He may very well be the reason that you are a conservative.
But you would never know it.
On Friday, a man by the name of Arthur Finkelstein passed away at the age of 72. There were no hashtags breaking the news. Although his name is not recognized by the general public, he was known to be a commanding force in political circles. As The National Review put it “those who matter in politics are familiar with Arthur, but no one beyond that…”
If you, like many of our readers, adhere to the values of the great Ronald Reagan, you have Finkelstein to thank. As The Washington Post reports “Mr. Finkelstein was credited with helping raise Ronald Reagan’s national profile…”
Not bound by presidential politics (he also helped Richard Nixon), Finkelstein “helped propel the careers of Republican senators such as James L. Buckley (N.Y.), Jesse Helms (N.C.), Orrin G. Hatch (Utah)…” He was additionally credited for the unlikely come-from-behind victories of New York Governor George Pataki and New York Senator Al D’Amato.
Not content, further, with spreading the conservative movement domestically, Finkelstein brought his political expertise abroad when he helped ensure the electoral victories of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The New York Times says Finkelstein “revolutionized campaign polling,” and even went as far to say that, “the numbers spoke to him.”
Towards the end of Arthur’s life, The National Review wrote that Finkelstein was “the most ethical and most successful political consultant and pollster in the history of American politics.”
People close to Finkelstein differ on why he was constantly out of the limelight.
CNN once reported that Finkelstein was “the stuff of Hollywood: A man who can topple even the most powerful foes, yet so secretive that few have ever seen him.”
Politico argues that Finkelstein “did not like the press… he was never comfortable with the limelight.”
But if you asked Arthur himself he was once proclaimed:
“I think I’m the playwright or the director, and not the actor … And the actors need to be onstage, not the director. And I think it’s absurd that people who do what I do become as important, as celebrated, as the ones who are running.”
His success, despite not being well known, speaks for itself. And that was the way he liked it.
It was also known that “Arthur’s kids … knew and understood politics better than anyone else.” It is clear to me, having worked with some of his former colleagues, that Finkelstein’s intellect influenced –not only his family — but all of those around him.
Bruce Backman, a New York City political operative who worked on multiple campaigns with Finkelstein, was a product of this influence.
“Arthur was truly the best, any opportunity to work with him or even simply speak with him was a privilege… He understood people and politics in a way that was so profound and yet so simple. Despite all that he was the most humble and modest person imaginable.”
Mollie Fullington, a marvelously successful political press secretary, also reminisced fondly on her experiences with Finkelstein.
“Arthur was a giant. He played the game of politics on a different plane than most of us. But the man behind the mysterious persona, to my mind, was also kind and funny and gentle and unfailingly loyal. It was these qualities in combination that set him apart from so many other people in this business. Anyone who had an opportunity to know him – even a little bit -was blessed by his humanity as much as anything else.”
While there seem to be countless of political operatives willing to comment on – and finally reveal – Finkelstein’s genius, I’ll conclude with this one from Chris Larson who worked for Finkelstein in the US, Eastern Europe, and Africa.
“The education that Arthur imparted on me built a foundation that informs and impacts my decision-making process every day.”
It was told to me, time and again, that I needed to meet Arthur in order witness his brilliance for myself. I, unfortunately, never got the chance to do that.
But having worked with and learned from the three aforementioned operatives, and hearing them quote him time and again, it seemed fitting to write this article. In memorandum, yes, but also in gratitude. If he played the role in turning these political masterminds into the people they are today, he influences me as well.
I spent a lot of time – this summer especially – inhaling the guidance of those three people and they have become mentors to me and have taught me everything I know about practical politics.
And just as the conservative movement benefits from Arthur Finkelstein daily, much of it without knowledge of his very existence. I benefit from his wisdom in my political endeavors without ever having met him through a trickle-down effect.
Many of us young conservatives believe in what Arthur pioneered without knowledge of what he did to progress the movement. No more.
Vincent Van Gogh, Emily Dickenson, Franz Kafka. All artists who died prior to becoming household names.
Based on his resume and the eyewitness accounts it seems to me that Arthur Finkelstein was a political artist. And now, after his death, perhaps he will receive the credit he always deserved – but seemingly never wanted.
So thank you Arthur. A mentor to my mentors.
A true legend, indeed.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.