The appeal of the Heritage Foundation is derailed

This may sound a bit niche, but bear with me. After my time in the Navy, I took a job at a defense think tank in Washington, DC. Our clients included the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an Under Secretary of Defense, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NATO and the CIA.

Our company researched operational concepts. We read guidelines, manuals, wartime publications, after action reports, lessons learned documents, “vision” statements, historical texts, in short, anything we could find that might touch on the specific topic. what we were looking for.

Once we have compiled our bibliography, we try to bring together the common key concepts and then formulate ways to measure the impact of these concepts on the performance of command and control structures. Our customers would use these measurements to conduct studies—sometimes with our help—during joint exercises and simulations, and so we would push our understanding of how to manage the battlespace a little further.

That’s how some think tanks work. Some think tanks, however, focus on advocacy. Instead of using evidence to come to a conclusion, they already have a clear goal and are looking for ways to convince others. These think tanks focus on equal rights, poverty, morality, and a number of social issues that may be more resistant to the scientific method, and they are very important in shaping our country.

The Heritage Foundation is one such group. It was founded in the early 1970s to advance a small, pro-business, Christian-Conservative government agenda. He was highly influential in the Reagan and Bush administrations, worked with Newt Gingrich on his America deal, and dozens of current and former Heritage employees have taken up posts in the Trump White House. .

Whatever you think of its positions, the Heritage Foundation has made its reputation for defining and defending the conservative agenda with persuasive argumentation, surpassing even the vaunted conservative American Enterprise Institute.

So I was completely surprised last week when I received a fundraising letter from the Heritage Foundation (with a quarter pasted on it) that began with this sentence: “It’s time to purge the government of people and policies that have made life miserable for decent, hard-working Americans. This immediately escalates, urging the reader to “take on the radical left – the MARXISTS – who corrupted our children with critical race theory, forced vaccines and masks on them”, and “stripped tyrants like Joe Biden of the power they’ve stolen. “Close the borders! Open the pipes! Put the criminals in jail! Stop spending! Reduce taxes!”

It sounds less like the studied, constant words of a reputable political think tank — the kind whose doctoral staff once helped Reagan craft policy — and more like a collection of feverish bumper stickers on the car. of a conspiracy theorist.

There was a time, not too long ago, when conservatives and liberals debated each other using numbers, history, theory and sometimes searing rhetoric. Look at the Bush-Kerry, Obama-McCain or Obama-Romney debates. The tone could get heated, but generally voters could choose between two people who could navigate from beginning to end of a sentence without lapsing into frenzied, mindless fanaticism.

If Heritage, one of America’s most influential think tanks, moves from a well-crafted wordsmithing tradition to something indistinguishable from social media rants in its fundraising campaign by direct mail, they did it because they think it will resonate with their donors. . Which leaves me wondering who this target audience is.

For certainly those who believe that Biden stole the election, that our children are corrupted by teachers, that masks and vaccines are the problem (not the 1,000,000 American deaths), certainly people who hold these beliefs do not don’t need a think tank. And certainly conservatives who would contribute their own money to a think tank to voice long-held conservative beliefs would be repelled by this kind of vile, baseless chauvinism.

The heritage has been rebuilt over the years to maintain its relevance and influence. This recent shift reflects the rapid and dramatic decentralization of our national dialogue. I will keep the legacy quarter sent and use it for 10 minutes of parking somewhere, but if we as a country want to exorcise this poisoned zeitgeist, we must use our votes, our voices, our wallets and our pens, we must be the best angels of our nature. We are the best and only guardrails of our democracy.

Will Wood is a small business owner, veteran, and half-decent racer. He lives, works and writes in West Chester.

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