September 27, 2005

September 27, 2005 | Commentary on

The End of the ACT

Every once in a while, a big Hollywood star or athlete will declare bankruptcy. News reports will note that the person earned, and somehow managed to spend, tens of millions of dollars. Most of us wonder, "How'd he do that?"

In the same vein, Americans Coming Together has come apart.

The pressure group was formed in 2003 with the goal of electing liberal congressional candidates and a liberal president in 2004. Financiers George Soros and Peter Lewis kicked in more than $38 million to get ACT, along with its sister group the Media Fund, up and running. ACT managed to blow through about $200 million during its brief existence.

But that cash was to no avail. President Bush was re-elected and Republicans expanded their numbers in the House and Senate, so Soros has decided to pull the plug. ACT's state offices are all closing, and most its employees were notified (by e-mail, no less) that their services were no longer needed.

ACT's spectacular failure should be a cautionary tale for the left: Big ideas beat big money. And while the left seems to have plenty of money to invest in political campaigns, new, palatable liberal ideas are more difficult to come by.

For example, back when ACT was being put together, billionaire Soros explained why he thought it was so critical. "America, under Bush, is a danger to the world," he told The Washington Post. That's why he saw the 2004 election as "a matter of life and death." There's one liberal's version of a big idea: A United States bent on advancing traditional American interests and values is bad.

You might even call that idea "the Soros Doctrine," as Soros did in his book, "The Bubble of American Supremacy." Soros cast doubt on the idea that the American system is the best. In fact, one reason Soros considers Bush a threat to the entire planet is because the president thinks, "the world would benefit from adopting American values because the American model has demonstrated its superiority."

Well, we're almost a year removed from that election, and it went against Soros and ACT. Amazingly, the United States is still here, still serving as a beacon of hope to other countries, still leading the world forward.

Recall that just since the 2004 election we've seen Ukraine's Orange Revolution and Lebanon's Cedar Revolution. Both of those events drew support and inspiration from the United States. Today, both of those countries are moving forward toward freedom and democracy and away from totalitarianism.

The overwhelming majority of Americans agree that the U.S. is a great force for good in the world. We know our political system is the best yet devised. So ACT certainly couldn't have convinced many voters by using Soros' big idea. Are there any other liberal ideas it could have pulled out? Not really.

For years, conservatives have been proposing workable solutions to problems. Nearly a decade ago President Clinton signed a welfare-reform bill, which moved millions from welfare to work. It was conservatives who wrote that landmark legislation. Conservatives also led the battle to cut tax rates in 2001 and 2003, cuts that allowed the country to pull out of a recession and get our economy growing again.

Today, conservatives are pushing plans to reform Social Security. The venerable retirement program will go belly-up in a few years unless we act. Conservatives want to create Personal Retirement Accounts, which would allow workers -- even those who earn minimum wage -- to build a retirement nest egg they can count on. Liberals strongly oppose personal accounts, but they haven't offered any workable ideas of their own.

When Soros started backing ACT, he explained that, "money buys talent; you can advocate more effectively." Yes, but it's impossible to advocate successfully unless you have some practical ideas to promote.

Liberals are long on rhetoric, but short on solutions. That's why, for all its money, Americans Coming Together has fallen apart.

Ed Feulner is president of The Heritage Foundation (, a Washington-based public policy research institute.

About the Author

Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D. Founder, Chairman of the Asian Studies Center, and Chung Ju-yung Fellow
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