Re: Irving Kristol and Partisan Generosity

John Podhoretz’s obituary for Kristol in Commentary (h/t Instapundit) is notable for this anecdote:

Just an example of Irving’s approach: In 1979, as a first-year student at the University of Chicago, I started a magazine called Midway (later Counterpoint) with my friend Tod Lindberg, now the editor of Policy Review. I sent the first issue to Irving, a family friend. He called me a few days later. “Do you need money?” he said in his fascinating accent, which bore both traces of the Brooklyn of his youth and the London where he spent crucial years in his 30s. “Money?” I said. “No, we made enough from advertising to pay for it.”

“If you ever do, let me know,” he said. And a few issues later, we did. I called him, and he instructed me on the fine art of writing a grant proposal to a new foundation he had begun called the Institute for Educational Affairs. A few weeks later, he called me to report that a grant of $2,000 had been approved and, moreover, that he had used our little magazine as an example of what might be done on college campuses to encourage non-Leftist thinking among students. The board of the foundation found his pitch compelling, and it was decided that efforts should be made to encourage the creation of other publications like Counterpoint. From this seedling came a project that would, by the mid-1980s, lead to the creation of more than 50 college newspapers and magazines across the country engaged in a vital intellectual project to bring ideological diversity to campus life.

One major reason why the Right has gone crazy recently is that generosity among conservatives is very limited. It is true there are some well-funded groups in DC, but by and large, conservatives don’t actively search for talent, and don’t care to make contact with individuals that contribute or can contribute. The deep thing I’ve learned from partisan endeavors is that a lot of people love the sound of their own voice, and if someone is saying something they like, they may sponsor that because it is practically their voice with a megaphone.

I should note that a few people have been very generous with me when we had like causes. But there was never enough generosity for sustainability: I can’t blame people for the failure of the enterprises, because there wasn’t enough given for enterprises to have a realistic chance. And I know now that I give – and have given – a lot for very little.

If you don’t believe me – I have especially in mind a few experiences from undergrad that I don’t want to get into detail about – think about it this way: Right now, getting a link from a conservative blogger is difficult. A link – something that costs nothing and takes 5 seconds to create.

Until we realize that partisanship is working for each other, all the protests against health care and complaints about the media and education and taxes are for naught. What conservatives need to demonstrate is that given freedom, we can do more with our country, and yes, that needs to be demonstrated on a mass – not just one good individual here or there – level. The Left didn’t arise because living in places like North Philadelphia or Gary, Indiana was a lot of fun. It didn’t emerge because every entrepreneur ended up with a company as profitable as Google. There’s a real need in a free country for people to stand with each other, and until that happens, what is occurring in American politics now is difficult to term politics: it is something sub-political, i.e. the arrangement and disposition of forces merely.

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