Jewish World Review Jan. 25, 2000 /18 Shevat, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- A FEW YEARS after the fall of the Marxist utopias, I found myself on a sofa in Beverly Hills sitting next to a man who was worth half a billion dollars. His name was Stanley Gold and he was chairman of a holding company that was the largest shareholder in Disney, then the largest media corporation in the world. Since I was currently engaged in a conservative project in the entertainment community and the occasion was a cocktail reception for a Republican Senator, I quickly moved the conversation into a pitch for support. But I was only able to run through a few bars of this routine before Gold put a fatherly hand on my arm and said, “Save your breath, David. I’m a socialist.”
I remember this story every time a leftist critic assaults me (which is often) and deploys the Marxist cliché that I have “sold out” my ideals, or suggests that an opinion I’ve expressed can be explained by the “fact” that somewhere a wealthy puppet-master is pulling my strings. I am not alone, of course, in being the target of such attacks, which are familiar to every conservative who has ever engaged in a political debate.
Of course, those who traffic in socially conscious abuse have a ready answer for anecdotes like mine, namely, that it is an isolated and aberrant case. Even if it’s true, therefore, it’s false. Because there is a larger Marxist “truth” that trumps little facts like this. This truth is that conservative views express the views of corporate America, serve the status quo, defend the rich and powerful, and legitimize the oppression of the poor.
(Whereas leftist views, however well paid for, are inherently noble because they oppose all the injustice that coporate America, the status quo and the rich represent.)
The “truth” is that conservative views must be paid for because they could not possibly be the genuine views of any decent human being with a grain of integrity, an ounce of compassion or even half a human heart.
In the fantasy world of the left, the figure of Stanley Gold can only be understood as a human oxymoron: a uniquely good-hearted capitalist who is a friend to humanity and a traitor to his class. But, then, so are such famous leftwing billionaire (and centi-millionaire) moguls as Ted Turner, David Geffen, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Michael Eisner and a hundred others less famous (but equally wealthy) that one could name as well.
In fact, Stanley Gold’s only real exceptionality lies in being a witty and candid fellow, and in being ideological at all. For, unlike the publicly self-identified progressives named above, the ceos of most major corporations studiously avoid ideological politics whether left or right, because such politics are not in the corporate interest at all. To become identified with a hard political position is to become a sitting target for opponents who may control the machinery of regulation and taxation, and exert life-and-death power over their enterprises.
This is obviously not a prudent path, and therefore not generally pursued. Besides, from a business point of view most politicians are fungible. For the kind of favors businesses require, one can be had as easily as another. It is safer to stay above the fray and buy them when necessary, Republicans as well as Democrats, conservatives and liberals.
Money, not ideological passion, is the currency of corporate interest, power rather than ideas its political agenda. Therefore, politicians rather than intellectuals are the normal objects of its attention.
There is an exception to its rule of political neutrality, as when an administration, whatever the reason, chooses to declare war on a wealthy individual or a corporate entity, or even an entire industry. An attack like this simplifies political choices and may make embracing the political opposition seem the best available option in an already bad situation. Big Tobacco, Microsoft and Michael Milken were all assaulted by government, for example, and adopted a defensive strategy by embracing the political opposition (Tobacco and Microsoft went strongly Republican, Milken became a Democrat). Another exception can result from the shakedown of large corporations by political activists, an opportunity that is almost exclusively a province of the left. Under attack from radical Greens, for example, major companies like ARCO have become large subsidizers of the environmental movement. Through similar extortionist efforts, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/Push coalition has received more corporate underwriting than any dozen conservative groups put together.
But the norm for corporate interests remains the removal of themselves and their assets from any ideological politics, which can only damage them in the long run. The same applies to free-wheeling individuals who are serious financial players. I have had very conservative billionaires tell me that whatever their personal views, they cannot afford to be political (in my sense) at all.
A consequence of this stand-off is that most of the contributions available to ideological activists of the left or right are either small individual donations solicited through direct mail campaigns or large institutional donations from tax-exempt foundations. In this area, too, the fevered imaginations of the left have created a wildly distorted picture in which well-funded goliaths of the right, Olin, Scaife and Bradley, overwhelm the penurious Davids of the left.
Edward Said, for example, used the platform of the once distinguished Reith lectures to attack Peter Collier and myself over the “second thoughts” movement we had launched as a critique of the left: “In a matter of months during the late 1980s, Second Thoughts aspired to become a movement, alarmingly well funded by right-wing Maecenases like the Bradley and Olin Foundations…”
Some years later, a report appeared on “The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations,” documenting the annual disbursements of what it deemed to be the key conservative grant-giving institutions. The annual sum of the subsidies from twelve foundations was calculated at $70 million. This may seem a large sum until one looks at the Ford Foundation, which dispenses more than $900 million per year or more than ten times as much to mainly liberal and leftwing causes. Ford is the principal funder, for example, of hard left Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), which lacks any visible root in the Mexican American community but has been the principal promoter of illegal immigration and the driving force behind the failed multi-billion dollar bilingual education programs. Ford created MALDEF and has provided it with more than $25 million over the years. Ford has also been the leading funder of left-wing feminism and black separatism on American campuses, and of the radical effort to balkanize the national identity through multicultural curricula throughout the university system.
In these agendas, Ford is typical rather than exceptional. In fact, the biggest and most prestigious foundations, bearing the most venerable names of the captains of American capitalism -- Ford, Rockefeller, Mellon, Carnegie and Pew – are all biased to the left, as are many newer but also well-endowed institutions like the MacArthur, Markle and Schumann Foundations. MacArthur alone is three times the size of all “big three” conservative foundations – Olin, Bradley and Scaife – combined.
Moreover, these foundations do not even represent the most important support the corporate “ruling class” and its social elites provide to the left. That laurel goes to the private and public universities that have traditionally been the preserve of the American aristocracy and now -- as Richard Rorty has happily pointed out – are the “political base of the left.” With its multi-billion dollar endowment and unmatched intellectual prestige, Harvard provides the exemplary case, its relevant faculties and curricula reflecting the absolute hegemony of leftwing ideas. The Kennedy School of Government Harvard -- to take one emblematic case -- is arguably the most prestigious and important reservoir of intellectual talent and policy advice available to the political establishment. Cabinet officials are regularly drawn from its ranks. Yet of its 150-plus faculty members only 5 are identifiable Republicans, a ratio that is as extraordinary, given the spectrum of political opinion in the nation at large, as it is common in the university system.
The institutional and financial support for the left -- through its dominance in the universities, the book publishing industry, the press, television news and the arts -- is so overwhelming it is hardly contested. There are no prestigious universities where the faculty ratio in the liberal arts and social sciences is 150 Republicans to 5 Democrats. There is not a single major American newspaper whose features and news sections are written by conservatives rather than liberals – and this includes such conservative-owned institutions as the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register and the San Diego Union. (The Times even has a leftwing editorial page as well.)
Some reading this analysis will object to the definition of what is “left,” as a way of avoiding the irrefutable reality it describes. They will argue that because Noam Chomsky is regarded as a fringe intellectual by segments of the media, the media cannot be dominated by the ideas of the left. But this supposes that Chomsky’s exclusion is ideological rather than idiosyncratic and not just because he is an insufferably arrogant and difficult individual. After all, Peter Jennings is a fan of Cornel West who is a fan of Noam Chomsky’s. Christopher Hitchens is a fan of Noam Chomsky and a ubiquitous presence on the tube and in print. But assume that it is true anyway. The fact still remains that an America-loathing crank like Chomsky is an incomparably more influential intellectual figure in the leftwing culture of American universities than any conservative one could name.
The left, it can hardly be disputed, is funded and supported by the very “ruling class” it whines is the Sugar Daddy of the right, and the oppressor of minorities, the working class and the poor. Moreover, institutional support and funds provided to the intellectual left by the greedy and powerful rulers of society far exceeds any sums it provides to the intellectual right, as any one with a pocket calculator can compute. How is this possible? Could it be that the Marxist model itself is a crock? Oh, perish that thought. We’re all post-modernists anyway now.
Even when the thesis is advanced by post-modernists, however, it is hardly apparent that the interest of the corporate rich lies in preserving the status quo. If the Clinton years did nothing else, they should certainly have served to put this canard to rest.
Thus, the Clinton Administration’s most important leftwing projects were the comprehensive government-controlled health care plan that failed and the effort to preserve racial preferences that succeeded. Both agendas received the enthusiastic support of corporate America -- the health care plan by the nation’s largest health insurance companies and racial preferences by Fortune 500 corporations across the board.
Or try another measure: In the 1999 presidential primary campaign, Bill Bradley was the Democratic candidate running from the left. The chief points of Bradley’s platform were a plan to revive the comprehensive Clinton health-care scheme that was rejected, and to press leftwing racial grievances. Bradley’s most recently acquired African American friend was the anti-Semitic racist Al Sharpton who had become a black leader of choice for Democratic Party candidates. But despite these radical agendas, as everyone knows, “Dollar Bill’s” thirty-plus million campaign war chest was largely supplied by Wall Street, where he himself had made millions as a stock broker over the years.
The explanation for the paradoxes is this: Unless one is addicted to the discredited poppycock of post-modernist radicals, there is no reason that the rich should be adversaries of the poor or oppose their interests. Not in a dynamic market society like ours. Only if the market is a zero sum game as Marxists and their clones believe – “exploited labor” for the worker, “surplus value” for the capitalist – would leftist clichés make any sense. But they don’t. The real world relation between labor and capital is quite the opposite of what the left proposes. Entrepreneurs generally want a better-educated, better-paid, more diverse working force, because that means better employees, better marketers and better consumers of the company product. That is why, historically, everywhere capitalism has been embraced, labor conditions have improved and inequalities have diminished whether there has been a strong trade union presence or not. That is why the capitalist helmsmen of the World Trade Organization are better friends of the world’s poor than any of the Luddite demonstrators in Seattle who claimed to demonstrate in their behalf.
The 21st Century political argument is not about whether to help the poor or not, or whether to include all Americans in the social contract. Republicans embrace these objectives as firmly as Democrats, conservatives as well as liberals. The issue is how best to help the poor, and how best to integrate the many cultures of the American mosaic into a common culture that works. Twenty years after the welfare system was already a proven disaster for America’s inner city poor, Democrats and leftists were still demanding more welfare and opposing significant reforms. Clinton himself vetoed the Republicans reform bill twice and only signed it when he was told he could not be re-elected if he didn’t. Welfare reform has liberated hundreds of thousands of poor people from dead-end dependency and given them a taste of the self-esteem that comes from earning one’s keep.
If the left were serious about its interest in the poor, it would pay homage to the man who made welfare reform possible, the despised former Speaker Newt Gingrich. If hypocrisy weren’t there stock-in-trade, self-styled champions of the downtrodden like Cornel West and Marian Wright Edelman would be writing testimonials to Newt Gingrich as a hero to America’s poor. But that won’t happen. Instead, the left will go on tarring Gingrich and his political allies as the Grinches who stole Christmas, “enemies of the poor” and lackeys of the rich. Such witch-hunting is indispensable to the left’s intellectual class war. The dehumanization of its opponents is the next best option to developing an argument to refute the opposition.
There is no conservative party in America, certainly not Republicans who are responsible for the major reforms of the Clinton years. The mantle of reaction is better worn by the left, given its resistance to change and its rearguard battles against the market and free trade. But the left controls the culture, and with it the political language. Therefore, in America, reactionaries will continue to be called “progressives,” and reformers
JWR contributor David Horowitz is editor of Front Page Magazine and the author of several books, including, Hating Whitey, Art of Political War, Radical Son : A Generational Odyssey . Comment on this article by clicking here.
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