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Why the right’s plutocrats are so effective

Ibram X Kendi: “all ideas and policies are either racist or antiracist”. Jason Mendez/Getty

The turmoil at Ibram X Kendi’s Center for Antiracist Research, which recently laid off more than half its staff, has been a “schadenfreude bonanza for the right”, says Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times. After the death of George Floyd in 2020, the simplicity of Kendi’s vision – “all ideas and policies are either racist or antiracist” – attracted millions of dollars from guilty white liberals to fund an institute at Boston University. The money, according to Kendi’s “grandiose vision”, was to pay top academics to “understand, explain and solve seemingly intractable problems of racial inequity and injustice”. Three years later, little real research has been produced, and the university has opened an inquiry into rampant “mismanagement” at the centre.

Compare that to the extraordinary success of the conservative “Koch network”. This “plutocratic donor consortium”, founded by the right-wing industrialists Charles and David Koch, makes “patient”, long-term investments in the political right’s intellectual infrastructure. It shepherds young conservatives “from college to the highest rungs of American power”. It keeps scholars, activists and organisations going during “politically unpromising” moments, so they can leap into action when opportunities arise. Liberals have tried to create their own version of this network, backed by the likes of George Soros. But because they’re so useless at working together, these efforts have had little long-term impact. Until the left learns to resist “messianic” chancers like Kendi, and think systematically about the future, it’ll go on being steamrollered by the right.