The Nadler Thesis
by Tom Donelson on March 9, 2010 at 3:43 PM
(The late Richard Nadler was a close friend and mentor to me and others including John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review. His death last summer left a void in the conservative movement, but many of his ideas are valid and form a road to a conservative resurgence.)
Since the 1950s, American conservatism based its ideals upon the holy trinity of libertarian economics, aggressive anti-communism and social conservatism into a fusionist vision overseen by William F. Buckley, the pope of the conservative movement. The Nadler thesis was and still is based on continuing this fusionist vision into the 21st century. Richard Nadler began his career as a member of the hard left but moved toward the right in the early 80s as he saw the failure of the left economic thoughts and rise of the Soviet Empire. Until his death last summer, Nadler provided both the intellectual and political strategy of updating and expanding upon the fusionist thinking that helped elect Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Nadler understood alliances creation as he often allied himself in Kansas City politics with minorities on education reforms, as well as libertarians and moderate Democrats on anti-tax crusades. While engaging in many local and state elections, Nadler observed the evolution of the conservative movement under the Reagan years and realized that a new conservative movement was being formed as the Cold War entered into its last decade. When elder Bush’s term ended in 1992, Nadler began thinking and researching how best to rebuild the conservative movement by expanding it beyond its traditional base.
The 90’s saw the development of the investor class as millions of Americans became capitalists and this became Nadler’s first target. From the era of Reagan to the end of the 90’s; Americans owning stocks increased substantially and Nadler among a few others saw the potential of the investor class as potential conservative and Republican voters. Nadler co-authored, The Rise of Worker Capitalism and The Influence of Intensity Factors on the Political Opinions of Investors which showed that Americans who owned stocks were more likely to support free market policies from reducing taxes to free trade. The emergence of the investor class expanded economic conservatives from Wall Street to Main Street as Main Street became connected to Wall Street and vice a versa.
While researching the Investor class, Nadler challenged the conventional wisdom dealing with the various climate changes theories, co-writing “The Kyoto Protocol and U.S. Agriculture” (Heartland Institute, October 1, 1998) and showing the true costs of the climate changes to farmers in the Midwest. Even now, the true cost is starting to become apparent to many as the debate over Cap and Trade intensifies as well as the controversy surrounding climate gate (where many scientists were found cooking the book on climate change data to show disastrous scenarios where none existed.) As a long time Midwestern, Nadler clearly saw the economic burden that many environmentalists extremists were prepared to inflict upon Main Street as well as the farming community. A decade later, he used his own research and knowledge in disparaging climate changes theory as part of a radio campaign.
During the first Gulf War, Richard Nadler understood that with the end of the Cold War, enemies still remained as radical Islamism moved from the underneath the radar screen of the foreign policy establishment after the conflict between the Soviet Empire and United States. Throughout the 90’s, the United States was the lone superpower but after 9/11 and the Second Gulf War, the war on terror began. From Nadler point of view, the Soviet Empire collapse did not end America’s involvement in world affairs for a weak America would mean a chaotic world. If an America leadership role in the world ended, freedom and liberty would be threatened. The world would return to a more brutish and nasty place where the strong survived and the weak got conquered. Idealism just as freedom would be a casualty.
Nadler used research from the American Majority Foundation to increase support for the war and along with Iraq war veterans and war correspondent JD Johannes, the foundation produced films detailing the success of the surge in 2007. The security hawks still have a role in the coalition as a counter to the Obama’s foreign policy, which is based on the leftist premise that America involvement is bad for the world and Bush’s years have alienated much of the world from us and our ideals. The security Hawk is the counter to fantasy that form the basis of Obama administration and integral to the defense of the proposition that America is an exceptional place with much to offer the world.
Nadler not only wanted to expand economic conservatives to Main Street but he also wanted to hit the left where it hurts, minority voters. Hispanic voting patterns resembled lower income blue collars, liberal on economic issues but conservative on social issues and African-Americans gave 90% of their vote routinely to Democrats. Nadler discovered that African-Americans held views closer to majority of Americas but their voting patterns did not match their own beliefs. The failure of conservatives to fight for their beliefs among minorities produced a lost generation among both Hispanics and African-Americans. Richard Nixon managed to get twice as may votes as George Bush but Nadler understood that a few votes here and few votes could prove the difference between winning and losing elections. His strategy, despite being significantly under funded, produced results in places that he could place ads. And many close elections ended in Republican victories because of Nadler’s work.
Nadler founded Americas PAC in 2004, Americas Majority and Americas Majority Foundation in 2005 as vehicle to expand the conservative majority. He produced, wrote and directed more than 200 TV and radio spots for conservative candidates and causes. Since the 2002 elections, he placed 32,000 spots targeting conservative messages to African Americans, 41,000 ads targeting conservative messages to Hispanic voters, 8,000 ads on behalf of Iraqi War veterans, 5,000 ads advocating Personal Savings Accounts (social security reform), 3,000 ads critiquing “catastrophic Global Warming” and 2,000 ads on behalf of Ward Connelly’s Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. Nadler demonstrated that conservative messages could be tailored effectively to voters not normally part of the conservative coalition and his ads increased vote total among minority voters in every elections his organizations participated in.
His expertise in working with minority voters allowed a different perspective on the immigration debate to unfold as he believed that Republican “enforcement only” approach to immigration would endanger gains made by the Republicans among Hispanics throughout the decade. In 2004, Bush managed to gain 40% of Hispanic voters but in 2008, the Republicans percentage dropped to 31%.
Nadler believed the Republicans populist stances on immigration was influencing populist stances on areas of trade and other economic issue, separating many of the Republicans business allies from others in the Republican coalition. Nadler viewed a strategy that attempted to remove 12 million illegals as not just politically and economically stupid but as a moral issue as well. For Nadler, the immigration could possibly undermine the fragile business-conservative coalition.
Nadler vision of conservatism which directly evolved from Buckley and Reagan had a competing vision. In the 90’s as the first Bush’s presidencies tanked in the polls, Pat Buchanan lead insurgency against the Republican leadership and in 2008, Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo offered a similar vision. The late Paul Weyrich outlined a lucid strategy for a coalition different from that of Buckley. This new coalition remained the same on social issues, personal responsibility and limited government However many free market ideas got axed. Protectionism replaced free trade as protectionism would be used to court blue collar workers in particular union workers. Security replaced beliefs in markets as eliminating outsourcing and reducing immigration along with protectionism became part of this new right economics.
Pat Buchanan opposed the first Gulf War, defying much of the conservative establishment in the process, feeling that the Gulf War was not in American interest. This fit in Paul Weyrich own thoughts who believed direct military action to deal with non-democratic regimes was a outdated concept and this grew even among conservatives as public became disillusioned with the second Iraqi’s war during the second term of the Bush’s administration. Ron Paul made his own opposition to the Gulf War as part of his own platform in his run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Buchanan economic thesis abandoned Reagan more free market approaches to trade and resembled Weyrich thesis by adopting a populist stance to appeal to union voters. Buchanan not only wanted America to come home from world affairs but he was perfectly happy to set up barriers to keep out foreign goods. (And as Mr. Nadler also observed, keep out foreign workers.)
Stopping Immigration became part of a mean to protect jobs and enhance credibility on security by protecting our border. Weyrich ideas were expressed in the works of Buchanan in the 90’s and Tancredo in the 2008 Republican primaries. Debra Medina, during the recent Republican primary, represented the Weyrich ideas, amd she not only ran on an anti-immigration platform, but anti free trade while promoting populism, conservative style. The biggest failure of the conservative populist movement is the failure to understand that majority of today’s union members are government workers, whose interest is bigger government and more government means more control over private workers including private union workers. Today union workers often work against the interest of not just the investor class, many minorities but many workers as well.
Nadler thesis was to rejuvenate and expand the fusionist vision of Buckley into the 21st century by promoting the interest of the investor class while making inroads into the minority communities and combating a major leftist counter theory advanced by John Judis and Ruy Teixeria which portrayed a different future; a future government dependency for the majority of Americans. Their vision of America was a swelling tide of welfare recipients, urban singles and ethnic minorities fueling a European socialist state. During the past election, the Democratic left received increased turnout among minorities including an increase youth vote to promote an agenda of dependency.
The election of 2008 was about faith in the future and lack of faith won. Obama ran as a man who feared the future. Without government, the future would be bleak and all doomed whether through calamity just as global warming or economic disaster just waiting around the corner. The individual could or can not control his or her destiny but is only a pawn in a future already predetermined. The difference between the election of 1980 and 2008 was that hope won in 1980 and lost in 2008.
Nadler was impacted like many of us by Reagan. Conservatives goal following the Nadler Thesis was restoration of basic faith in what made America work whereas the left believes that America does not work and never truly did. America left only see victims and opportunity only exist for the few. The Nadler combined the classic liberalism of liberty and a conservatism that believes in preserving what worked. The American conservative believes evolutionary change brought about from the people themselves. The American left doesn’t believe in the people, which is why they must lead the people like cattle to the promise land. Only it will be the leaders of the left who will determine what that promise land is to be. American conservative don’t know the future but they don’t fear it either. They make no pretense on knowing what the future will be or even what it should be.
American conservatism taps into all aspect of American culture its faith, it beliefs in the entrepreneur and capitalism, patriotic feeling, a belief in the individual ability to shape the future and optimism about that future. Nadler thesis is about restoring that faith and optimism. Both conservative and leftist opposition to the Nadler thesis have long lost their faith and Nadler thesis was about restoring that faith.