Missionaries for Democracy

Fanning out over the globe to the far-flung backwaters of Azerbaijan and the jungles of Zimbabwe, a modern-day group of missionaries has been spreading the gospel of democracy. Inflamed with the zeal of Jesuits preaching the Good Book to wild Indians, these latter-day saints worship at the altar of pluralism, free elections, and human rights, believing a universal Bill of Rights and the ballot box are the road map and gateway to political salvation. Their mission is to convert the politically unwashed, and they believe recent world events prove that the masses are ready to gather with the saints at the river.

Meet the National Endowment for Democracy. Though created by an act of Congress in 1983 "to strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts," Congressman Dante Fascell had been stumping for such an organization for two decades. The idea was to replace the CIA' s disbanded covert effort to fund publications and political movements abroad, which was a worthy endeavor, but one that he thought must be pursued openly. Despite Fascell's best efforts, including congressional hearings on the subject, the idea for a democracy endowment didn't attract much political support until a meeting of what became its patrimonial triumvirate: Senator Orrin Hatch; the AFL-CIO's long-time anticommunist foreign minister, Irving Brown; and its president, Lane Kirkland.

At a meeting...

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