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A “‘Heritage of the Left’ of the Right”

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"A “‘Heritage of the Left’ of the Right”"

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The political system enters a period of infinite regress:

In the wake of another chastening set of GOP defeats at the polls, Holtz-Eakin is now setting out to address those problems head-on. He’s developing a proposal for a new think tank that he describes as a “Center for American Progress for the right” — a reference to the liberal think tank that has supplied staff and policy proposals to the Obama administration and developed new ways to market its ideas. [...]

The irony, of course, is that the Center for American Progress itself was developed as a liberal answer to the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank that has been a source of Republican policy ideas for decades. But Holtz-Eakin says established think tanks of the right, like Heritage and the American Enterprise Institute, were “not helpful” during the McCain campaign because they weren’t politically engaged or innovative in their media strategies.

That’s why Holtz-Eakin says he now looks to the Center for American Progress as a model. The center, headed by former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John D. Podesta, combined a battery of domestic and foreign policy proposals with outreach innovations, such as hosting film screenings around the country and collecting e-mail addresses of people who sign up for the screenings.

This seems pretty misguided to me. In particular, DHE needs to think harder about the fact that there are already well-resourced conservative think tanks with plenty of capabilities. Before CAP came on the scene, there really wasn’t a “Heritage of the left.” On the right, Heritage and AEI already exist. The problem they face is that the conservative movement, as presently constituted, is not prepared to accept anything other than “tax cuts” as a solution to anything. Consequently, they’re not really even prepared to accept the premise that other problems exist. Tax cuts can’t solve climate change, so there must be no such thing! Tax cuts can’t curb inequality, so there must not be a problem with growing inequality.

If you’re a white guy looking to vent about how Puerto Rican women growing up poor in the Bronx get unfair advantages in life, the conservative movement has a lot to offer you. But otherwise there’s nothing there policywise. That’s not, however, because there are no organizations out there capable of developing or marketing policy. It’s because the movement has become unremittingly hostile to constructive policymaking. Everybody’s too busy cowering in fear from Rush Limbaugh to come up with anything.

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