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Obama’s Academic Fight Club

Conspiracy theorists may go bananas over the latest evidence of collusion between higher education and the Obama Administration, but it may just be a case of birds of a feather working together, albeit more closely than ever.

“The fact that university faculty and administrators swooned over Obama in 2008 is no secret,” Lloyd Green [1] writes in The American Conservative this month. “According to the Open Secrets campaign-contributions database, Columbia University employees donated more than $460,000 to the 2008 Obama campaign.”

“Harvard donated more than $573,000 in the same cycle, including the $4,600 given by Elena Kagan, who went on to serve as Obama’s solicitor general and now sits on the Supreme Court.” Green was opposition research counsel in George H. W. Bush’s successful presidential campaign in 1988.

“The story was pretty much the same out west,” Green notes. “Stanford donated nearly $450,000 to Obama.” Green also worked in the Justice Department during the first Bush Administration. He reviewed the book, The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns by Sasha Issenberg in the October issue of AmCon.

“But academic involvement in Democratic politics was more than a matter of money,” Green pointed out in his review. “It was a matter of personal conviction, talent, and culture.”

“According to The Victory Lab, the Obama campaign came to rely on the Consortium of Behavioral Scientists—in Issenberg’s words, a ‘Fight Club’ of 29 psychologists, economists, and law professors dedicated to sending Democrats to Congress and electing a Democrat president.” The Fight Club’s tactics may sound eerily reminiscent to their students.

“Consortium members dared not utter the group’s name in front of strangers,” Green wrote. “Like the title of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s 2008 book, Nudge, the consortium’s favored techniques involved peer pressure and behavioral modification.”

“The candidate was a product and the electorate was a lab rat.” By the way, Thaler and Sunstein [2] were members in good standing of the “Club” or consortium. “Consortium members peppered Democratic leaders with memos that stressed what behavioral science could do for politics,” Green wrote. “Issenberg reports on a meeting between consortium leaders and Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton, among others, at which the senators were advised to stress voters’ sense of loss and to avoid speaking to their aspirations. According to the consortium, gloom and resentment could be turned into a winning hand. The Obama campaign came to rely upon the consortium in shaping its message and getting out the vote.”


Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia [3].
If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org [4].