EDITOR OF REDSTATE
Morning Briefing for April 13, 2010
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Behind the subscriber firewall at the Wall Street Journal, Ed Feulner and Michael Needham just launched a major assault against the left that has many on the left soiling their collectivist selves today.
The sleeping giant that is the Heritage Foundation has woken up. Feulner is the President of the Heritage Foundation and Needham is CEO of Heritage Action for America.
For a few years, the right sat on the sidelines while groups like Center for American Progress and other leftwing agitation and noise machines set up 501(c)(4) groups tied into 501(c)(3) groups. The tax code was murky at best and the left took risks while the right sat it out. Many a right-of-center lawyer advised caution while the left damned the torpedoes and went full speed ahead.
Consequently, most major advocacy groups on the 501(c)4) books with a concurrent (c)(3) are leftwing.
The catch is that a (c)(3) can do no political advocacy, just education. But a (c)(3) gets tax deductible contributions. A (c)(4) does not get tax deductible contributions, but it can do much more aggressive advocacy in the political arena. Tying the two together so you get both the brains of the (c)(3) fueled by charitable contributions and the muscle of the (c)(4) fueled by relatively anonymous non-deductible contributions while preserving the tax-deductible nature of the (c)(3) has been the holy grail for think tanks.
The left has been successful in setting up, for example, Center for American Progress, but it is not exactly a think tank. It recycles left-wing ideas through poll tested messaging, but otherwise does not actually generate anything like the wealth of original ideas Heritage does.
In fact, one of the key points the left has used to attack Heritage is some of Heritage’s ideas that were incorporated into Obamacare — the danger of a think tank thinking outside pre-approved political party talking points.
Well, Heritage is today announcing it is creating a 501(c)(4) advocacy group. The reason the left is so fearful and Media Matters and the gang are furiously scribbling their crayons into nubs of wax is because Heritage is so established across the nation.
I read an article by Malcolm Gladwell, “How David Beats Goliath: When Underdogs Break the Rules,” some months ago and have been thinking about it ever since. In it, Gladwell highlights an analysis of when Davids took on Goliaths in history. The Goliaths, the ones ten-times stronger in the fight, won the encounters over 70% of the time. But in instances when the Davids broke the rules and stuck to a strategy that played to their strengths, the Davids’ win percentage rose to almost 64%. In other words, the Davids won when they chose not to play by the assumed rules of engagement. Something about this just clicked with me, and I believe it might lead to a new strategy for conservatives.
The key anecdote for me in Gladwell’s article involved Doug Lenat, the developer of an artificial-intelligence program that he called Eurisko to compete in a war game tournament. Essentially Lenat fed the rules of the tournament to Eurisko, which allowed a gamer to spend $1 trillion on a naval force. The program learned the rules and then spent hours upon hours coming up with a strategy to defeat all the other contestants. “Most teams fielded some version of a traditional naval fleet—an array of ships of various sizes, each well defended against enemy attack.” Gladwell writes. “Eurisko thought differently. ‘The program came up with a strategy of spending the trillion on an astronomical number of small ships like P.T. boats, with powerful weapons but absolutely no defense and no mobility,’ Lenat said. ‘They just sat there. Basically, if they were hit once they would sink. And what happened is that the enemy would take its shots, and every one of those shots would sink our ships. But it didn’t matter, because we had so many.’” Lenat won the tournament in a runaway as his P.T. boats swarmed the opposing battleships. He entered the tournament the next year, won again … and was essentially asked not to compete in future tournaments.
So what’s my point? We are confronted by ever-expanding government in DC, and the massive unions are not going anywhere. Yet the current strategy with many conservatives is seemingly to become a mirror image of that which they are supposed to be combating. The conservative movement has been playing by Goliath’s rules for too long. It’s time conservatives built a flexible, nimble American Armada of P.T. boats to beat the Left, but not at its own game.
I’ve always wondered why if we don’t believe Washington has the answers, why do so many conservative groups decide to come to DC? I’m proposing that the conservative movement change its strategy from DC-centric to more state-based: most conservatives would agree with federalism, yet at times our behavior says just the opposite.
Should the Republicans get lucky and take the Senate in November, Patty Murray’s is the kind of seat they will have to win. Washington is friendly territory for Democrats and 2010 should be no exception. However, a poll from late Friday suggests that she may be vulnerable to Dino Rossi and only to the former candidate for Governor.
I’m still so skeptical of Rasmussen’s pre-primary polling technique. In fact, I just hate these carpet-bomb polls that hit every likely matchup. I’m doubtful of their effectiveness because I suspect a degree of fatigue to set in by the end. But for what it’s worth, Rasmussen did hit the Washington Senate matchups, pitting five Republicans against the incumbent Senator Murray.
Four Republicans performed poorly, averaging a lead probability of only 16%. Don Benton pulled 40 to Murray’s 48, Clint Didier 37 to Murray 47, Chris Widener 37 to Murray 46, and Paul Akers 37 to Murray 45. Each pairing has a margin of error of 4.5.
However Rossi makes it a contest at least, taking a credible 41% lead probability with his 46-48 showing against Murray.
The retirement announcement by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens brings about the usual speculation about his replacement, as well as the retrospective of the retiring justice’s career. Much will be made of the oft-described collegiality of Justice Stevens, and deservedly so. He is by all accounts a decent man, a World War II veteran, and he is beyond question a Justice who wrote opinions across the spectrums of ideology and judicial philosophy, notably defending, in dissent, Congressional action to ban the desecration of the United States flag (see Texas v. Johnson, 491 U. S. 397).
But make no mistake about Stevens’ legacy. He is, like virtually all modern liberal jurists, an activist who is not afraid to use the Court to achieve his own philosophical ends. And that tendency is as dangerous as a renegade president and Congress hell bent on increasing the power of the state at the expense of liberty, as is the case with the current regime.