The Fall of the Heritage Foundation and the Death of Republican IdeasRoundup: Media's Take
tags: Heritage Foundation
Molly Ball is a staff writer covering national politics at The Atlantic.
During the 1980 election, an up-and-coming Washington think tank called the Heritage Foundation undertook a massive task: to examine the federal government from top to bottom and produce a detailed, practical conservative policy vision.
The result, called Mandate for Leadership, epitomized the intellectual ambition of the then-rising conservative movement. Its 20 volumes, totaling more than 3,000 pages, included such proposals as income-tax cuts, inner-city “enterprise zones,” a presidential line-item veto, and a new Air Force bomber.
Despite the publication's academic prose and mind-boggling level of detail, it caused a sensation. A condensed version -- still more than 1,000 pages -- became a paperback bestseller in Washington. The newly elected Ronald Reagan passed out copies at his first Cabinet meeting, and it quickly became his administration’s blueprint. By the end of Reagan’s first year in office, 60 percent of the Mandate’s 2,000 ideas were being implemented, and the Republican Party’s status as a hotbed of intellectual energy was ratified. It was a Democrat, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who would declare in 1981, “Of a sudden, the GOP has become a party of ideas.”
The story of the conservative movement that has come to dominate the Republican Party over the last four decades is inextricably intertwined with the story of the Heritage Foundation. In that time, it became more than just another think tank. It came to occupy a place of special privilege -- a quasi-official arm of GOP administrations and Congresses; a sponsor of scholarship and supplier of legislation; a policy base for the party when out of power. Heritage has shaped American public policy in major ways, from Reagan’s missile-defense initiative to Clinton’s welfare reform: Both originated as Heritage proposals. So, too, did the idea of a universal health-care system based on a mandate that individuals buy insurance. Though Heritage subsequently abandoned it, the individual mandate famously became the basis of health-care reforms proposed by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama....
comments powered by Disqus
- Why the history of slavery in the US South is taking centre stage once again
- New South Wales (Australia) to offer reparations to Stolen Generations
- It’s World AIDS Day and There’s a New AIDS Memorial in New York City
- Auschwitz survivor asks Austrians to remember the past
- Honoring Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust Witness Who Kept a Memory Alive
- Novelist says History classes are our best hope for teaching Americans to question fake news and Donald Trump
- National Book Award winner Ibram X. Kendi is youngest in 30 years in the non-fiction category
- Historian Volker Ullrich’s book on the rise of Hitler is spookily relevant
- People are still talking about historian Mark Lilla’s NYT op ed 2 weeks after it was published
- Rick Perlstein says Trump’s election confirms a paranoid trend in the GOP