I've been interested in the history of the American right for a long time, both its institutions and its ideas. One of my convictions, reflected in my comments on David Brooks's "in disunity there is success" column a few weeks ago, is that we on the left often think that the right's ideas and institutions are much more tightly coordinated, planned and unitary than they really are. And for those who hold the structural view -- that is, that the left can achieve comparable political success by emulating the organizations and tactics of the right -- this leads to a misconception that our own structures must be similarly planned and coordinated. One downside of that is that there is a lot of paralysis as we wait for the planning and coordination to emerge.
One aspect of the way we now tell the story of the Rise of the Right concerns the memo that was written by future Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell in 1971. In very recent years, this long neglected memo has this become a central feature of the story, and I became curious about how and why it was rediscovered, and whether it is accurate to treat is as almost the blueprint for the think tanks and advocacy institutions that the right developed in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. That's the subject of my latest column in The American Prospect online.
Let me also recommend an article that makes a similar argument that there is less conspiracy and coordination on the right than is often thought -- in fact, less than the right itself claims. That's Jonathan Adler's review in Legal Affairs of a new book about the conservative legal organizations.