Tag Archives: Richard Mellon Scaife

Tide of Political Conservatism not (yet) Reversed

Contrary to the implication in George Packer’s article in the current issue of the New Yorker, Conservatism is alive and well in America, and America remains all the poorer for it.  At least this is the side of the debate I ascribe to. The other side, as Packer suggests, is that conservatism might be the wane, its ideas bankrupt (I agree), its influence over cultural and political life subsiding (I disagree). 

First, it appears from nearly every slice of the political pie, this is going to be a strong democratic year. Democratic Party voter registration and contributions to democratic candidates at unprecedented levels. Democrats just won three special elections in very conservative congressional districts (Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi). 

The current conservative republican president is at an all time low in popular opinion for sitting presidents (worse than Nixon during Watergate); more than 2/3 of the country oppose the president’s war in iraq; oppose the way he is handling the economy, and believe the country is on the wrong track.

All these pro-democratic tidings could be reversed, however, were John McCain to win the presidency, and the polls have McCain and Obama in near statistical dead heats.  Given the fact that Obama is running a superior political campaign in terms of strategy and organization, the reason for this deadheat is one of three things:

1) the democrats have yet to officially settle on a nominee.  If this is the reason for the dead-heat, then perhaps a change in tide is indeed coming. But, unless you ascribe to a great man theory of politics/history, and i don’t, the election of a liberal president would not undermine the existing right wing hegemony of the political system.

2)  voters are not keen on Obama’s liberal politics.  This speaks for itself. if Obama loses because of hs politics, then it is impossible to hold that conservatism is dead.

3) Americans are not ready to elect a President of color.  sort of explains itself, to this country’s great shame.

The more crucial argument, I believe, has to do with the sort recently raised in books by Naomi Klein and Sheldon Wolin.   And this argument suggests the conservative tide will not be reversed by an Obama Presidency.  The argument goes to policy infrastructure which the right has been working on since the early 1970s, economic and market structures which the right has been undermining since Reagan, and political structures which the Bush administration has violently attacked since 911; These structures have etched deeply worn patterns in the political culture that are not easily erased by current voter registration trends, campaign contributions–which could well me anomalous– and short term special elections.

First, democrats and political progressives have yet to develop a progressive infrastructure of think tanks and policy centers that might in some future administration, extend a set of beliefs beyond discrete executive orders and policy initiatives. (It remains to be seen if the blogosphere will help fulfill this function). The progressive community cannot even support the likes of the Rockridge Institute which endeavored to contribute to the process of countering the 1971 “Powell Memo,” with progressive tanks and institutes.  Recall the Powell Memo launched the conservative hegemony in this country.  More important than this initial rallying cry was work of Richard Mellon Scaife to almost single handedly build institutions that would take anti-democratic ideas, like Milton Friedman’s free market neo-liberalism, and make them appear as if they were universally accepted as inevitable in the development of american democracy.  The fact that the Clinton’s who held the democratic throne during the 1990s, control almost 1/2 the dem. party now, and would like to hold the throne again, have been endorsed by Mellon Scaife and are sitting down and conducting business with the likes of Rupert Murdoch/Fox and Rush Limbaugh, does not bode well for a progressive revolution.  The Clinton’s Nixonian politics of personal destruction adds additional fuel to anti-progressive forces, regardless of who wins the dem nomination and the general election in November.

Finally, and most important, is the destruction that Friedmanesque neoliberalism has already wreaked on this country’s democratic institutions. The mark of privatization, begun in earnestness, by the way, with Clinton’s reinventing Government initiatives of the mid 1990s, is a black mark on democratic institutions, and might well prove to be permanent, or at least take decades to undo. Once corporations have come to control vital government services, it becomes extremely difficult for government to reassert its constitutional controls. Once presidents violate fundamental principles of separation of powers, and are not held to account, it becomes increasingly difficult for subsequent administrations to reassert such delicate constitutional balances.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hillary’s Abuse of Redemptive Power

When Hillary Clinton told Keith Olbermann yesterday she believes in redemption when asked why she did not reject or denounce Richard Mellon Scaife’s recent endorsement, she showed the country she is a calculating politician but not necessarily a smart politician.

At about the same time yesterday, I read a listserve email from the Rockridge Institute that it would be closing its doors April 30, largely because of its failure to raise necessary funds to stay open. Rockridge is George Lakoff’s think tank for progressive cognitive science. For the past few years, it has endeavored to reframe the public debate away from its rightward spin and towards a more progressive way of perceiving the social world.

Rockridge endeavored to be part of a progressive alternative to the right wing spin machine that is now currently embedded in the mainstream press. Look no further than the Philadelphia debate moderators george Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson for an example. That right wing talking points have become engrained in the mainstream press is no surprise. It is the result of 30 years of conservative policy centers and think tanks influencing the way the american public thinks about politics, and the way the media and government creates priorities for american politics.

Perhaps more than anything else, this right wing infrastructure is the result of Richard Mellon Scaife’s philanthropy, which is in no small part responsible for the mushroom cloud of right wing institutions in the 1970s and 80s: Heritage Fundation, Hoover, American Enterprise and Cato.

Were Hillary a smart politician, whe would have laid claim to her own political redemption and used her moment on Olbermann to challenge progressive backers to build for the left, what Mellon Scaife so effectively developed for the right.

Richard Mellon Scaife and Hillary Clinton, Redux

Last weekend, Richard Mellon Scaife, publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, endorsed Hillary Clinton for President in the Pennsylvania Primary.

So Richard Mellon Scaife has paid huge amounts of money for evidence that Hillary is a lesbian, and is perhaps the biggest financier of the “right wing conspiracy” that came a few votes shy of removing Bill from office.  He is the right wing loon who has spent well over 200 million dollars to back nearly every cause that Hillary would say is an anathema to her 35 years in public life.  

Almost every newsworthy right winger of the last 30 years has been recipient of Scaife funding. This includes hundreds of millions of dollars to right wing causes through 3 foundations, Carthage, Allegheny, and the Sarah Scaife Foundations.  

Scaife alone is responsible for making it possible for right wing ideologues to translate the 1971 Powell Memo into the conservative revolution.

Back in 1994, according to an old Salon article, Heritage Foundation president Edwin Feulner Jr. told a meeting of supporters in 1994 that 20 years earlier,

 “Dick Scaife had the vision to see the need for a conservative intellectual movement in America. These organizations built the intellectual case that was necessary before political leaders like Newt Gingrich could translate their ideas into practical political alternatives.” 

These organizations include Heritage, the Hoover Foundation, American Enterprise Foundation, Cato, and more. Scaife veterans then filled the ranks of the Reagan and W Bush administrations and have distorted how the world and many Americans now view American democracy.

The damage is severe.  When Keith Olbermann asked Hillary about the Scaife endorsement this evening on Countdown, Clinton laughed and said she believed in “deathbed conversions.”  No conversion. The damage is institutional, long term, and it’s hardly  laughing matter.