Ted Halstead, an author and social entrepreneur who helped create Washington-based policy institutes that groomed a generation of public intellectuals and sought to redefine the middle of American politics to solve some of the country's most pressing challenges, died Sept. 2 in Spain. He was 52.
The cause was the impact of a fall while hiking alone in the mountains near Es Capdella, in Mallorca, according to his wife, Véronique Bardach. He was a resident of Boynton Beach, Fla.
Halstead established himself quickly as a social presence in Washington starting in the late 1990s. He arrived after having started an environmental think tank in San Francisco at 25 and propelled himself into the mediasphere with editorials, books and TV appearances.
The author and business executive Arianna Huffington as well as the foreign affairs scholar Walter Russell Mead were among those who used their influence to help advance his ideas and connect him with influential policymakers.
Halstead, who co-founded the nonpartisan New America Foundation (now New America) in 1999 and later the Climate Leadership Council, possessed a keen fundraising ability and unshakable belief that with enough persistence he could forge broad political alliances. Working on issues including health care, income inequality and climate change, he focused on forging "The Radical Center," as he put it in the title of one of his books.
Sherle Schwenninger, who helped start the New America Foundation with Mr. Halstead, Mead and Michael Lind (co-author in 2001 of "The Radical Center"), described this vision not as one "that split the difference between left and right" but as "a radical center that offered solutions to the big problems."
In the crowded Washington ideas industry, New America carved out space for young writers with new ideas. "The old think-tank models don't make sense anymore," Halstead told The Washington Post in 2001. "There's a new generation of aspiring public intellectuals who don't have easy entry into the world of ideas."
In starting New America, he received seed money from Bill Moyers, the longtime public affairs mandarin, and early contributions from Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and the MacArthur Foundation.
The group's work contributed to the policy architecture of the Affordable Care Act and pioneered ideas such as "baby bonds," a proposal to narrow the wealth gap by giving every American at birth a modest federal grant. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., campaigned in part on that idea as he ran for president this year.
New America's fellows went on to hold prominent positions in the nation's policy and media establishment.
Edward Allen Halstead was born in Chicago on July 25, 1968, and grew up in Brussels, where his father worked as a food industry consultant.