settlers, and others who took chances and achieved breakthroughs. Most Americans subscribe to the Judeo-Christian ethic and so do give lip service to the ideals of altruism, public service, selfless giving, and aid to the poor and defenseless. But the deeds that really move us are individualistic acts of bravery, resourcefulness, intelligence. We thrill to the exploits of John F. Kennedy, the P.T. boat commander and president who called Fidel Castro's bluff. Of course, we also believe that Mother Theresa's work with the poor is commendable. Still, there is little question that more Americans would like their children to grow up to be like JFK or J. P. Morgan than like Mother Theresa or Mahatma Gandhi. A host of tales, narratives, scripts, stories, and movies extol the hero or heroine who fights off danger, saves another, or accomplishes some similar feat. Very few celebrate someone who gives away half of his or her wealth or spends a lifetime working with the poor. Indeed Newt Gingrich and others are trying to convince the American people that compassion is oppressive and a form of racism.

We think there is something bracing, manly almost, about the conservative ethic of hard work, competition, and succeeding by one's own merits. Liberal ideals of sharing and public service are fine aspirationally or on Sunday, but are likely to strike us as cloying, a little too self-effacing for our dog-eat-dog lives. Without a change in the way we think about self, productivity, and sharing, the conservatives' ideals and stories will simply carry more weight than the liberal ones, at least in the short term.

Conservatives, then, are able to tap the powerful narrative of manliness, in contrast to which liberals can easily be made to seem weak and ineffectual. But there are other narratives that aid the conservative cause. A second is pride: America is "the best"-a narrative that resonates more soundly with (and is more readily captured by) the conservative tradition. The "we-are-best" narrative reminds the hearer or reader of exactly what the conservatives wish to highlight-the idea that competition (not compassion), merit (not special treatment) made this country great. It is easier to be proud of one's exalted station or standard of living if one can believe that one has won it fair and square. The conservative narrative of America-the-best, then, lends itself to nativism, English-only, the defeat of affirmative action, and many of the other campaigns so successfully waged by conservatives and discussed in this book.

A third narrative the conservatives are better situated than the liberals to marshal is that of threat. The notion that we are under attack ... is calculated to manipulate fear and insecurity. During times of fear and threat, people tend to come together to defend the old ways. They look for differences: Is this outsider, unlike us, likely to add to the threat we feel? The sense of endangerment contributes to a we-they attitude and a need to hold onto what one has-a leading conservative impulse. The reader is urged to recall slogans like: "brown horde," "wave of immigrants," "balkanization," "loss of our Western heritage," "our country's deteriorating gene pool" and notice the extent to which many of them play on such fears.

Right-wingers are always ready to tell the story of someone they heard of, usually a white male, turned down for a job because an affirmative action program awarded it to a less-qualified minority. Liberals, by contrast, base their arguments on statistics, which are of course less emotive and rhetorically effective. The conservative's anecdote capitalizes on the listener's fears that the outrageous event-the discrimination suffered by the innocent, highly qualified white-will generalize so that one day he or she, too, will be a victim. The liberal's statistics showing that very few whites are displaced by unqualified minorities under affirmative action programs are cold comfort when the conservative is able to tell "I heard of a case . . ." and the listener thinks, "The next case could be me."

Use of Memory: The Past's Rosy Glow

Although intelligent spending, careful choice of images and narratives and clever use of the media account for much of the right's recent success, the role of memory may play an equally central part. Liberals are urging society to step off into the unknown, into a place where we have never been. Naturally, this meets resistance-how do we know this will not lead to disaster? We think, if we let them tinker with this one thing, might not the whole system fail in some unexpected way? We want to know who will bear the costs of the liberals' reform. Will it be us? How great will it be? Those of us who lead comfortable lives may be disconcerted by the prospect of change unless we can be sure our status will improve, or at least not worsen. Often the liberal cannot offer these guarantees.


Conservatives, by contrast, are urging that we remain true to some past vision, or even return to a regime we remember from former times. Many of us remember the past fondly. Roles were clearer, people knew their places. Children were obedient. Workers did what they were told. Families ate dinner together, went to church on Sunday, knew their neighbors. Immigrants assimilated quickly. Everyone subscribed to a common morality, spoke a common language, lived their lives in one town or neighborhood. Technological changes came at a slower pace. Life seemed simpler. It is easy to blame the liberals, who press for innovation, for the confusing and stressful aspects of our current state.

The positive feeling tone many associate with the past thus gives the conservatives an edge. But a second feature also favors them: Because the past is known and fixed, a conservative is able easily to see how the pieces of a plan or program fit together. Piecemeal change is likely to fail, however, because the new rule or practice slips back, is swallowed up by surrounding practices that remain unchanged, is interpreted in dozens of administrative and private decisions against a background of meanings and beliefs that vitiate the new regime. That is why law reform strategies-even ones that result in a "breakthrough" like Brown v. Board of Education _ end up changing things very little. A conservative can tell you exactly how to change the school system to strengthen the values conservatives hold dear: Reinstate religion and neighborhood control; resist busing; set up differential merit tracks; insist on teacher examinations; and allow school attendance boundaries to reflect neighborhood and housing preferences. Ask a liberal exactly what changes he or she would institute to improve academic performance on the part of minority students, and the answer is likely to be vaguer and more circumspect-he or she really does not know, and the reason is simply that unfortunately we have never experienced a regime in which minorities have achieved great success in school. The coherence of the conservative vision gives it a further edge over its liberal counterparts ... conservatives find it easier to visualize and replace elements in larger swatches. Their changes end up being structural because memory and coherence of vision give them an edge. They confront no reconstructive paradox. And the reason is that they are not in the reconstruction business at all. They want to resurrect old foundations, not build a new edifice from scratch.

The Reconstructive Paradox: Why It Is Easier to Pull Things Back Than to Push Them Forward

Liberal reform is hard to bring about and even harder to maintain in place. Liberal reformers tend to take one step and then stop, believing the task finished. The culture then swallows the gain up. Things slip away, successively interpreted against a background of the old meanings and assumptions. Liberals often place great faith in the judicial system as an instrument of progress. Therefore, consider briefly the most famous law case in recent history, Brown v. Board of Education. Brown was the culmination of a long and gallant campaign by the NAACP and its liberal supporters to bring about the end of segregated public education. The talented litigators of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund hoped not only to end a long-standing system of separate schools but to put in its place one in which children of all races would meet and learn on equal terms.

Unfortunately, as everyone knows, the landmark opinion has not brought about those gains. School officials resisted, interpreting the decision's mandate in the light of their own experience and sense of social reality. In most cases, teachers and administrators, curriculum, and discipline remained the same. White families moved to the suburbs. Black children were expelled or consigned to educationally disadvantaged classes and tracks in disproportionate numbers. Private schools were not subject to Brown's mandate. As the result, the nation's schools are nearly as segregated today as they were in the time of Brown.

Despite this lack of palpable results, few liberals today are marching in the streets for school reform. They believe that battle ended in 1954 with the Brown decision. A radical program of school reform could easily be imagined, but it would go much further than a simple prohibition against deliberate, state-supported segregation of the races. Such a program would need to change many things at once-early childhood education, teaching methods, curriculum, and approaches to discipline, just to name a few. There would need to be many more black teachers, administrators, and aides. The cost of such a program would be much greater, the amount of perseverance necessary to effectuate it higher, and the social costs steeper. It would require the kind of staying power-even ideological quality of motivation-that one associates with conservatives... liberals lack the kind of concrete and vivid goals, doggedly pursued, that characterize conservatives. The reason is simple: They have not experienced the state of affairs they are trying to bring about. There is no template. They want to move society to a place where it has never been. Is it any surprise their efforts and programs have a tentative, incremental, cautious quality?

In our society, progressive change is an aberration. Society's natural condition is to slip back rather than to progress onward in an unending line. The whole picture must change, otherwise cultural interpretations and undertows will exert their inexorable drag. The net effect of the hurdles and headwinds we have identified for liberal change may, for convenience, be labeled the "reconstructive paradox." The paradox can be boiled down to six steps:

1. The greater the social evil (for example, black subordination) the more it is likely to be entrenched in our national life.

2. The more entrenched the evil, the more massive the social effort necessary to eradicate it.

3. An entrenched evil will be invisible to many, because embedded and ordinary, requiring little attention.

4. The massive social effort will inevitably collide with other social values and things we hold dear (for example, settled expectations, religion, the family, privacy, the Southern way of life). This will entail dislocations, shifts in spending priorities, new taxes, changes in the way we speak and relate to one another.

5. These efforts will be highly visible-by contrast with the evil-and will spark resistance and accusations that the backers are engaging in totalitarian tactics, siding with big government, dislodging innocent whites, operating in derogation of the merit principle, elevating group relief over individualism, reviving old grudges, whipping up division where none existed before, and so on.

6. Resisting all these unprincipled things will feel right, for one's adversary (liberals) will appear to be callously sacrificing real liberty, real security, real resources for a nebulous goal.

Therefore, reconstruction will always strike many in a society as unprincipled, unwarranted, and wrong. Little surprise, then, that few take up its cause, persist for long in the face of resistance, or even frame their programs and objectives broadly enough so that if they are adopted they have a chance of remaining in place and achieving real effects.

Dogmatism and Refusal to Enter the Arena of Dialogic Politics

A final reason why conservatives have managed to change the nation's consciousness so swiftly and effectively has to do with the intensely ideological nature of much of their program. Many conservatives pride themselves on being "principled," one aspect of which is a refusal to compromise. For example, a conservative who detests crime will often vote with others as a bloc in favor of more and harsher prisons, refusing to balance this need against other things a rational citizen might want: rehabilitation for criminals, better schools, Head Start programs for the poor, parks, roads, and support for the arts. Crime is bad; criminals deserve to be punished; therefore, society must have more prisons regardless of the expense.

Politics, as it is ordinarily understood, entails trade-offs. These, in turn, require deliberation about the various ends and goals a society might want. Conservatives behave, superficially, like anyone else engaging in politics: They vote, run for office, mail letters and position papers, and so on. But, as with children one discovers were not playing after all, it turns out that on many issues conservatives are not really engaged in deliberative politics; rather, they are doggedly pursuing an agenda. (Consider, for example, how the early William Simon call to arms, written in 1978, formed the near-perfect blueprint which conservatives have been following for nearly two decades. This gives them an enormous advantage over the more tolerant, open-ended liberals who can always see that a goal they would like to accomplish would, under certain conditions, need to be subordinated in favor of another, more urgent, one, at least for now.

The conservatives' refusal to compromise thus weakens deliberative democracy, because their intransigence removes certain items from the realm of ends or teleology-goods to be promoted if possible (i.e., along with others). Rather, the goals become Kantian imperatives, matters that must be seen to, with any money or energy left over then distributed according to what the people want. Their basic program turns out to be beyond discussion because it is ordained by a higher authority, a higher principle.

This sort of intransigence can, in time, change the very character of the community itself. It maintains huge prison systems, for example, as a matter of course: with a sense neither of resignation nor of pride but because that the way things are. We no longer deliberate about that particular feature because it is relegated to the realm of presupposition. As with the religious custom of tithing, one does not even consider the possibility of not maintaining a large prison system. One simply makes allowance for the cost, then turns to the question of how the community should vote with respect to other expenditures. This is why slavery, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal schools persisted for so long: They became second nature. And it is why affirmative action, once society jettisons it, will not return for a very long time.

There is no zero-based politics, no neutral starting point; every position adversely affects some segment of the community. But intensely ideological conservatives are in a better position to ensure that their zero-state becomes the starting point for discussion. A conservative victory becomes forever-unlike a liberal one, which can always be changed back. The most unalterable feature about a society is one that is internalized, that is inside everyone's heads, that is never questioned because it seems that it has always been there. Imagine a group of villagers who have for generations followed a certain path from point A to point B. A huge boulder rolls down a mountain, blocking the path and forcing a detour. In time a new path is formed. The new path now becomes "the road to point B." In similar fashion, one might imagine a liberal American discussing his or her country with a progressive Italian counterpart. The Italian asks the American to explain the country's high incarceration rate or restrictive immigration laws. The American shrugs and says, "That's just the way things are. We've always been that way. I know it seems strange, but . . ." Like the villager with the boulder, the American has accepted the conservative feature as normal, as part of reality. And part of the reason is that those who put it in place have succeeded in declaring it beyond discussion. As with a tithe, the society learns to live without.

What Will Happen If the Left Does Not Mount More Resistance, Suggestions for Reformers and Progressives American society functions best if the left and the right have roughly equal power and influence. Currently, however the right is in full cry, the left demoralized. Things are more out of balance than they have been for quite some time.

As with a pendulum, will society achieve a balance between conservative and liberal programs and plaforms? There is room for doubt. The right has perfected its techniques-for organizing, publicizing itself, controlling r the media, and manipulating slogans, myths, and fears-to a high art. It is aided, as we have seen, by a host of forces that render society highly receptive to its message; conservative change is almost always easier to bring about than the liberal version. And, once things are institutionalized, they come to seem normal. As with tithing, the country accepts the conservative state of affairs. And because conservatives often regard their agenda as dictated by principle, they rarely succumb to introspection or enter into dialogue with the other side...

There are measures that liberals can, and should, take, before it is too late. But it is worth reflecting, first, on what American society will likely look like in the years ahead if conservatives meet (as they have in the recent past) little effective resistance. Black misery will increase. The gap between the rich and the poor (already the highest in the Western world) will widen. Women's gains will be rolled back, foreigners will be excluded, English-speaking enforced, campus orthodoxy rigidly enforced. Conservative judges, appointed by conservative presidents with the encouragement of a conservative Congress, will repeal prisoners' and children's rights, and narrow women's procreative liberties. Unregulated industries will require employees to work in increasingly unsafe workplaces, pollute the air and water, and set aside less and less money for workers' health benefits and retirement. Tort reform will ensure that consumers and medical patients injured by defective products, medical devices, and careless physicians will be unable to obtain compensation. Children will be required to pray in schools, absorb conservative principles of freemarket economics, salute the flag, and learn in English whether they know that language or not. College students will read conservative newspapers edited by conservative student editors trained at conservative leadership institutes and funded by conservative foundations. Editors, legislators, and authors of leading books will, in the main, be conservative. Affirmative action will disappear, as will ethnic studies and multicultural programs on the nation's campuses. Foreign enclaves like Chinatown will shrink; there will be fewer ethnic restaurants and shops. One will hear fewer foreign languages as one walks down the street. The nation will retain a large military establishment even in peacetime. The safety net for the poor will weaken or be abolished outright. Homelessness will increase. Wealthy people will live in locked enclaves behind security gates watched by twenty-four-hour guards. The prison industry will grow, constituting the only form of public service that is fully and willingly funded. Police will be able to search one's home on less and less of a showing of cause. Liberal professors will be fired or denied tenure. Books like this will be hard to find.

What can the left do to slow down the right-wing juggernaut that is well on its way to institutionalizing an America like the one described above? Liberals must learn from the successful tactics and strategies of the right. They must learn how to raise money, to manipulate the media in the interest of causes they hold dear. For example, why could not progressive publicists make capital at the expense of Republican deregulators under a motto like, "Why are they trying to poison your water?" Or, why could not civil rights organizations coin slogans like, "Newt Gingrich's party wants you back where you belong-in chains." Liberals could take a leaf from the deadly serious operatives of the right and establish single-issue think tanks aimed at funding, for example, books, papers, and conferences showing that immigration benefits a region's economy, that affirmative action improves, not weakens, the quality of goods and services available to all Americans, and so on.

Liberals can try to "flip" the debate and portray liberalism as the usual state of affairs, harkening back to the country's revolutionary past and to spokespersons like Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill, Frederick Douglass, and Franklin Roosevelt, while depicting conservatism as an aberrant, pinched deviation from the country's norm. They could show how measures like tort reform, tax cuts for the wealthy, and draconian crime control measures endanger everyone's well-being and liberty. They can train promising young liberal intellectuals, giving them opportunities to acquire the skills and experience necessary for careers in government and public service. They can tap moderate and liberal corporations and foundations, pointing out how a highly stratified society with a growing underclass can never be really secure or productive. They can make ties with progressive leadership in other countries, so that potential trade partners insist on immigration reform and civil rights progress as conditions of dealing with us.

Can liberals do these things without taking on the hyper-organized, regimented, and narrowly result-driven orientation that characterize much of the right? Can they counter the conservative blitz that we have been describing without forfeiting cherished liberal ideals of autonomy, openness, and a broad social concern-without, in effect, becoming their opponent, the right? We think they can, and must. The left does not need a czar. It does not need, even, an ironclad master plan, although some degree of coherence and prioritizing of programs would help. It does need to raise more money. Progressive corporations and individuals must be asked, often and insistently, to back liberal causes. They must be given many more options than they have now. They must be assured that their money will go to causes that count: that will not only help make the world a better place but counter the conservative juggernaut and strengthen liberal institutions into the future.

The left also needs to set up think tanks and special-interest litigation and defense funds. There is no reason why the right should be miles ahead on this score. Intelligent scholars and policy experts producing scores of highly focused monographs, articles, and books, for example, debunking the IQ-race connection or challenging the premises of nativist anti-immigration policy, all in readily readable prose and with a quick turn-around, would surely draw financial support from both individuals and progressive businesses. They can fund and help start up serious left-wing journals, comparable to the right's American Spectator, Commentary, and New Criterion. Liberals can help the young avoid the crushing debt and dismally constrained career choices that force many to make compromises that prevent them from following their social consciences. They can provide leadership training so that college students can learn how to defend key liberal programs, such as affirmative action and non-Western literature, from the predictable, but often effective, conservative arguments they hear on campuses. They can borrow a leaf from the right and begin using the press and broadcast media to get their ideas out. They can heed friendly critique, both from the far left and from writers like ourselves. None of these measures entails any sort of compromise with liberal principle. If anything, attending to these pragmatic features will ensure a more dynamic left, constantly generating new ideas and producing new faces in a way that will galvanize leftism and give it new life.

Conservatives have no monopoly on brains or money. With effort, progressive people can get the country back on course from the sharp veer it has taken to the right. No society does well when it is out of balance. It is time for a little ingenuity, planning, and hard work from the left.

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