Conservative foundations are winning the war of ideas not because they are spending more money, but because they are spending their money more effectively, argued Andrew Rich at the Grantmakers in Health Forum. William Shambra from the Hudson Institute added that “The war of ideas then brings us back to the sort of sweaty, gritty, ideologically fractured policy process… Mainstream foundations find various reasons to stand aloof from this new war of ideas.  But in the final analysis, they avoid it, I suspect, because they are deeply and fundamentally uncomfortable with its populist or democratic premise.  They really much preferred the era of professionalized reform when their well-funded experts called the shots.  As a result, they are content to pour billions of dollars into fine-tuning and microdesigning specialized programs within their insulated silos.  Meanwhile, their reluctance or their inability to engage in the larger war of ideas all but guarantees that those programs will never see the political light of day.”  Conservative foundations have also harnessed the power of grassroots organizing in their strategy, noted Larry Kressley from the Public Welfare Foundation.  Kressley said that to be effective, progressive groups need to take the strategies of the right and apply them to the causes such as public education, affordable health care, and a just criminal justice system.  “If being for these things make us ideological, then so be it. ”

Andrew Rich’s article “War of Ideas” published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review is available here.