Robert Borosage was born in Ohio in 1945 and was raised in Michigan by middle-class parents who were relatively conservative in their politics. He started college in the early 1960s and quickly became immersed in the radical politics of the time. He went on to earn a BA in political science from Michigan State University in 1966, a Master’s Degree in international affairs from George Washington University in 1968, and a JD from Yale Law School in 1971.
Borosage then practiced law until 1974, at which time he helped found the Center for National Security Studies, an Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) spinoff that opposed American foreign policy and the CIA, and whose purpose was to compromise the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence agencies.
In 1979 Borosage became director of the Institute for Policy Studies, a position he held until 1988. He continues to serve on the IPS Board of Trustees to this day (as of November 2021).
In April 1982, Borosage was part of an IPS-sponsored delegation that visited Moscow to meet with high-level Soviet officials who were responsible for disseminating disinformation and propaganda for American consumption. In media interviews around that time, Borosage floated a number of carefully crafted falsehoods, such as: (a) that the Soviet Union was satisfied to have achieved “rough parity” between its own military and America’s; (b) that a provocative Reagan Administration was eager to restart the U.S.-Soviet arms race; and (c) that the modern U.S. weapons that Reagan proposed for deployment “would lead to much more dangerous stages that would make both sides insecure, not more secure.”
In 1984, IPS fellow Roger Wilkins recruited Borosage to work on Jesse Jackson‘s first presidential campaign. Four years later, Borosage left IPS to serve as a speechwriter and senior issues advisor to Jackson’s second White House bid. “He was without question one of the most brilliant men I have ever worked with,” Borosage would later say of Jackson.
In 1989 as well, Borosage founded the Campaign for New Priorities, which called for massive cuts in U.S. military expenditures on the premise that “military dollars” were “no longer needed now that the Soviet Union has collapsed.” In February 1991, Borosage attributed America’s high levels of defense spending to its desire for worldwide domination and its quest to avert “the threat of peace.”
In 1996, Borosage and Roger Hickey co-founded the Campaign for America’s Future (CAF), where they have served as co-directors ever since. (To view a list of additional key figures who also played a role in launching CAF, click here.)
In 2002, Borosage led the production of CAF’s book StraightTalk 2002, which provided readers with leftist talking points that, by Borosage’s telling, “would help mobilize the Democratic base—unions, African Americans, Hispanics, women, environmentalists—while reaching out to seniors and working families.”
In a November 2002 L.A. Weekly article, Borosage was quoted as having recently said: “[H]istory shows that protests are organized first by militant, radical fringe parties and then get taken over by more centrist voices as the movement grows. They provide a vessel for people who want to protest.”
In 2004, Borosage, Joel Rogers, and environmentalist Dan Carol approached United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard and SEIU president Andrew Stern, among others, to propose the creation of a new coalition of labor unions, environmental groups, and social justice organizations. This eventually resulted in the 2007 founding of the Apollo Alliance, where Borosage served as a board member.
In February 2005, Borosage condemned President George W. Bush’s most recent budget as one that: “offends common decency”; “cuts investment in our future”; “hurt[s] the most vulnerable in our country”; “extend[s] tax cuts for the very wealthy, even as it cuts services for the many”; and short-changed “our schools,” the “health care system,” food stamp recipients, “child care for thousands of poor working mothers,” and “affordable housing” programs. Complaining that America “spends almost as much on its military as the rest of the world combined,” Borosage lamented that “[t]he wealthy capture more of the nation’s income and wealth, while middle-income and poor families are losing ground.”
In December 2006 — a month after Democrats had seized control of Congress on Election Day — Borosage co-chaired the initial meeting of Change America Now, a newly created national campaign of some 30 leftist organizations supporting the “100 Hour” legislative agenda outlined by the victorious party’s leadership. Celebrating the fact that Democrats had run “the most populist elections in memory,” Borosage lauded the party for “railing against the drug and oil lobbies,” and for “indicting failed trade policies that are shipping jobs abroad and undermining wages at home.” “We need to make sure the Democrats deliver on their promises, and that the 100 Hours Agenda is just the first step in creating an economy that works for working people,” he said.
On November 29, 2006, Borosage participated in an Open Society Institute roundtable discussion entitled “How Do Progressives Connect Ideas to Action?” Other participants included Deepak Bhargava, Rosa Brooks, Anna Burger, Eric Foner, John Podesta, Joel Rogers, and Katrina vanden Heuvel.
In 2010, Borosage sat on the national advisory board of the Roosevelt Institute, an organization “devoted to carrying forward the legacy and values of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt by developing progressive ideas and bold leadership….” Fellow board members included Patricia Bauman, Rosa DeLauro, John Podesta, Robert Reich, Simon Rosenberg, Rob Stein, and Katrina vanden Heuvel, among others.
In October 2011 in Washington, D.C., Borosage was one of the 158 speakers who addressed that year’s Take Back the American Dream Conference co-hosted by the Institute for Policy Studies and the Campaign for America’s Future.
During President Barack Obama‘s first term in office, Borosage proudly noted that he (Borosage) himself, years earlier, had helped to nurture the budding activist career of Van Jones, the revolutionary communist who served a stint as Obama’s “Green Jobs Czar.” “I think he is an enormously talented young man with enormous leadership potential. So I’ve been a big booster of his,” said Borosage.
On February 22, 2012, the Moscow-funded propaganda television network Russia Today aired a special program titled “National Teach-In to Take Back the American Dream,” which featured Borosage, Robert Reich, and a handful of other leftists.
In March 2012, Borosage co-hosted a fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, held at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers headquarters in Boston. Among the other co-hosts were Paul Booth and Mike Lux.
In a November 2012 piece in the Huffington Post, Borosage defended the use of class warfare as an effective political strategy, writing: “For years, conservatives in both parties have warned against class warfare. Americans, we’re told, don’t like that divisiveness. Nonsense.”
Also in 2012, Borosage’s CAF launched a new website called WageClassWar.org, where Borosage posted a piece that: (a) derided Republicans as a “stale, male, pale, Southern-based party in a nation of diversity”; (b) extolled the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement for “driving America’s extreme inequality and rigged system into the debate”; (c) lauded Barack Obama‘s defense of “contraception [coverage] and pay equity” for women; (d) charged that “the harsh anti-immigrant posturing” of Republicans “drove Hispanics and Asians into Democratic arms”; and (e) praised such political candidates as Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, Barack Obama, and Elizabeth Warren for skillfully using “class warfare” to their advantage.
Borosage has written widely on political, economic, and national security issues. Among other things, he has been a contributing editor at The Nation magazine; has blogged frequently on the Huffington Post; has edited CAF’s Making Sense issues guides; and has been a regular contributor to The American Prospect.
At one time, Borosage was an adjunct professor at American University’s Washington School of Law.
Borosage has personally made campaign contributions to a number of congressional candidates, most of them Democrats, including Jesse Jackson, Jr. Donna Edwards, Barack Obama, Jamie Raskin, and Paul Wellstone. He also has given money to the Progressive Majority and 21st Century Democrats.
Borosage has authored, co-authored, or co-edited several books — The Lawless State: The Crimes of the U. S. Intelligence Agencies (co-authored with Morton Halperin, Jerry Berman, and Christine Marwick, 1976); The CIA File (co-authored with John Marks, 1980); The Next Agenda: Blueprint for a New Progressive Movement (co-edited with Roger Hickey, 2001 and 2019); Taking Back America: And Taking Down the Radical Right (co-edited with Katrina vanden Heuvel, 2004); and American Dreamers: Reality and Imagination Contemporary Art (2012).
The Left’s Answer to Grover Norquist: Robert Borosage Uses Class-Warfare Rhetoric to Unite the Left
By Sean Higgins
March 7, 2013