"The iron law of emulation" says that both sides in a conflict come to resemble each other in certain ways. As I have explained elsewhere, the "iron law" applies well to campaign finance.
It all started with their backs against the wall in 2004. "There was an early sense about that campaign that Democrats came out with a lot of work to do," says Derek Chollet, who at the time was Sen. John Edwards's foreign policy adviser and is now Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's assistant secretary for international security affairs—one of the most important policy posts in the Pentagon.
It was a tough time to be a national security liberal, but Chollet was intrigued when two young and eager wonks showed up at his doorstep. "I remember, in spring of 2004, I was in Edwards's office, and Matt and Rachel came to see me," he says. Rachel Kleinfeld and Matt Spence were starting a new organization—the Truman National Security Project—that they hoped would prepare foreign policy progressives to someday govern again.
Today, Kleinfeld—proud Alaskan, Yale alum, Rhodes scholar—is president emeritus of Truman. She's also a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a member of the State Department's Foreign Affairs Policy Board. Spence is a deputy assistant Defense secretary running the Pentagon's Middle East policy shop.
"We started with $3,000 of my money," remembers Kleinfeld. The aim was to create an organization of true believers that its members could rely on for a lifetime. "We learned that, frankly, from the Republicans," she says. "We looked at other successful movements that had made change in American politics, and the neocons, while we disagreed with their belief set, had been very successful. And we saw how they had formed a community that had started while many of them were in grad school and lasted through the rest of their lives, and that's what we were trying to recreate."