of Modern Conservatives
Written by former Senator Bill Bradley
When the Goldwater Republicans lost in 1964, they didn't try to become
Democrats. They tried to figure out how to make their own ideas more
appealing to the voters. As part of this effort, they turned to Lewis
Powell, then a corporate lawyer and soon to become a member of the United
States Supreme Court. In 1971 he wrote a landmark memo for the United
States Chamber of Commerce in which he advocated a sweeping, coordinated
and long-term effort to spread conservative ideas on college campuses,
in academic journals and in the news media.
the party's ideological and political goals, Republicans in the 1970s
and 1980s built a comprehensive structure based on Powell's blueprint.
Visualize that structure as a pyramid. Big individual donors and large
foundations - the Scaife family and Olin foundations, for instance -
form the base of the pyramid.
conservative research centers like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato
Institute and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, entities that make
up the second level of the pyramid. The ideas these organizations develop
are then pushed up to the third level of the pyramid - the political
level. There, strategists like Karl Rove or Ralph Reed or Ken Mehlman
take these new ideas and, through polling, focus groups and careful
attention to Democratic attacks, convert them into language that will
appeal to the broadest electorate. That language is sometimes in the
form of an assault on Democrats and at other times in the form of advocacy
for a new policy position. The development process can take years.
there's the fourth level of the pyramid: the partisan news media. Conservative
commentators and networks spread these finely honed ideas. At the very
top of the pyramid you'll find the president. Because the pyramid is
stable, all you have to do is put a different top on it and it works
fine. It is not quite the "right wing conspiracy" that Hillary Clinton
described, but it is an impressive organization built consciously, carefully
and single-mindedly. The Ann Coulters and Grover Norquists don't want
to be candidates for anything or cabinet officers for anyone. They know
their roles and execute them because they're paid well and believe,
I think, in what they're saying. True, there's lots of money involved,
but the money makes a difference because it goes toward reinforcing
a structure that is already stable.
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