In its 40-year history, the liberal media never really cared for the Heritage Foundation. But now that the think tank has been more assertive in its engagement of Capitol Hill, the liberal media are rewriting history to depict the move as something that is threatening the organization's respectability inside the Beltway. In July, I noted the Wall Street Journal's stab at the concern-trolling about Heritage's diminishing gravitas. In January, my colleague Matthew Balan noted the Washington Post's bias about Heritage's lobbying arm, Heritage Action.
Today it's Time magazine's turn, as writer Zeke Miller looked at how "political action arm of the once-esteemed Heritage Foundation has perfected the art of disrupting DC, whatever the cost":
Since its founding in 2010, Heritage Action has worked aggressively to influence lawmakers on issues from immigration to agriculture to the budget. It uses a three-pronged strategy to twist arms on Capitol Hill: lobbying members on hot-button issues, ranking them publicly on how they vote, and getting word out far and wide when lawmakers buck the conservative line. That combination—unparalleled in either party—has given Heritage the ammo to take on the leadership of its own party, widening the gap between the conservative grassroots and their leaders in Congress. As Heritage’s clout accumulates, the group’s divisive style offers a window into the new way of doing business in Washington, where, thanks to redistricting, lawmakers are more worried about primary challengers than the opposition.
Of course, Democrats also fear the ire of left-wing pressure groups who could make primaries in their gerrymandered districts a living hell, but somehow the doctrinaire, inflexible stands of left-wing pressure groups like NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the AFL-CIO never concern liberal political journalists.
To his credit, Miller [pictured below at right via his Twitter profile] did find one Republican critic, former National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Brian Walsh, who was willing to make his criticism out in the open and not under the cover of anonymity. That said, much of the criticism of Heritage in Miller's article came from sources who spoke on condition of remaining unnamed:
There is dissent about combative strategy inside Heritage Foundation as well. In the initial years of the group, management grew concerned by Heritage Action’s free-wheeling style, moving them from a town house nearby into the fourth-floor of its headquarters building. As Heritage Action flourishes, Heritage Foundation has become less of a force on Capitol Hill, its role for three decades as an omnipresent voice in hearing rooms and Senate hideaways crafting legislation for Republicans now firmly in the rearview mirror.
A number of the think tank’s top researchers have decided to leave the group in recent months over the controversy caused by Heritage Action, according to people familiar with the situation. “That place is hemorrhaging,” said one former employee. The selection of former Sen. Jim DeMint to run the think tank last year has confirmed the organization’s commitment to political activism. DeMint, who made a name for himself in the Senate by supporting conservatives in primary contests—even primarying his GOP colleagues—leading to victories by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, but also nominations for two of 2012’s biggest losers, Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin. The group fiercely denies that its research arm has been harmed by the political side.
In closing, Miller sought to paint Heritage as proudly defiant of the expectations of conventional wisdom-slingers inside Washington:
Such criticism means little to Heritage Action. Despite Needham’s best efforts and Cruz’s 21-hour speech against it, the online insurance marketplaces that are a centerpiece of Obamacare will debut as planned Oct. 1. Republican leadership fears it will bear the blame for government shutdown, endangering vulnerable Republicans in 2014. But for Heritage and its allies, the resonance of their message is more than a moral victory. “I think that this campaign has already been very successful in the sense that we’ve driven the narrative in the last two months about how Obamacare is literally falling apart,” Needham says. “There’s been huge national attention in the media and the grassroots. That’s a great thing for the country and a great thing for us.”
Within the conservative movement there are reasonable debates to be had on strategy and tactics. Otto von Bismarck famously compared legislating to making sausage, and doubtless no matter how conservative principles are advanced on Capitol Hill, the process is going to be messy, shutdowns and the like or no.
That said, conservatives would do well to remember that Time magazine, and others in the liberal media, do not genuinely have the best interests of the conservative movement and its most powerful, influential think tank, at heart.