Special to WorldTribune, April 13, 2022
In a highly perceptive opinion piece, Michael Lind, a center-left Democrat, has deftly illustrated the total destruction of healthy independent thought on his side of the political aisle wrought by a slavish dependency on the concentrated-wealth largesse of powerful private philanthropies and NGOs fired by radical agendas.
Of course, everything he says can be equally attributed to the right. But also to himself. Please stay with me.
Like much of our society today, American political discourse has become dominated by the forces of bigness, with not just the Republican and Democrat parties but the conservative and progressive movements themselves decaying into nothing more than franchise outlets controlled from afar by the centralized offices of larger private concerns.
Lind’s critique rings true not just on its merits alone but because it feels as if it comes from a disgruntled former manager of a licensed franchisee of Progressivism Inc. Which, in fact Lind is.
“The End of Progressive Intellectual Life” is the title of Lind’s article, which ran in The Tablet on April 11.
“How the foundation-NGO complex quashed innovative thinking and open debate, first on the American right and now on the center left,” the subhead reads.
Both statements are correct.
Lind bolts out of the starting gates with a bang:
The centralized and authoritarian control of American progressivism by major foundations and the nonprofits that they fund, and the large media institutions, universities, corporations, and banks that disseminate the progressive party line, has made it impossible for there to be public intellectuals on the American center left….
Debate has been replaced by compulsory assent and ideas have been replaced by slogans that can be recited but not questioned: Black Lives Matter, Green Transition, Trans Women Are Women, 1619, Defund the Police.
The space to the left-of-center that was once filled with magazines and organizations devoted to what Diana Trilling called the “life of significant contention” is now filled by the ritualized gobbledygook of foundation-funded, single-issue nonprofits like a pond choked by weeds. Having crowded out dissent and debate, the nonprofit industrial complex — Progressivism Inc. — taints the Democratic Party by association with its bizarre obsessions and contributes to Democratic electoral defeats, like the one that appears to be imminent this fall.
For patriotic Americans on the right who have been long dismayed by the fossilized power structures that have kept a sterilized chokehold on conservatism for the past three-plus decades since the promising early years of the Reagan Revolution, terms such as “nonprofit industrial complex,” “institutions, corporations and banks” and “ritualized gobbledygook” hit close to home.
Consider center-left journals of opinion. In the 1990s, The New Yorker, The Nation, Dissent, The New Republic, The Atlantic, and Washington Monthly all represented distinctive flavors of the center left, from the technocratic neoliberalism of Washington Monthly to the New Left countercultural ethos of The Nation and the snobbish gentry liberalism of The New Yorker. Today, they are bare Xeroxes of each other, promoting and rewriting the output of single-issue environmental, identitarian, and gender radical nonprofits, which all tend to be funded by the same set of progressive foundations and individual donors.
Substitute “free trade” and military interventionism for environmental and identitarian politics and you are talking about the credentialed edifices of the conservative movement since 1990.
Lind notes how once-acceptable thought was proscribed and then squashed as heresy by the gatekeepers of a homogenized New Dominant Left:
In the 1990s, you could be a progressive in good standing and argue against race-based affirmative action, in favor of race-neutral, universal social programs that would help African Americans disproportionately but not exclusively. Around 2000, however, multiple progressive outlets at the same time announced that “the debate about affirmative action is over.”
As late as 2006, then-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both voted for 200 miles of border fencing in the Southwest. Then, virtually overnight, the progressive movement flipped and adopted the former talking points of the Chamber of Commerce cheap-labor lobby. While Democratic politicians deny that they oppose enforcing immigration laws, center-left journals and journalists keep pushing the idea of open borders, in alliance with crackpot free market fundamentalists.
He gives a sad example of moneyed institutional power’s ability to stifle any dissent from this new settled agenda:
At a conference sponsored by the Ford Foundation that I attended more than a decade ago, an African American community activist complained to me privately: “Immigration is hurting the people in the neighborhoods we work in. The employers prefer illegal immigrants to young Black workers. But if we say anything about it, Ford will cut off our money.”
Lind astutely points out that this is how the Republican Party and the mainstream conservative movement behind it died its slow death, limping along as a hollow shell with no genuine popular support for years until the Tea Party revolt in 2009 led to the Eric Cantor election debacle in 2014 and the inevitable rise of populist nationalism under Donald Trump in 2016. Establishment conservatism slowly withered on the vine over a course of decades long before it became a public corpse. Establishment liberalism is approaching a similar endgame today:
In hindsight, the end of the Cold War under Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush witnessed a golden age of discussion and controversy on the American right, as neoconservatives debated paleoconservatives and religious-right thinkers, and national security hawks debated isolationists and foreign policy realists. Around 1992 that window suddenly closed, as right-wing foundations like Bradley and Olin made it clear that the only nonprofit organizations and journals that would receive funding would be those that espoused a new version of “fusionism” — uniting neoconservative fantasies of American world domination in foreign policy, libertarian fantasies about privatizing Social Security, and religious-right wishful thinking about a Christian or Judeo-Christian revival.
His conclusion is spot-on:
Conservatism Inc., including flagship journals like the National Review and flagship think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, remains a museum of mummies. Today, Progressivism Inc. is equally brain-dead.
Lind ends on a hopeful note that he himself does not appear to believe in:
Having watched from up close over the past four decades as cliques of foundation program officers, individual billionaires, and their nonprofit retainers lobotomized first the American right and then the American left, I hope that I may live to see the American center left free itself from top-down orthodoxy and welcome dissension, discussion, and debate once again. But I doubt I will live that long.
It’s all very well-stated, and extremely convincing. There’s only one question to be asked: If Michael Lind feels so passionately about the annihilating effects of foundation money in politics today, why does the influential think tank he created willingly accept so much of it?
Lind is co-founder of New America, an organization that embodies all the worst things about the ruling progressive establishment, most especially its willingness to be completely in thrall to the socially destructive agenda of its deep-pocketed donors.
Major donors to New America include the very people Lind so passionately denounces in his perceptive essay:
Multi-million-dollar donors to New America as currently listed on the group’s website include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Keep scrolling a bit and you will soon find George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, a frequent donor over the years in amounts regularly hitting or approaching the $500,000 mark.
If Lind’s own persuasive arguments in The Tablet are true, then he is admitting New America is a performing puppet for the big-ticket donors who control its purse strings.
That certainly appears to be the case.
While Lind talks a good game in espousing a form of economic nationalism for Democrats, New America seems to very comfortably reside in the rabidly globalist Progressive Inc. world he so enthusiastically decries.
Conservative watchdog Influence Watch notes that New America scurried to placate top-dollar donor Google when one of its staffers dared oppose the Big Tech goliath:
In 2017, New America fired the head of its pro-antitrust-enforcement Open Markets division, Barry Lynn, after he criticized Google. Lynn praised a $2.7 billion fine levied by the European Union against Google, saying the EU “is protecting the free flow of information and commerce upon which all democracies depend.”
The Google corporation and Schmidt’s family foundation had donated $21 million to New America over the years, while New America’s main conference room was reportedly named the “Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab,” after the then-CEO of Google’s parent company.
As World Tribune documented in a June 2020 article on the organization:
Anne-Marie Slaughter is CEO of New America. Slaughter is a veteran of the Obama administration, having been appointed as Director of Policy Planning at the State Department in 2009 at the behest of then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Slaughter is perhaps best remembered at State for being a zealous advocate of the toppling of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
So much for opposing the new progressive orthodoxy installed by Obama Democrats or the war-mongering of the ruling elites. But there’s more:
Long before her time in the Obama administration, Slaughter had shown her devotion to a new international order that she felt would best be instituted via a “quiet emergence” that pays lip service to national sovereignty. In 2003 she penned an article for the academic journal Daedalus titled “Everyday global governance.” It deserves to be quoted at length in order to make Slaughter’s globalist devotion crystal clear:
“The new networks thus coexist alongside a much more traditional world order, structured by both the threat and use of ‘hard’ power. In that old world order, states still jealously guard their sovereignty and undertake commitments to one another with considerable caution. Still it is possible to glimpse the outlines of a very different kind of world order in the growing system of government networks. In this system, political power will remain primarily in the hands of national government officials, but will be supplemented by a select group of supranational institutions far more effective than those we know today. And in it, global justice could become more than a dream.”
It has been said that Slaughter has completely taken over the reins at New America, and therefore it might be plausibly stated that the group is not going in a direction Lind would approve of. Why then is he still listed as a “fellow” there in his bio at The Tablet?
Lind sounds for all the world like a man harboring some deep regrets for splashing around in the dirty Gates, Soros, Ford and Rockefeller sewer, whether willingly or not. Whatever his role at New America today, Michael Lind obviously has a lot more he can say about his personal experiences with the moneyed elites who are poisoning the cultural, political and social wells in this nation.
It certainly seems he is itching to do so. If he truly wants to make a difference, he’ll tell the real story about what goes on behind the curtain in the circles of power in America today, from the perspective of someone who was subject to it himself.