Coalition for a Democratic Majority
Last updated: January 8, 1989
Published by the International Relations Center / Interhemispheric Resource Center.
Coalition for a Democratic Majority
Background: The CDM was formed in 1972 by the late Sen Henry Jackson (D-WA) who headed the conservative wing of the Democratic Party. Jackson and his coalition favored a strong military and promoted the conceptof "peace through strength."(4) The CDM has its roots in the intellectual movement of neoconservatism–intellectual and pragmatic, with an emphasis on democracy, anticommunism, and globalism. (3,4)) By the mid-1970s, the Vietnam war had cooled the ardor of the American public for the policy of interventionism, a philosophy of great importance to the CDM. The election of President Jimmy Carter pushed the "hardliners" into action and, in 1976, the CDM helped to found the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), a lobby group for containment militarism. The CPD developed and implemented a new "Soviet Threat" campaign. (4) The broader goal of CDM, however, was to reinstate containment militarism as the central theme of U.S. foreign policy. (4)
The CDM argued that the U.S. must have a strong national defense and a foreign policy of active resistance to what it calls "totalitarianism and repression." Further it urges strong support for "foreign allies who share America’s democratic values–whether it is the government of Israel in the Middle East or the government of El Salvador’s Jose Napoleon Duarte in Central America."(10)
Funding: The funding for the CDM comes from contributions from individuals and corporations. (11)
Activities: It is difficult to define the activities of this group as it works within the Democratic Party and within Congress. It develops and promotes policies reflecting its goals. CDM works with with the Committee on the Present Danger, The Coalition for Peace Through Strength and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), among others. All work on the premise that communism, personified by the Soviet Union, is the greatest evil in the world, and all feel that containment militarism is the best way to stop the communist drive to control the world. (3,4) The AEI gives the concepts academic legitimacy, CDM works the Congress and the CPD presents the issues to the public. Members of the coalition helped Ronald Reagan win the presidency in 1980 and with his victory became "Reagan democrats."(4)
Team B, a group authorized in 1976 by President Ford and organized by then-CIA director George Bush, had its headquarters in the CDM offices. Team B was headed by Sovietologist Richard Pipes and was composed of primarily hard-line anticommunists. The rejuvenated Committee on the Present Danger grew out of Team B. (3,4)
The same year, CDM also provided office space for an ad hoc committee, the Emergency Coalition Against Unilateral Disarmament a lobbying group formed initially to stop the appointment of Paul Warnke as Secretary of Defense. The coalition was run by retired Lt. General Daniel Graham. Graham was also a member of Team B. The Emergency Coalition brought together hard-line neoconservatives like Rostow, Nitze and Jackson with the New Right represented by Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus, James Roberts of the American Conservative Union, Charles R. Black of the National Conservative Political Action Committee and campaign director for the Republican National Committee, Paul Weyrich of the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress and representatives from Young Americans For Freedom, Young Republican National Federation, and the American Security Council. (4) The Emergency Coalition produced the "Pipes Report," the founding document behind the second incarnation of the Committee on the Present Danger. (4) The CDM worked behind the scenes to prevent Carter from appointing Paul Warnke as Secretary of Defense in 1976. An anonymous four-page memo was circulated which accused Warnke of advocating unilateral abandonment by the U.S. of every weapons system subject to negotiation at the SALT talks. After Harold Brown had been selected by President Carter, it came out that the memo was written by Penn Kemble, founder and then co-chair of CDM, and Josh Muravchik. Muravchik is the son of CDM member Emanuel Muravchik. (4)
At a 1986 Democratic Policy Commission meeting in Washington members of CDM continued to advocate the policy that the U.S. should "assist those abroad who are struggling against tyranny of the extreme right or the extreme left." They identified the Soviet Union as "the gravest threat to freedom, peace and progress in the world."(6) While CDM says it opposes tyranny by the extreme right, it accepts Jeane Kirkpatrick’s distinction between the extremists of the right and the left. That is,"rightest authoritarian regimes can be transformed peacefully into democracies, but totalitaran Marxist ones cannot. They can be changed only by ‘aiding armed opponents’ of communism. In the ‘final analysis’ these enemies of freedom can only be deterred from greater aggression … by the military capacities of the United States."(7)
The May 1989 issue of The Defense Democrat, the CDM monthly, attacked the Bush administration’s lack of policy with regard to the Soviet Union. It said that the National Strategy Review-12 (NSR-12)–established by Bush to review and advise upon U.S. policies and the changes occurring in the Soviet Union and develop an appropriate policy–could no longer be considered as just using caution, but is "beginning to look more like confusion." The article went on to note that Defense Secretary Richard Cheney announced support for a $10 billion cut in defense spending for 1990, and queried whether the Bush administration had quietly put into place a plan to shift from "guns to butter." It warned that it may soon "be open season on defense spending."(8)
In the same issue, Admiral William J. Crowe, Jr. wrote that the U.S. defenses are weak, and that defense spending had "moved from the peak to the valley." Crowe wrote that the U.S. had no tangible evidence of change within the Soviet Union and, therefore, could not afford any reductions in defense spending. (8)
A sidebar in The Defense Democrat promotes the further development of a new hypervelocity missile (HVM) which will cost $20,000 to $35,000 per missile. (8)
Government Connections: The following members of the CDM board, are members of the Committee on the Present Danger and served in the Reagan administration: Max M. Kampelman, Chairman of the U.S. Delegation to Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe; Michael Novak, U.S. Representative on the Human Rights Commission of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations; Richard Pipes, National Security Council; Eugene V. Rostow, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; and Paul Seabury, member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. (4)
Representatives Les Aspin, Norm Dicks, Dante Fascell and Sen. Charles S. Robb serve on the CDM Tas
k Force on Foreign Policy and Defense. (8)
Matthew Nimitz, former Undersecretary of State, served on the 1984 democratic platform drafting task force. (10)
Roy Godson served as a consultant to the United States Information Agency (USIA) in the early 1980s. (17) He also served as a consultant to the National Security Council and as an organizer of the 1985 International Youth Conference held in Jamaica. (16)
Sen. Lloyd Bentsen was Michael Dukakis’s vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket in the 1988 campaign. Euge ne V. Rostow is a hard line anti-Soviet policymaker. He was director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the Reagan administration. (4)
Private Connections: Penn Kemble, chair of the executive committee, was the cofounder and president of Friends of the Democratic Center in Central America (PRODEMCA). (30) PRODEMCA was founded to support incipient democratic processes in Central America. (31) It has a controversial history because of its advocacy of the Nicaraguan contras and involvement in the IranContra affair. PRODEMCA received $88,000 from Spitz Channell, head of the National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty, a major actor in Lt. Col. Oliver North’s private aid network for the contras. (12,13) PRODEMCA’s board included well known neoconservatives such as Jeane Kirkpatrick and former Treasury Secretary William Simon. (13) PRODEMCA terminated its independent operation and merged with Freedom House in late 1988. (31) Kemble is the national vice chairman of the Social Democrats, USA, (SD/USA) a neoconservative group that tries to affect political and social change by working with labor groups. (15) Kemble also serves on the board of directors of the League for Industrial Democracy, a group closely associated with SD/USA. (18)
Eugene V. Rostow was a major figure in policy development for the orginal Committee on the Present Danger and on CPD II. (4) He is on the national council of the League for Industrial Democracy. (18) Rostow is the acting chair, chairman of the executive committee and treasurer of the CPD. (2,23)
Ben Wattenberg, chairman of CDM, in 1988 was a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank that develops and provides supporting documents for the policies of groups like the CDM and the Committee on the Present Danger. (4,14) Wattenberg is also on the 1989 board of directors of the League for Industrial Democracy, a conservative group working closely with the SD/USA, that sees labor as the cutting edge for social and political change. (15,19) He is on the 1989 board of trustees of Freedom House, another neoconservative organization that studies countries and governments around the globe to determine whether or not they qualify as "democratic."(19)
Charles Krauthammer of the New Republic is a major proponent of the CDM philosophy that the U.S. has a moral obligation to support democratic movements around the globe, but then goes on to name groups such as the Nicaraguan contras as examples of "democratic movements."(3) Josh Muravchik is a nephew of Midge Decter who is the executive director of the Committee for theFree World. Decter is married to Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary. (4)
Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham (ret. ) is the founder and chair of High Frontier, a pro-SDI group, and vice chair of the U.S. Council for World Freedom, the U.S. branch of the World AntiCommunist League. (4,5)
Roy Godson, a prominent member of CDM, directs Georgetown University’s International Labor Program and runs the Washington offices of the National Strategy Information Center, a lobbying organization dedicated to the preservation of containment militarism. (4) Godson is on the board of directors of the League for Industrial Democracy. (15) Seymour Lipset was a founder of the Committee on the Present Danger. (4) He is currently on the board of directors of the League for Industrial Democracy. (18) Lipset received grants from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in 1984 and 1987 for research and promotion of his four volume study, Democracy in Developing Countries. NED is a private organization created to channel U.S. Information Agency funds from Congress to private organizations. (22)
Prominent CDM members Irving Kristol, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Michael Novak have been resident scholars at the conservative think tank, American Enterprise Institute (AEI); Kristol has served on the board of directors. AEI has also recuited CDM members S. M. Lipset, Richard Scammon, Ben Wattenberg, Peter Berger, and Nathan Glazer for various projects at the institute. Wattenberg edits AEI’s journal, Public Opinion. (4)
Sol Chaikin who served on the 1984 democratic platformdrafting task force was president of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. Bayard Rustin, former president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, served on the same committee along with Harriet Zimmerman of the United Jewish Appeal. (10) Chaikin is vice president of the League for Industrial Democracy, is on the board of trustees of Freedom House and the national advisory council of SD/USA. (18,20,21)
John Joyce serves on the board of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI). (29) NDI was created to receive funds from the National Endowment for Democracy for overseas democracy-building projects. (22) Joyce is on the boards of the Free Trade Union Institute (FTUI), the Asian-American Free Labor Institute (AAFLI), the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), and the African-American Labor Center (AALC)–the anticommunist, democracy-building affiliates of the AFL-CIO. (24,25,26) He also served on the board of the League for Industrial Democracy. (18)
Albert Shanker serves on the boards of Freedom House, SD/USA, FTUI and AALC, and is on the board of trustees of AIFLD. (20,21,24,25) In 1988, Shanker was vice president of the AFL-CIO, and was on the board of directors of NED. (28,27) He is treasurer of the League for Industrial Democracy. (18) Shanker was a founder of the Committee on the Present Danger, and is honorary chairperson of the Bayard Rustin Fund. (4,9)
Jay Mazur is on the boards of the AFL-CIO affiliates–FTUI, AIFLD, AALC, and AAFLI. (24,25,26) He is on the 1989 board of the League for Industrial Democracy. (18) Mazur has also been on the board of the National Committee for Labor Israel-Histadrut, the main labor federation in Israel. Histadrut receives AFL-CIO funding and is supportive of its anticommunist policies. (22)
Norman Hill is on the boards of Freedom House, SD/USA, and the League for Industrial Democracy. (18,21,20) He also serves as the vice pres of the Bayard Rustin Fund. (9)
Misc: In an article in the American Freedom Journal of Jan 1989, Ben Wattenberg, chair of the CDM, suggested that the world of the 1990s is likely to be characterized by a more open Soviet Union and a united Europe. He wrote, "Our goal in the global game is not to conquer the world, only to influence it so that it is hospitable to our values." In the same article, he named the global language as "American," and called upon President-elect Bush to market the "American way" as a dominant theme of the 21st century. (14)
Comments: Current Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has complicated things for the CDM. His moves towards disarmament and military disengagement make it difficult for the CDM to maintain the image of the "Soviet threat."(3)
It appears that the direction of the policy marketed by CDM is shifting from containment militarism to Low Intensity Conflict (LIC). LIC requires, in part, constant pressure on all countries and groups seen as "communist," and a build up of high-tech conventional weaponry. This change is likely to be coupled with a major push for SDI which will be portrayed as necessary because the U.S. is no longer build
ing a huge nuclear defense network. (3,4) Despite these changes, the vision or policy promoted by the CDM remains true to the tenets of neoconservatism. This fact is shown in a letter from Eugene V. Rostow to The Defense Democrat in May 1989. He wrote,"It is time to liberate ourselves from the illusion that arms control agreements produce peace by magic, and direct our attention to the real cause of the cold war, the Soviet policy of expansion achieved by the aggressive use of force."(8)
U.S. Address: 1001 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 707, Washington, DC 20036.
Principals: Advisory Board of Elected Officials for the Coalition for a Democratic Majority are: Sen. Henry M. Jackson (1912-1983), Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX), Sen. David L. Boren (DOK), Sen. James Exon (D-NE), Sen. Wyche Fowler, Jr. (D-GA), Sen. Howell Heflin (D-AL), Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC), Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Sen. Bennett Johnston (D-LA), Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA), Sen. Charles S. Robb (DVA), Rep. Les Aspin (D-WI), Rep. Charles Bennett (D-FL), Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA), Rep. Thomas S. Foley (D-WA), Rep. Dave McCurdy (D-OK), Rep. Bill Richardson (D-NM), Rep. James H. Scheuer (D-NY), Rep. Larry Smith (D-FL), Rep. Jim Wright (until his resignation–D-TX), and Hubert H. Humphrey III, Atty Gen. of MN. (2)
Officers are: Ben J. Wattenberg, chairman; Peter R. Rosenblatt, president; Penn Kemble, chairman of the executive committee; and Maria H. Thomas, secretary-treasurer. (2)
Ben Wattenberg and Irving Kristol were selected to co-chair the coalition. (3)
Board of Directors are: Morris J. Amitay, Judy Bardacke, Philip Baskin, Walter Beach, Richard W. Boling, Sol C. Chaikin, S. Harrison Dogole, Evelyn Dubrow, Angier Biddle Duke, Ervis S. Duggan, Valerie Earle, Robin Farkas, Richard Fellman, John Frank, Norman Gelman, Nathan Glazer, Roy Godson, Nathan Golden, Zmina Goodman, Judith Hernstadt, Norman Hill, Samuel P. Huntington, David M. Ifshin, Max M. Kampelman, Ginger Lew, Seymour M. Lipset, Jerome B. Mack, Stephen Mann, Jay Mazur, Philip Merrill, Bruce Miller, Joshua Muravchik, Michael Novak, Clara Penniman, Richard Pipes, Richardson Pryor, Lucian Pye, Molly Raiser, John P. Roche, Nina Rosenwald, Eugene V. Rostow, Paul Seabury, Albert Shanker, Walter Shorerutin, Mark A. Siegel, Steven Simmons, Walter B. Slocombe, Allen Weinstein, Raymond E. Wolfinger, R. James Woosey and Harriet M. Zimmerman. (2)
The Coalition for a Democratic Majority (CDM) Task Force on Foreign Policy and Defense is headed by Rep. Dave McCurdy (DOK), House Armed Services Comt–chair; R. James Woolsey, atty and former Undersecretary of the Navy–vice chair. Other members are: Morris Amitay, atty and former exec dir of the American Israel Public Affairs Comt; Rep. Les Aspin (D-WI), chair of the House Armed Services Comt; Henry Cisneros, mayor of San Antonio, TX; Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), member of the House Appropriations Subcomt on Defense; Ervin S. Duggan, former member of the Policy Planning Staff of the State Department; Angier Biddle Duke, former ambassador to El Salvador and Spain; Rep. Dante Fascell (D-FL), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Comm; Hubert H. Humphrey III, Atty Gen. of MN; Samuel P. Huntington, director of the Center for Intl Affairs at Harvard and former member of the Natl Security Council; David Ifshin, atty and former head of the Council for Mondale for President; John T. Joyce, pres of the Intl Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen, AFL-CIO; Penn Kemble, chairman of CDM; John Kester, atty, former assistant to Sec of Defense; Franklin Kramer, former principal deputy assistant Sec of Defense; Jan Lodal, pres of Intelus and former member of the Natl Security Council; Philip Merrill, chair and publisher of the Washingtonian; Robert Murray, dir of Natl Security Programs at Harvard, former senior advisor on defense for Dukakis for President; Martin Peretz, editor-inchief of The New Republic; Sen. Charles S. Robb (D-VA), member Senate Foreign Relations Comt; Peter R. Rosenblatt, pres of CDM and former member of Carter Admin; Eugene V. Rostow, distinguished professor at the Natl Defense University, former director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; Robert Scalapino, director of Inst of East Asian Studies, U of Calif at Berkeley; John Silber, pres of Boston U, member of the Natl Bipartisan Commission on Central America (Kissinger Commission); Walter Slocombe, atty, former deputy Undersec of Defense, former member of the Natl Security Council; Adam Ulam, director of the Russian Research Ctr, Harvard; Ben J. Wattenberg, chair of CDM; and Harriet Zimmerman, women’s division chair, United Jewish Appeal. (1)
Jeane Kirkpatrick was a prominent member of the original coalition. (4)
Sources:1. The Defense Democrat, Vol 1, No 7, CDM, May 1989.
2. Letterhead from CDM, received July 19, 1989.
3. Thomas Bodenheimer and Robert Gould, Rollback! Right-wing Power in U.S. Foreign Policy (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1989).
4. Jerry W. Sanders, Peddlers of Crisis: The Committee on the Present Danger and the Politics of Containment (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1983).
5. Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson, Inside the League (New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Co, 1986).
6. New York Magazine, May 5, 1986.
7. The New Republic, May 19, 1986.
8. The Defense Democrat, Vol. 1, No. 7, May 1989.
9. A. Philip Randolph Instutite, "25th Anniversary Commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," Aug 25,1988.
10. Letter from the CDM, undated, received in Sep 1986.
11. Letter from the CDM, Sep 23, 1986.
12. Common Cause Magazine, Mar/Apr 1988.
13. Michael Massing, "Contra Aides," Mother Jones, Oct 1987.
14. Ben Wattenberg, American Freedom Journal, Dec 1988/Jan 1989.
15. Michael Massing, "Trotsky’s Orphans," The New Republic, June 22, 1989.
16. Washington Post, Apr 8, 1987.
17. Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair, Appendix B. , Vol. 12, 1988.
18. Letter from the League for Industrial Democracy, Aug, 1989.
19. Freedom House, Freedom House: Committeed to Democratic Principle and Action, 47th year, 1987-1988.
20. Letterhead from Freedom House, Aug 1989.
21. Letter from Rita Freedman, ex dir, Social Democrats/USA, undated, received July 1989.
22. AIFLD: Agents as Organizers (Albuquerque, NM: The Resource Center, 1987).
23. Phone conversation with CPD on July 19, 1989.
24. Free Trade Union Institute, list of board of directors, updated by a phone conversation with FTUI, Aug 1989.
25. Letter from AIFLD, Mar 22, 1989.
26. Fact Sheet, United Food and Commercial Workers Intl Union, Intl and Foreign Affairs Dept, received Aug 1989.
27. National Endowment for Democracy, Annual Report, 1988. 28. AFL-CIO Handbook, 1988.
29. List of the board of directors, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, May 1989.
30. "The Neocon Family Tree," Mother Jones, July/Aug 1986.
31. Phone interview with PRODEMCA, Jan 29, 1989.
The underlying cites for this profile are now kept at Political Research Associates, (617) 666-5300. www.irc-online.org.