Sunday, September 25, 2005

I Could Be Very Wrong Here...

...some institutions and people become prominent, based on work that they had done in the past that nobody noticed. But, in the wake of a massive but ineffective anti-war protest in Washington D.C,, a protest that I was glad to see but which I believe will change few, if any, minds, I can't help but think about the Republicans, who were out of congressional power up until the mid 1990s.

What did the Republicans do, while being losers? Well, if you've ever heard of The Cato Institute, or The Hudson Institute, or The American Enterprise Institute, or The Moral Majority or The Christian Coalition... that's what they did. They built and funded think tanks full of well-paid and reputable scholars that pimped their point of view. The members of these think tanks were mostly well qualified and certainly well quotable and, for the most part, smart enough that a guy like me would be terrified to debate one of them in a public forum.

To highlight a lesser known example, The Frasier Institute, based in Vancouver, Canada, of all places, regularly attacks and sometimes debunks, the claims of environmentalists in the U.S. Frasier is biased and pursue and agenda that's so strong that it clouds its conclusions but I've met and spoken to people from there and, let me tell you, you do not want to take them on in an argument because they have an answer, with conveniently supporting data, for everything.

But here we are, the left in the U.S. out of power in congress for more than a decade and out of power in The White House for going on six years and for what's guaranteed to be eight. We've formed some interesting and powerful online communities like and Eschaton and Dailykos and TPmCafe, but we don't have, as far as I can see, something that will grow into being The Cato Institute -- well funded enough and staffed with scholars hardcore enough that they can provide sources, quotes and data to any mainstream media outlet, on the left or right.

Honestly, I don't think these right wing think tanks are any sort of trick. Some of them, like Cato and Hudson, are so right wing that the Republicans in power now aren't good enough for them. They're really staffed with honest and rigorous scholars with whom I mostly disagree. I guess what I'm saying is, despite my objections to their conclusions, they are the real deal.

I hope that anyone who reads this blog can point me towards the intellectual, wonky, policy think tanks that the left, while out of power, is building up right now, to pay off in two decades just as they did for the right. I haven't noticed a single one. If they're out there, I want to know. If they aren't, well, we need to get moving. There's a lot to be gained, in American politics and American media, by having sympathetic inhtellectual institutions that exist outside the university system. We need them. They really paid off for the other side. And, sorry, but much as I love The Brookings Institute, it isn't enough.


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