Trust, Legitimacy

The (self-)esteemed Pegasus Institute think tank presents itself as a credible authority on a range of issues. However, the dust-up over the most-recent protest outside of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s house proved one thing: The Pegasus Institute is more fraud tank than think tank.

One of the founders quit a city-sponsored panel designed to bring communities together because he didn’t like what another panel member had said during the McConnell protest.

Oh, the horror…

But let’s back up.

The protest outside McConnell’s house received national attention, primarily because of a viral recording of Black Lives Matter core organizer Chanelle Helm mocking Mitch’s shoulder injury by hoping he had suffered a worse injury. Helm should not have called for physical harm not only because it is wrong but also because it distracted from the issue she and others were protesting — McConnell’s obstruction of gun reform. It was bad tactically, too, because her comments have provided ammunition for the GOP, which weaponized this video — Gov. Matt Bevin used it to attack Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, and McConnell’s campaign spokesperson described the otherwise peaceful protesters as an “angry left-wing mob.”

Another character trying to capitalize off of Helm is Josh Crawford, cofounder of the Pegasus Institute. Jordan Harris, then 27, and Crawford, then 26, created it in 2016. At the time, they promised “data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility and effective, limited, and accountable government.”

Make no mistake, they come from the Libertarian, right-of-wacky side of the dial. The Courier Journal reported that Harris and Crawford were Young Republican chairs as undergrads at Penn State University, and Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese was listed as an academic adviser for the institute.

Perhaps most telling: Harris was a fellow at the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research in Boston and for the Charles Koch Institute in Washington, the CJ reported.

Some give Pegasus more deference than it is due. The CJ, for instance, has published…er, columns by Harris. Such nuggets as: “Universities to blame for opioid crisis and high out-of-wedlock births.” Yup. It included such head-scratchers as: “Perhaps what made the injection of postmodernism most damaging is the way it culturally codified the worst anti-bourgeois impulses of the 1960s and ‘70s. As is always the case, the resulting ideas slowly trickled out of the ivory tower and into America’s trailer parks and housing projects, leaving destruction in their wake.”

Or, there was: “The Green New Deal is really the ‘Green Scare’ over climate change,” in which he opines, “First, despite a great deal of exploration into the question, the contribution by humans cannot be effectively measured.”

These hot takes should make you wonder why anyone would care if Crawford left the Louisville Synergy Project, an initiative created by Fischer’s administration in June. It is modeled after one that Charleston, South Carolina established after the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church. The Synergy Project is “a community engagement initiative aimed at further strengthening police and community relationships grounded in trust and legitimacy,” its organizers say.

Trust. Legitimacy.

When Crawford heard Helm’s remarks about McConnell, he threw a hissy fit and declared he could not serve on the panel with her.

To be clear, Crawford and Helm were just two of more than 30 steering committee members.

He took his ball and went home.

Was he so offended by Helm’s words? Or, was he just trying to get his name in the paper for standing on some ill-contrived principle?

Nah, he wanted his name in the paper… plus some good, ol’ fashioned sucking up to the Republican establishment.

Crawford’s resignation is for the best, however.

Trust. Legitimacy.

You may not like Black Lives Matter or Helm’s tactics, but she has helped build and provide houses for families in need. She’s brought groups together to advocate for social and racial justice. She actually does stuff — not just bang away on a keyboard. Pegasus, on the other hand, has a blog on which it posts “white paper” research.

In the era of fake news and Donald Trump, trust and legitimacy are the most precious commodities — in politics, business, relationships…

We need credible leaders more than ever, not just some fancy name and a website.

Love her or hate her, Helm has more credibility than do Crawford and the Pegasus Institute.