The phrase "Overton Window" may soon become commonplace for those who follow political and social change. Glenn Beck’s new novel bears the name, and pre-order sales have already made it a best seller. His book, The Overton Window, borrows a theory from a man named Joe Overton who died in an ultra-light accident in 2003. Joe was the Vice President of a Michigan based think tank, the Mackinac Center (that is pronounced Mackinaw for us southerners).
About nine years ago, Joe challenged the thinking on how to change public policy. He drew a graph showing policies on a range from "less free" to "more free." He noted that political changes follow policy changes, which almost always originate from social values.
Certain policies fall into the "window of political possibility," Joe noted, because they are acceptable to the public. To affect political change, groups like the Civitas Institute has to focus on changing mainstream conversation as much or more than writing papers about public policy.
Joe’s theory was right and we here at Civitas have devoted time and resources to putting research and information on the streets—in front of real people who usually don’t understand how public policy and politics affects their daily lives.
The hard Left has adopted a deranged definition of the Overton Window. They incorrectly charge Joe and the rest of us with executing a concept that manipulates the extremes of the range to serve our own interests. I think they confused their own tactical ops plan with ours.
After Joe died in 2003, his colleague and now President of the Mackinac Center, Joe Lehman, created his own excellent presentation around this idea. He called it the Overton Window. (If you watch Beck’s TV program or listen to his radio show, you will see or hear Lehman a couple of times in the near future.) He notes that "politicians typically don’t determine what is politically acceptable as much as they react to it and validate it… The window presents a menu of policy choices to politicians: Relatively safe choices are inside the window, and relatively risky or radical choices are outside the window."
It’s why we do not presume that lawmakers will adopt a good policy just because they know about it. Instead we work to turn those ideas into everyday conversation; it is why we educate and inform the public about policy and what is happening at the NC legislature and in North Carolina.
It is hard work, and we have to reach a lot of people to succeed. But the number of voters and households we reach is growing rapidly. We now reach hundreds of thousands of voters and households each month.
Underneath it all, however, are the donors and investors who have made this possible. Thank you very much! With your continued support, we will make big strides forward in today’s tumultuous political and economic climate. There is a struggle to see which ideology will win the struggle for the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans. Let it be the one that embraces liberty, responsibility and lives of opportunity for all of us!
Francis X. De Luca