Foundations and Empire

You can say all you want about push polls, badly phrased questions, the sort of dullards who have the time to waste on phone polls, wartime jingoism, etc., etc., but still, this ain’t good:

More than three-fourths of Americans–including two-thirds of liberals and 70% of Democrats –now say they support the decision to go to war. And more than four-fifths of these war supporters say they still will back the military action even if allied forces don’t find evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

“Support” is a loaded word and it appears that the 4/5 figure is closer to 3/5, but you can check out the pdf for more stunners, like the result that only 12% of the pollees said that the Iraqi people are not “welcoming the presence of U.S. troops in their country…because they oppose the U.S. invading their land.” Maybe that’s because 69% of them get their news from “Cable news shows.” I’m still not so jaded that this all doesn’t give me a sock in the gut.

Anyway, enough sensationalism about polls. The Pessoan Wealth Bondage briefly sheds his Paglian personae to discuss the difficulty in combatting what See the Forest describes as the Alinskyan moving of the goalposts:

The Republicans are now just an extension of the Scaife/Coors/Bradley, etc.-funded web of ideological think tanks and advocacy organizations–Heritage, Horowitz, Federalist Society, etc.–that call themselves “movement conservatives.” They have this magnificent “message amplification infrastructure” in place – the “Wurlitzer”–that is able to move the public more and more to the right, and their politicians just rest on top of that.

The WB responds with a pessimistic, expert analysis of the imbalance of forces, with a few long-term prescriptions for change:

Commweal is trying to be a populist counterpoise to Heritage and Cato, but has not got the bucks. When you go to a man who runs a billion dollar family business in a regulated industry, it is easy to explain to him why it might make sense to make a tax deductible gift of the interest on the interest on his money to Cato, to repeal the regulations that vex him. It is much tougher to make an equally cogent case for the common good.

But all the money in the world can’t turn this mess around in any short amount of time. The Right had a thirty year project that succeeded wildly, but it took time to reach the level of single-mindedness that See the Forest describes. Even after you read Mark Hertzgaard’s On Bended Knee, which describes the pandering of the press and the excuses they made for Reagan, it’s noticeable that due to Democratic control of Congress, some remaining press independence, or other factors, Iran-Contra still “happened.” The positions of the goalposts would not allow it on the radar now.

So even for them, these things took time. But I’m not in the mood to wait around for the supposed Emerging Democratic Majority to emerge. The crisis point seems too close. And it’s harder to foment a majority than to break one, as Ray Davis suggests:

Introduce enough irresolvable conflicts, and the “right” coalition would splinter into factions almost as nicely as the “left”: it has in the past, and it can again. (Bearing in mind, of course, that, no matter what loose coalitions might be in play, the most powerful single faction in American politics will continue to be, as it’s been since the Civil War, that represented by corporate lobbyists.)

It has to be a bad sign when that last, parenthetical sentence reads as a statement of optimism rather than despair. But that’s where I am right now. Temporarily, the preservation of a neo-liberal market with ludicrous income inequity and a lack of checks on corporatism is looking better than all other feasible alternatives (isolationist protectionism, aggressive warmongering imperialism, total multipolar chaos) in the short-term. Maybe it’s a lack of imagination on my part, or a lack of empathy for the victims of its tremendous defects, but what is going on right now is not in the interests of a majority of corporate lobbyists, even in this country. You don’t see articles like the Financial Times calling Bush’s economic policy “lunacy” unless at least the beginning of a rift similar to what Ray describes is forming. The best thing to do is help it along.

My response to the Tutor of WB, then, is that not all right-wing foundations pose equally frightening agendas, nor are they all marching in lockstep as much as current events suggest. The neocons and fundamentalists at Heritage and AEI are not the same as the welfare-bashing libertarians at Cato. It would not be the end of the world for progressives to welcome Cato into the fold temporarily, since they too have expressed reservations (see their Why the United States Should Not Attack Iraq”) about the current direction of the U.S. policy. In the face of patent financial mismanagement, there is room for a schism.

Of course, maybe the free-marketers don’t need us and can just fight it out amongst themselves. But in the face of the left-wing impotence that all the people I’ve quoted bemoan, one potential short-term approach is a strategic alliance–I don’t know what form it would take–between the progressive sorts and those who want a tax cut, easy living, and a reduction of inculcated fear. Sanity precedes social justice.

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