A new center-right think-tank is launching into the partisan-torn D.C. political scene. Helmed by Republican bigwigs — including Norm Coleman, mind Jeb Bush, and Tom Ridge — the American Action Project promises to reach out to moderate conservatives and conservative independents.
Yesterday, former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin and former Eric Cantor Chief of Staff Rob Collins announced the launch of a new “action-tank” at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
With political superstars like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former ambassador to the E.U. Boyden Gray and former Senator Mel Martinez on their board, this new project will wield considerable political clout especially as Washington gears up for the upcoming 2010 congressional races and 2012 presidential election.
In a town where the dialogue has become increasingly polarized, the “action-tank” will try to build a center-right coalition using a big-tent philosophy. Coming in the wake of Glenn Beck’s CPAC keynote, where he asserted that conservatives didn’t need to reach out to a big tent, the American Action project appears to be a breath of fresh air.
The center-right is a “very broad spectrum,” acknowledged Chairman Fred Malek, noting that their new project would view “politics [as] a game of addition, not subtraction.”
Their project consists of two sister organizations: the American Action Forum, a policy arm led by Holtz-Eakin, and the American Action Network, a political arm led by Collins.
The AA Forum, the policy arm, was created to reflect the diversity of ideas on the center-right – to refine and contribute ideas with an eye on developing events.
The AA Network, the political arm, will be charged with engaging with lawmakers and the general public, especially students. “We’ll engage with American citizens through citizen gatherings, new media, old media, social networking and other means to generate support to turn center-right ideas into action.”
In an exclusive interview with FrumForum, American Action Forum President Douglas Holtz-Eakin said that their goal would be to develop “time-sensitive and relevant” policy. The implication is that the Forum will be acting more swiftly than other local think-tanks, with emphases on online mediums (watch the entire interview below).
Particularly intriguing is the development of an interactive policy wiki, where Americans can contribute to American Action’s policy papers. This will allow for the group to “engage [Americans] in policy development, not just deliver it to them.”
The American Action Network will not be reinventing the internet, but rather focusing on recognizing new trends in social interaction and viral marketing, said President Rob Collins:
More Americans spend time on Facebook than they do [on traditional media]… social media has become the dominant way to communicate… finding those social interactions and hot points are where we start. The idea of building a central website and expecting that we’re going to have a million hits a day are a goal… but we have to go through search engines, ideological blogging and find the right mix for us to create a viral network.
There is no doubt that the American Action project will have a tough time breaking into the D.C. scene. Carving out an audience in a city that already has five big think-tanks (AEI, Heritage, CATO, Brookings, Center for American Progress) will take considerable work, as the AA teams will face considerable difficulty in finding technological and policy niches that aren’t already filled.
On the other hand, these groups are being led by reputable and intelligent individuals who value the power of ideas and know how to influence political change. We wish them the best of luck!