Claremont Institute’s Matthew Peterson critiques conservative donor class

Feb 6, 2020

Twitter thread provocatively lets loose on problems and shortcomings, challenges and opportunities.

The biggest problem the right leaning donor class faces, whether they realize it or not, is that many leaders on Right they now support are either apolitical at their core or quite prepared to lose & die, along w/the rest of what remains of traditional Western thought & practice,” Matthew Peterson begins a provocative twitter thread late last month.


Peterson is vice president of education at the Claremont Institute in Upland, Calif., and founding editor of its The American Mind website—one of the “new kids on the block” trying to help refine or redefine conservatism moving forward.

‪Conservative grantmakers “are giving to people & institutions who are not only proven losers but who also—often by their own admission—have no effing clue what is going on now politically or culturally yet are doubling down on same failed crap & ignoring what they could learn from Trump’s success,” Peterson continues. The rest of his full thread:

‪Many donors are in same boat—trying to figure it all out—but they’re more practical & flexible & want to win more than the ineffective right leaning personages & institutions they fund, who are mostly hindering rather than helping us understand what is happening or move forward.

‪Never mind lead—it’s laughable to think most of the people and institutions they fund could even attempt to do THAT, any more than they could come up with original ideas or actually rethink strategy in the age of Trump. Guys, these clowns don’t even know the landscape anymore!

‪But the problem is it’s hard to create something new—and to go in a different direction with new ideas and people takes trust. But at this point you have to see the ineffectiveness of the old crowd and institutions on the right and start taking chances on others.

‪Under 45 crowd is pissed off & full of ideas & energy. And they don’t believe any of what the older people who run the institutions you fund say. They laugh at it & they know the scene better. Treat this like a stagnating business. Shake things up. Put younger people in charge.

‪Triangulate opinion. Ask outside the usual circles for real unvarnished opinion, especially of younger people. Start new pilot projects. But for God’s sake stop giving mindlessly to the same old places. We call that “dumb money” privately & laugh coldly about the prob to say sane

‪But truth is many in donor class are better than those they are giving to in terms of savvy & instinct. It’s sad to see them get bamboozled by hacks who actively cause the very problems they purport to be solving. Folks who quietly thwart Trump while claiming otherwise. Etc.

Understanding and asking

By “apolitical” in the opening tweet, Peterson means people who “don’t understand politics and they don’t really want to mess with it,” he told me earlier this week. “In order to renew America or strengthen America and build that infrastructure intellectually, you have to understand the political scene and be willing to fight within it. … Think of D.C. think tanks,” he added. “It’s people who don’t want to really rock the boat. They don’t want to fight. They want to say the same things [and] are kind of play-acting at this point.”

People seem to think “we have this clean, neat procedure that’s worked for many decades and we just need to keep doing that, and so you need to funnel money to us because we’re the experts who know how to get it done,” Peterson continued. “That system is breaking down. That’s not working. The old procedures are failing to get things done. They’re failing to persuade people,” especially young people, he says.

Givers don’t need “to be supporting candidates or anything like that, necessarily. They need to understand, though, what’s happening at the 50,000-foot level in America … the situation the American regime is in and therefore how to fix it,” according to Peterson.

“It’s about winning culturally and politically for the long term. And what does that mean? What does that look like?” he asked. “I think the right has grown sleepy and is just now awakening to what winning would actually look like. That means having cultural institutions and a cultural atmosphere” that is healthy and can thus help the country and its citizens, too.

Peterson expanded upon his thoughts in the thread during this episode of The American Mind’s new podcast, at the end of its third segment. He is also working on an upcoming essay for The American Mind to expand upon them, and Claremont plans to continue paying attention to these and related issues through all of its various programming and other publications.