How They Do It (Part 2)

(Part 1 is here, Part 3 is here)

The other day I recommended this article, Lessons of Right-Wing Philanthropy, by Karen Paget, which gives some very good background information about how the right has built the “conservative movement” that has become so powerful. Paget describes how the right-wing “think tanks” crank out messages that are repeated over and over again and eventually become conventional wisdom. They use a “conveyer belt” approach. At one end is the “knowledge production” process where so-called “research” is done by “scholars” who publish in right-wing “journals.” Then the marketing departments translate this into “popularized” wording using carefully researched words (like “death tax” to replace “inheritance income tax”), and the result is pumped out to the public through the media using op-ed pieces, right-wing pundits and columnists, and repeated endlessly.

Examples of this process include years of pounding out messages like “Social Security is going broke – the money won’t be there” or “public schools are failing, give the poor a choice.” After the public is softened up the right-wingers come in with their “solutions.” (These “solutions” always seem to involve schemes that make the rich richer and the poor poorer.)

I just found another great article, also from The American Prospect, by Robert Kuttner, titled, “Philanthropy and Movements.” Kuttner attended a right-wing roundtable where panelists bragged about what they have accomplished over the years – and how they pulled it off. And he gets into what needs to be done to balance this.

The people and foundations that fund moderate- and progressive-oriented programs need to learn from what the right has done. 25-or-so years ago the right got organized and pulled together several “foundations” plus individual and corporate donors to set up the Heritage Fondation and several other of the “think tanks” described above. This can be done by moderates and progressives, using the right’s success as a blueprint. Plenty of money is there on the progressive/moderate side, it just has not been used as effectively; it has not been coordinated and used as part of a long-term “movement” strategy. (See How They Do It (Part 1), about the Heritage Foundation, from a couple days ago.)