As an editor at the Free Press and then Doubleday, Bellow, son of the late novelist Saul Bellow, guided such provocative voices as Dinesh D’Souza (“Illiberal Education”), David Brock (“The Real Anita Hill”), Jonah Goldberg (“Liberal Fascism”), and Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein (“The Bell Curve”) to the top of the bestseller lists.
Now he thinks he can do the same with representatives from the tea party, the decentralized protest movement that has energized conservatives, dismayed liberals and spooked presidential candidates with its focus on free markets, limited government, fewer taxes and balanced budgets.
Bellow, 54, is editorial director of Broadside Books, HarperCollins’s conservative imprint, launched a year ago. Its mission, he says, is to “attack the intellectual roots of liberalism, and find and publish a lot of new thinking on the right.”
And it shouldn’t be hard, the New Yorker contends over coffee at the Metro Diner, a working person’s eatery at 100th and Broadway that is a favorite haunt. “There is zero fresh air coming from the left,” he says. “There is more genuine intellectual ferment on the right. Conservatives are better educated, if only to know what the left is saying and how to defend themselves.”
Some on the left might scoff. New Republic senior editor Timothy Noah, who has sparred with Bellow through columns and blogs over the years, says conservatism’s time is past. “Liberalism has more interesting ideas, mostly because it’s captured the center,” he says. “The tea party’s ideas occupy the fringe of American politics.”
But there’s no denying that, fringe or not, the tea party brought several dozen new members to Congress in 2010. Broadside is determined to capitalize on the trend. It is publishing a digital “Voices of the Tea Party” series: 3,000-to-5,000-word digital pamphlets, which sell for $1.99 and provide a platform for stories, idea sharing, public policy debates and new talent. There’s also a blog, an interactive Web site with free content, and a submission portal for would-be authors to send Broadside editors their work.
Most of the digital offerings from “Voices” are on ways to beat the system, or at least expose it. One author is Milton R. Wolf, a Kansas physician and distant cousin to President Obama who opposes his health-care plan. He wrote “First, Do No Harm.” Another is Dallas tea party leader Lorie Medina, who wrote “Community Organizing for Conservatives.”
Sales have been “modest,” Bellow says. The health-care pamphlet had been the best-selling, at 500 copies, until a satiric offering by Frank J. Fleming titled “Obama: The Greatest President in the History of Everything” sold 2,300 copies in its first week. Starting this month, Broadside will add longer works, called e-originals and running 20,000 to 30,000 words, to the series. First out of the blocks: “The New Quislings: How the International Left Used the Oslo Massacre to Silence Debate About Islam,” by Bruce Bawer.