The shocking truth about how conservative think tanks and foundations have seized the moral high ground and sharply shifted America's political agenda to the Right

No Mercy

How Conservative Think Tanks and Foundations Changed America's Social Agenda

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Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado, foreword by Mark Tushnet

"No Mercy is a careful and comprehensive accounting of who did what in trying to kill liberal programs and policies."
The Nation

During the sixties most of America trod a turbulent, but progressive path toward social and political freedom. The Civil Rights Movement, protests over the Vietnam War, and even cultural experimentation were evidence of a population moving towards the political Left. While the liberals took to the streets, the conservative elite, in small but powerful groups, were developing an agenda of their own. In 1968, the Nixon presidency brought moderate conservatism back into vogue. In the 1980's Ronald Reagan successfully united the economic and religious Right. Today, Newt Gingrich's "contract with America" verges on becoming legitimized in a dominant Republican Congress while the Left is struggling to gather its resources, reevaluate its policies, and discover a new avenue of public support to battle the well-oiled conservative machine. What happened?

In their book No Mercy, Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado provide an incisive analysis of the Right's rise to power. The authors show that, since the sixties, the Left has had little to do with setting the country's agenda and that conservative think tanks and foundations have been systematically abetting a conservative revolution by funding a variety of issue-oriented studies and programs. The authors focus on seven areas in which this battle has been waged and won by the powerful conservative coalition: English Only, Proposition 187 and immigration reform, IQ/race and eugenics, affirmative action, welfare, tort reform, and campus multiculturalism. How has the Right managed to gain the advantage in these traditionally liberal campaigns? How can this be stopped?

During their research, the authors found themselves in partial admiration of the dedication, economy of effort, and sheer ingenuity of the conservative forces. But Stefancic and Delgado seek to inform the American public about how the juggernaut operates—not to celebrate but to combat it. They challenge the Left to adopt the same sort of strategic focus and issue-orientation as the Right to bring this country back to the center—before it's too late.



"Not only is it an excellent review of the conservative policy agenda, ...but it also services as a handy guidebook to right-wing foundations, think tanks and personalities. And, most important, it serves as a clarion call to those of us who have too long remained complacent that things will return to the more humane thinking of the bygone 'Great Society.' It reminds us that historical pendulums require a strong push before they begin to swing."
New York Law Journal

"No Mercy is an enormously valuable book and, given that subject, it is written with remarkable contrast and even-handedness. The authors give conservatives their due and challenge liberals to come up with strategic answers. This strong and important work should be widely read."
Jonathan Kozol

"Asleep at the switch? How did the New Right Conservatives seize the intellectual and policy agenda from the Liberals? From the civil rights movement through the Vietnam War protests, the Liberal academics and policy makers, from their positions in the universities and think tanks, dominated the policy debated in America. Then, as Stefancic and Delgado show, the New Right, through sheer determination, ingenuity, flexible, focused efforts, and the clever use of the media, took over the agenda through the development of think tanks and significant inroads into the academic establishment. By examining seven specific contested areas—English Only; Proposition 187; IQ, race, and eugenics; affirmative action; welfare; tort reform; and campus milti-culturalism—the authors show how the New Right now sets the intellectual and policy initiatives. It is their definitions of the issues that are being debated. This book is a call to action. The authors have laid out the challenge. If the Left wants to try to change the course of the country, they would do well to borrow the techniques of intellectual mobilization employed so well by the New Right."
Joel F. Handler, Richard C. Maxwell Professor of Law, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law

"...readers searching for information on the funding and personnel of rightwing foundations and think tanks will find No Mercy to be very useful."
Journal of American History



Foreword – Mark Tushnet
Seven Campaigns that Changed the Face of America
1. Official English
2. Proposition 187 and Immigration Reform
3. IQ, Race, and Eugenics
4. The Attack on Affirmative Action
5. The Attack on Welfare and the Poor
6. Tort Reform
7. Campus Wars
How It Happened and What To Do About It


About the Author(s)

Jean Stefancic is Research Associate at the University of Colorado Law School and author of Failed Revolutions: Social Reform and Limits of Legal Imaginations.

Richard Delgado is Charles Inglis Thomson Professor of Law at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is the author of over a hundred articles in the law review literature and civil rights and author of several books including Failed Revolutions; Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment; The Rodrigo Chronicles: Conversations on Race and America; and editor of Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge (Temple) and Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror (Temple).

Subject Categories

General Interest
Political Science and Public Policy



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