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The Sad Demise of Newt’s Solution Lab

I am writing this in support of ideas put forth by Wonkish and Avgio in

http://www.redstate.com/wonkish1/2010/12/28/conservative-innovation-the-long-war/

In a comment there I wrote the following paragraph.

May I suggest you (we) figure out a way to funnel good ideas to policy makers in the GOP. I posted extensively on Newt’s American Solutions Lab. When I started, I was a fan of Gingrich. but there was absolutely no indication that he ever read anything anyone posted and certainly never gave anyone credit for “his” ideas. His staff was also completely indifferent to anything posted there. He is now off my list of candidates I would support in 2012.

I would like to elaborate on my harsh criticism. It is not that I care if my ideas are opposed or even attacked. I thrive on debate. But Newt advertised the Lab as a place  where ordinary citizens could post and discuss possible solutions to national problems.  There was an implication that his staff would actually read the posts and pass many of them on to him for a response. There is no evidence that this ever happened. I don’t think Newt ever posted a single comment in the Lab. Occasionally  his “assistants” would post something but they never engaged in debate.

One of the issues I was passionate about back in 2008 was the “mark-to-market” discussion.  Newt and Steve Forbes were all over the talk shows blaming the rule that assets held by a bank should be valued at the price they could be sold at rather than on the hope that there would be no defaults. They clearly did not understand the issue and ended up pimping for their wall street cronies, whether intentionally or not. Now that is MY opinion. There were many participants in the Lab who vehemently disagreed with me. They forced me to refine and revise my arguments. I can’t say we ever came to a consensus, but it was a respectful disagreement with hundreds of comments. Of course nobody in Newt’s organization deigned to participate. After all, the guru had handed down the truth.

I pressed on. I wrote to various members of Newt’s staff, and to Newt himself. Never a response. I phoned the American Solutions organization and accidentally got a young assistant on the phone. She was actually polite and seemed interested in the topic. She had an “expert” call me to hear out my arguments on mark-to- market.  He seemed interested too.  That was the end of it. No more e mails ; no more returned phone calls. I guess I was  officially a crackpot.

What I most despise about progressives is their smug superiority and unwillingness to brook dissent. Sounds like Newt. Nuff said. To be fair, it also sounds like every GOP leader. Try, just try to get in touch with Palin’s organization, or with any Fox commentator or with Rush, or with Paul Ryan. And those are the ones I most respect.

For a serious conservative issues site to thrive, it needs free-wheeling debate and even dumb ideas. But at some point it needs an actual political leader or commentator to acknowledge the good ideas it distills.

Postscript 1: I would love to read a response from anyone at American Solutions or from a senior staffer for any GOP congress person or potential candidate. Not holding my breath.

Postscript2: Redstate comes closer to the ideal. I’d like to see more issues based discussion, but it is primarily a political site. I think politicians pay attention, but do they really?  I don’t know.

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