« Frist's BlackBerry Spring | Main | Universalism and Social Security »

New on American Prospect online: The Legend of the Powell Memo

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.

Posted by Mark Schmitt on April 27, 2005 | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference New on American Prospect online: The Legend of the Powell Memo:

» Cell Phones from mobilebum.info
News and ... Sep News of Safety phones, new cell phone phones Cell time ... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 8, 2006 8:04:47 PM

» Diogu Helps Warriors Past Trail Blazers from Golden State
players in double figures as the Golden State Warriors posted an 86-81 victory over [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 27, 2006 9:36:52 AM

» Legalising and declassifying drugs from What if all drugs were legal?
urban75 drug information: a huge online resource of drug information, help and advice including cannabis, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, solvents, ketamine and ... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 27, 2006 5:31:09 PM

» Bulls Assistant Coach Bach Expected to Retire from the coming years,
young players in the coming years, but the postseason run figures to be the final act of assistant coach Johnny Bach's career. [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 27, 2006 7:02:50 PM

» Arthritis Drug Might Reduce Fatigue In Cancer Patients from The findings
The findings of the preliminary study with 24 patients are reported in the [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 30, 2006 10:12:56 AM

» The Interactive NGC Catalog Online from Official Catalog
The Interactive NGC Catalog Online. This is the interactive NGC (and IC, and Messier) catalog at SEDS, based on the famous NGC 2000.0 by RW Sinnott of Sky ... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 30, 2006 7:02:39 PM

» Latest from the World Snooker Championship from as they enter
by 5 frames to 11 as they enter the second day of the World Championship final at The Crucible in Sheffield. [Read More]

Tracked on May 7, 2006 4:26:35 AM

» USA Search Engine Optimization from Advanced Search | US
Directory of USA (USA) search engine optimization (seo) and marketing professionals for web sites, internet development and viral marketing campaigns. [Read More]

Tracked on May 8, 2006 2:46:48 PM

» Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0 Getting Started Guide from filter, plain-text
client. Whats New for Mozilla and Netscape Users New in Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0 include global folder, message [Read More]

Tracked on May 15, 2006 11:37:32 PM

» US releases fullest Guantanamo jail list to date from issued its most
comprehensive accounting to date of detainees currently or formerly held at the Guantanamo [Read More]

Tracked on May 19, 2006 7:34:20 PM

» CIBER to Host Kansas City Seminar on ServiceOriented Architecture from architecture
architecture and best practices will be hosted by CIBER, Inc. (NYSE: CBR), Wednesday, May 10, 11:30 a.m. at Nicklaus Golf Club in Overland Park. This [Read More]

Tracked on May 20, 2006 2:53:11 PM

» Pacers' Stojakovic Game-Time Decision Tonight from out Tuesday's
INDIANAPOLIS STAR, Mike Wells writes that Indiana Pacers forward Peja Stojakovic hopes to play tonight (NBA TV, [Read More]

Tracked on May 25, 2006 7:12:57 AM

» Kaman Out for Game 4 from miss Game 4 of
Clippers center Chris Kaman will most likely miss Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals tonight [Read More]

Tracked on May 27, 2006 6:07:50 PM

» Cambridge Dictionaries Online: toro snow blowers from online dictonary
Free online dictionary from Cambridge University Press [Read More]

Tracked on May 28, 2006 4:52:20 AM

» Hollywood Creative Directory from Directory Map
Contact information for the film, television and new media industries. [Read More]

Tracked on May 28, 2006 8:34:42 AM

» Italian Charms from ItalianCharms -- Search results
Italian charms has stainless links from companies by Zoppini, Boxing, ReFlorence, Puzzle, Ryry, Talexia & Unodomani... [Read More]

Tracked on May 28, 2006 5:00:09 PM

» News Online from JapanHorse
Features weekly articles, archives to past issues, and timelines of scientific importance. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 4, 2006 3:18:33 PM

» WebPals from Full Catalog
Need some help with your search? Please click on How to search. ... Use the search criteria below to narrow your search. ... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 5, 2006 11:04:12 AM

» Vanderbilt Relevant Religion class to examine conquest and occupation, Four-part class begins on March 13 from have attacked,
have attacked, conquered and occupied other nations throughout history. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 6, 2006 8:10:56 AM

» 100-Calorie Snack Packs: Do They Help With Weight Loss? from t's Easy to Track
t's Easy to Track Calories, but Snacks Aren't Very Nutritious [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 6, 2006 2:17:50 PM

» Equipment With Information on 1.3M Disappears from the Texas Guaranteed
information for about 1.3 million borrowers from the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corp. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 7, 2006 5:53:24 PM

» Walton Thankful for Link to '86 Celtics from opportunity and
not only gave me my career back, they gave me my life back. It was my boyhood dream team. They gave me the joy, [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 14, 2006 5:41:57 AM

» Increase Your Web Traffic with the Inside Adsense Google Group from Traffic Get
things AdSense with people who'll understand exactly where you're coming from -- i.e., other AdSense publishers." [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 17, 2006 6:00:57 AM

» tooHAUTEtoTROT is Too Cool for School from bank account.quot;
man#039;s taste, poor man#039;s bank account.quot; Check out the [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 28, 2006 2:11:00 PM

» Lecture: "Diagnosing and treating Tourette's Syndrome." from Gilbert discussed
and treatment of Tourette's Syndrome during Psychiatric Grand Rounds on Thursday June [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 28, 2006 7:53:15 PM

» Iraq holds talks amid skepticism from about the chances
by the prime minister, but some were pessimistic about the chances of tackling rising sectarian bloodshed. [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 24, 2006 10:56:04 PM

» Medical Dictionary from Bestbarrel
Searchable dictionary created by Dr. ALFRED. [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 25, 2006 9:18:13 PM

» ALL Themes from Invision Power Board
He has set up a test blog so you can check it out - it’s great work. ... Note to all theme authors: In order to be considered for the competition, ... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 26, 2006 6:21:05 AM

» site map: curb link bracelets from myjewelrystore
Select your jewelry...14K White Gold .43ct Diamond & Sapphire Ring G-H SI3 [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 27, 2006 12:59:54 PM

» Internet Statistic: lory ghidini from Words 2006
Most Popular Words 2006... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 1, 2006 2:53:05 PM

» People Search in Internet 2006 from Plot Summary for Words
Words - Cast, Crew, Reviews, Plot Summary, Comments, Discussion, Taglines, Trailers, Posters, Photos, Showtimes, Link to Official Site, Fan Sites. [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 2, 2006 2:19:06 AM

» longfellow wayland from People searching
Searchable keywords online... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 2, 2006 2:26:00 AM

» clinique from clinique: Read reviews and compare prices
Shop our selection of Clinique fragrances and cosmetics online. ... Search results for "clinique". Item 1 to 10 out of 580 Show all, sorted by Popularity ... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 5, 2006 10:28:06 AM

» Processed Meats Tied To Stomach Cancer from the last 40 years
a person eats and the likelihood of developing stomach cancer. But the results [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 7, 2006 11:00:56 AM

» Join Saint Joseph's Coach Phil Martelli in Margate Aug. 19th from from Saint Josephs
University at Maynards Cafeacute; in Margate City NJ. (PRWEB Aug 1, 2006) [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 8, 2006 5:15:28 AM

» Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard interface from the top active
from the Windows Vista look, where glass and transparency is everywhere. I cant shake the feeling that [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 14, 2006 10:13:25 PM

» Энциклопедия рунета from Internet Search
Выберите интересующий Вас раздел: 0-9 B C D E F G H I L M O R S T V W А Б В Г Д Е Ж З И К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я TOP 20... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 15, 2006 11:01:21 PM

» Search Results Page - d from much.kiev.ua
Your search results... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 16, 2006 3:41:09 AM


Once again, you make an excellent point, and one that liberals of all stripes need to consider as they prepare their intellectual and electoral future. We hate "the right," if I may be so extreme in my language, but we can't let our hatred turn us into the very thing we hate.

More accurately, though, what we hate is what we perceive "the right" to be. And there's a big difference between perception and reality. Just look at how coastal liberalism (New York, Boston, L.A., S.F., etc.) is perceived in conservative Middle America. (There's a great joke in Woody Allen's Annie Hall about how the rest of America perceives New York, and even how New Yorkers sometimes perceive New York.)

What we need to do is to divorce the public face of "the right" -- the Republican message machine, the talking heads on radio and TV spewing the latest talking points -- from the intellectual diversity of "the right". That means divorcing Frist, DeLay, Coulter, O'Reilly, Hannity, et al. from, say, Andrew Sullivan, David Brooks, Bill Kristol (when he's not being a talking head and spewing the latest talking points), and the myriad other interesting, intelligent conservative thinkers out there today.

I have already responded to your post on David Brooks's column, but this bears repeating: Brooks overstates his case, but he makes a valid point. While liberal have grown smug and complacent -- at least since 1964, the high-point of liberalism as America's dominant political philosophy -- conservatives have energized a movement that is both broad and deep. What I know of conservatives, looking at them as a "liberal Straussian" myself, is that they spend much of their time thinking about, and debating, what it means to be a conservative. In turn, what exactly does it mean to be a liberal these days? That's the problem.


Thanks for listening, and keep up the great work.

Posted by: Michael J.W. Stickings | Apr 27, 2005 3:00:05 PM


Terrific comment! My feelings exactly.

Posted by: Marc Schneider | May 3, 2005 1:25:12 PM

It's a good point about not copying the right. This idea of liberal talk radio seems to be a case in point. Just because it works for the right to have a bunch of raving lunatics on the air doesn't mean it works for liberals. It seems to me that this is a bad idea that just makes liberals look worse--it doesn't convince anyone other than true believers and Democrats need to convince rather than scream.

Posted by: Marc Schneider | May 4, 2005 9:46:25 AM

Marc - Air America IS working! All across the country people are finally, finally hearing another side of the story. And they aren't "raving lunatics."

And we need all the help we can get, so why are you knocking them?

As for "copying the Right," I think we should STUDY the Right, and then take the lessons of their success and use them. I mean, they have seized control of all the branches of government and gotten much of the public behind them, they must have done something right. So it is time to start understanding how it works.

It's (finally) become clear that their funded network of think tanks and communication organizations is behind their success. For one thing, it offers a huge advantage come election season. THEIR politicians go before a public that is already "prepared" by years of repetition of their issue points and arguments. OUR politicians are developing their issues and messaging DURING the election cycle, from scratch, alone.

There are just so many ways this network works for them, from the intellectual foundations their think tanks provide to a more practical function - thousands of well-paid operatives at their disposal.

They have been at this for decades, gone through a lot of trial and error, so we can take advantage of that. Look at what they learned. Yes, copy that. No, don't lie and threaten and intimidate.

I think one lesson to learn is the way they have focused on communicating their UNDERLYING ideology and then tying it to narrower issues. it is the opposite of what Progressives do - I think largely because Progressives still assume they have a public consensus behind them.

This is getting long. I gave a speech to the Trial Lawyers national convention last year that covers these points. Take a look... Skip past the tort-reform-specific stuff at the start (or substitute in your own narrower issue...)

Posted by: Dave Johnson | May 4, 2005 6:53:02 PM