I love progressive think tanks. I think building strong think tanks is a hugely important component of a “progressive infrastructure” for fighting back against the right. Progressive think tanks are where many of our ideas could be developed and communicated to the public. They are where many of the op-ed writers, book authors, opinion columnists, radio and TV guests could be employed. And they are where major reports and studies can be researched and written.
The blogs, of course, are a virtual think tank, where ideas are generated, discussed, revised and communicated at a very rapid pace.
You know that I have been working for some time to get the Commonweal Institute started. I am also on the Netroots Advisory Council of the Drum Major Institute (DMI).
The Drum Major Institute writes that they are a “progressive public policy for social and economic fairness.”
DMI’s approach is unwavering: We do not issue reports to see our name in print or hold forums for the sake of mere talk. We seek to change policy by conducting research into overlooked, but important social and economic issues, by leveraging our strategic relationships to engage policymakers and opinion leaders in our work, and by offering platforms to amplify the ideas of those who are working for social and economic fairness.
DMI’s Annual Benefit is just weeks away. On June 21st at Cipriani on 23rd street the Drum Major Institute and all of our supporters will be coming together for the big annual event that’s key to keeping a leading edge think tank growing and going strong.
How cool is the DMI benefit?
Professor Cornell West of Harvard – the Cornell West will be presenting honoree Tavis Smiley with the Drum Major for Justice Award for being an outstanding voice for social change in the news media and beyond. You probably know Mr. Smiley from his nightly talk show on PBS and the best selling progressive book “The Covenant with Black America.” [click through for links]
Every time you turn on the radio or a cable news show you hear one form or another of the same old message, “conservatives and their ideas are good and liberals and their ideas are bad.” Think about how often you hear one or another variation of that theme.
But how often do you hear that liberals and progressives are good? How often do you hear that liberal/progressive ideas are better for people than a conservative approach? And if you are reading this you’re looking for progressive ideas. So how often do you think the general public is hearing that progressives and their values and ideas are good? The public does not hear our side of the story very often – if ever.
Why is that? Maybe it’s because we aren’t telling people our side of the story!
There are literally hundreds of conservative organizations that primarily exist to persuade the public to support conservative ideas (and, therefore, conservative candidates.) The people you see on TV or hear on the radio or who write op-eds in newspapers are paid by, or at the very least draw upon resources provided by these organizations. You might or might not have heard of the Heritage Foundation or the Cato Institute or Americans for Tax Reform or the This Institute or the That Foundation or the Government-and-Taxes-Are-Bad Association – but there really is a network of well-funded conservative organizations marketing the conservatives-are-good-and-liberals-and-government-and-democracy-are-bad propaganda every hour of every day and they have been doing so for decades. Click this link to visit a collection of links to articles, studies, reports and other resources for learning about the right-wing movement, its history, how it is funded and how it operates.
Now, can you think of any organizations that exist to tell the public that progressive values and ideas and policies and candidates are good? Do you know about any organized effort to persuade people to support progressive values and ideas?
Bill Berkowitz, writing at Media Transparency, has a piece titled Paying to play, expanding on why the Abramoff investigation should trigger a look into the “conservative movement” think tanks that Abramoff was working with.
Revelations that Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff bought op-ed pieces from fellows at right wing think tanks should unleash an investigation into two decades of so-called research paid for by conservative philanthropies
In a sign that the Bush Justice Department is working to minimize damage to the “conservative movement” stemming from the Abramoff scandal, the indictment and plea agreement ignore his misuse of the Capital Athletic Foundation. According to philanthropic watchdog National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy the indictment reveals “the debilitated condition of government oversight of nonprofits and foundations.”
The indictments and resulting plea agreement acknowledge the dubious if not illegal grantmaking of Abramoff’s Capitol Athletic Foundation (CAF) in more than one instance, but fail to penalize Abramoff on his abuse of the CAF as a personal cash reserve.
… For the past two years, alone among national philanthropic nonprofits, NCRP has detailed and denounced a variety of Abramoff’s misuses of philanthropy and called for IRS investigations, to no avail.
You see, the entire “conservative movement” operation depends on tax-free donations to so-called “charitable” organizations like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and hundreds of other national and state organizations that are supposed to be non-partisan but in reality operate almost entirely to the benefit of the Republican Party. So any kind of crackdown on the misuse of tax-free charitable donations would threaten the continued existence of the right-wing noise machine itself.