The Heritage Foundation explained in simple terms

The Heritage Foundation explained in simple terms

As far as problematic think-tanks go, few are quite as scary as The Heritage Foundation.

The so-called “brains” behind the horrifyingly dystopian Project 2025, this conservative advocacy group is funded by shadowy wealth, and pushes for policies so regressive that they’d consider Jim Crow laws a little bit too progressive, as under them, Black Americans people at least had the appearance of being able to vote.

But who is The Heritage Foundation (sometimes referred to as simply “Heritage”)? And just what do its members really believe in? Read on if you want The Heritage Foundation explained, in simple terms.

The Heritage Foundation: beginnings

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Really, everything you need to know about The Heritage Foundation is that they were founded during the Nixon years by a group of wealthy businessmen who felt that the famously ultra-conservative president was too liberal.

Officially the organization was founded by three businessmen: Paul Weyrich, Edwin Feulner, and Joseph Coors. Weyrich, the organization’s first president, was known for being incredibly close to pro-Nazi figures such as Laszlo Pasztor. Feulner was born into wealth and became the Foundation’s president after Weyrich. Coors was a nepo-baby, his grandfather having founded the now-ubiquitous beer company.

The Foundation grew out of a number of similar movements that deemed taxation too high, and the government too big. There was also a heavy dose of Christian extremism flowing through the group from the beginning. It was modelled after the Brookings Institution, but for more conservative ideals. Coors was the main source of funding for the organization in its first few years, utilizing his family’s wealth to do so.

Being pro-business and anti-communist were two of the major planks of Heritage policy, but they also delved heavily into culture war issues that impacted Christian conservatives, working with groups like the ironically named Moral Majority. Despite their funding, Heritage remained a bit part player until the Reagan years.

A rise to prominence, funded by dark money and hypocrisy

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With their seminal Madate for Leadership paper, Heritage found their way into the heart of the Reagan government. Many of its authors took on positions in the former actor’s administration, who later called Heritage a “vital force” in his presidency. Many of the policies that Reagan instituted are responsible for some of the deepest rooted issues in American society today, including the lack of secure housing, income insecurity, and right wing extremism.

Heritage didn’t just inflict their damaging ideas onto the American public: they also shaped foreign policy in negative ways, contributing to an system that crushed several democracies in Latin America and Africa to ensure the flow of money kept draining into the coffers of the wealthy. The organization also pushed for increased defense spending.

This influence continued under George H. W. Bush, with Heritage being a key voice in pushing the first Gulf War.

Like many right wing organizations, a Democrat being elected made them even more insane. When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, they really began pumping up the culture war rhetoric, as well as promoting divisive and anti-democratic figures like Newt Gingrich.

Under the second Bush, Heritage massively pushed for ground wars in the Middle East. They also threw their weight behind the torture of innocents at Guantanamo Bay.

Unsurprisingly, Heritage treated the election of Barack Obama in the same way a committed KKK member might if their child brought a Black person home to dinner. They released a series of increasingly unhinged and unsubstantiated papers and studies, and the remaining academics who wrote for them and had a modicum of decency began leaving in droves.

The Heritage Foundation now

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Heritage has really come into its own since the explosion of MAGA extremism and Trump’s first term. Its influence is now felt throughout all areas of American conservatism, something that is most sharply thrown into relief by the horrifically extreme Project 2025.

Project 2025 gets to the heart of what The Heritage Foundation have been working on since their beginnings: turning America into a Christo-Fascist state headed under a president, with the president having basically no checks on their power. Civil servants and other state workers would be replaced with loyalists, and society would be soaked in so-called Christian values (no, not the ones where you turn the other cheek and believe a camel can fit through the eye of a needle sooner than a rich man can get into heaven: more like Supply-Side Jesus).

To be frank, The Heritage Foundation sees The Handmaid’s Tale and the pre-Civil Rights Movement Deep South as an aim. It wants a world where its backers can continue to siphon wealth from the average American, while convincing them that immigrants, left-wingers, and women are the ones who are really robbing them blind. It is a literal shadowy cabal of wealthy people who are plotting a takeover of the government, yet it is seen as heroic by many conservatives. It is a dangerous organization, not only because of what it wants, but because of how good it is at getting things done. And it is slamming its fists against the door of American democracy.

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