Friday, July 31, 2009

Comment rescue: Delaware's only progressive think-tank

In the rather bizarre brew-haha over the nature of the Caesar Rodney Institute, this comment got made by one of the many anonymous commenters at Delawareliberal demanding that Charlie Copeland out all the pseudonymous bloggers at Resolute Determination:

There is only one progressive think tank in Delaware that I am aware of and it is truly non partisan, based on good government practices, that is:

The link is actually to the organization that calls itself Delaware Unified Civic/Political Association. It is important to note that this site does not appear to have undergone any changes in many months; I could be wrong about this, but there are no listed updates, no new topics, no new research, and everything looks exactly as it did when I consulted the site more than a year ago when writing a post on the proposed DE Single-payer health plan.

The site says that the organization intends to file for IRS designation, 501 (4) (C), and intends to be a non-partisan effort.

I want to be very careful here with what I say next. The only two individuals listed as associated with the site are Dr. Floyd McDowell and Elizabeth Allen. I disagree completely with both of them on single-payer health care, but I also have a lot of respect for many other positions that both of them have taken on different issues. Liz is a semi-regular commenter here: sometimes she berates me on health care, while other times she agrees with me on finance and foreign policy. At other times, however, she is pretty far off into conspiracy land (sorry, Liz, got to call them as I see them).

I have no idea if Dr. McDowell ever reads this blog, but I know Dana Garrett is a friend of his, and that Dana stops by frequently. So I want to be clear on all that, and to treat both of these individuals with respect.

Here are my two points:

1) DUC/PA is not a think-tank by any accepted definition of the word. At best it seems to be--from the website, which is the only thing I can judge--a semi-moribund issues repository of a citizen lobbying group. There's nothing wrong with this--Dr. McDowell and Liz continue to lobby on behalf of their programs and more power to them--but a think-tank is an organization that conducts ongoing research, writes regular policy reports, and attempts to stay current on the issues that matter. DUC/PA does none of these things.

2) DUC/PA is not non-partisan in any meaningful sense of the word. While the authors say they want to convince legislators of any party to accept their views, they are advocating a pretty straight-down-the-line progressive social agenda that would appeal primarily to liberal Democrats, and they present no information whatsoever that might contradict any of their positions. I want to be clear: I have absolutely no problem with that. But it is not non-partisan except in such a narrow technical sense that anybody who presents any legislative proposal--no matter how liberal or conservative--and says she wants support from both parties (but sees no room for negotiation on the details)--could be considered non-partisan.

The nature of our current political system, folks, is that think-tanks and advocacy groups today are partisan: The Center for American Progress is liberal, Heritage is conservative, Cato is libertarian, etc. etc. etc. There are very few sources left that could in any way be considered disinterested any more, which is one of the problems with our national dialogue.

Which brings me back to the comment at DL:

There is only one progressive think tank in Delaware that I am aware of and it is truly non partisan, based on good government practices, that is:

It's just wrong.

Personally, I would argue that the Caesar Rodney Institute is not (at least not yet) a think-tank, either, even if it is trying to acquire some of the attributes. For all that you may disdain Heritage, or CAP, or Cato, at least those think-tanks generally tried to employ credentialed if usually quite partisan scholars and academics along with the ideologues.

Which is why they have been so successful, first for the GOP and more lately for the Dems.

CRI does show me any serious academics or policy experts from anywhere, so there is no reason to think it is anything more than a partisan lobbying effort attempting to influence political discourse in favor of conservative economic/political causes--or, with a bit more glitz on its website and some more money behind it, a mirror image of what DUC/PA originally set out to be.

And I suspect that after the novelty wears off, it will be quoted in the WNJ about as frequently as DUC/PA is.

Both are fair game practices, and unless somebody can prove that something illegal is being done with campaign funds, I don't give a rat's butt whether Charile Copeland is using it to subsidize his campaign team between elections or not--though I should note he has unequivocally denied either giving CRI money or influencing its board, hires, or subject matter.

Even if he's stretching the truth, in the same State with the incredible revolving Thurman Adams campaign fund, the Nancy Wagner husband employment agency, the Orlando George legacy seat on the Big Head committee, and the "I'll support John Atkins no matter which party he pledges or how many times he's caught driving drunk" fan club, I'm actually supposed to get worked up about this?

Some folks who take their anonymous, sanctimonious selves way too seriously need to get a life.


Nancy Willing said...

I also read the comment about Floyd's site with some surprise. A think tank? Hardly.

It is important to divide out the conservative leanings of CRI with whether or not it is non-partisan. It seems you have dubbed it partisan as hell.

Steve Newton said...

I have yet to see a truly non-partisan think-tank that deals with political issues.

Therefore, yes, I consider CRI to be a conservative effort.

And to all the heated commenters at DL--who really consider themselves to be Delaware's only progressive think-tank--big whup.