I recently offered up an open letter to America’s progressive billionaires where I noted how much better conservatives have been historically at making best use of their intellectuals and at assuring that those laying the foundation for political action were taken care of. That is, the Daniel Bells of the world didn’t have to slave at two jobs to scrape together half a salary, and as a result they were able to do important work that paid off – and handsomely – for their patrons.
In truth, the problem runs deeper than just “our side’s” billionaires, or so it appears. It started the other day when some prominent Left Blogistanis decided they weren’t going to keep their mouths shut anymore. The first shot was fired in a Greg Sargent piece at Who Runs Gov:
Some of the leading liberal bloggers are privately furious with the major progressive groups — and in some cases, the Democratic Party committees — for failing to spend money advertising on their sites, even as these groups constantly ask the bloggers for free assistance in driving their message.
It’s a development that’s creating tensions on the left and raises questions about the future role of the blogosphere at a time when a Dem is in the White House and liberalism could be headed for a period of sustained ascendancy….
“They come to us, expecting us to give them free publicity, and we do, but it’s not a two way street,” Jane Hamsher, the founder of FiredogLake, said in an interview. “They won’t do anything in return. They’re not advertising with us. They’re not offering fellowships. They’re not doing anything to help financially, and people are growing increasingly resentful.”
Hamsher singled out Americans United for Change, which raises and spends big money on TV ad campaigns driving Obama’s agenda, as well as the constellation of groups associated with it, and the American Association of Retired Persons, also a big TV advertiser.
“Most want the easy way — having a big blogger promote their agenda,” adds Markos Moulitsas, the founder of DailyKos. “Then they turn around and spend $50K for a one-page ad in the New York Times or whatever.” Moulitsas adds that officials at such groups often do nothing to engage the sites’s audiences by, say, writing posts, instead wanting the bloggers to do everything for them.
At some point, Democrats – progressives – need to start investing in the future. And by “the future,” I don’t mean large organizations that have been around for years but haven’t accomplished anything in the past two decades. I mean investing in progressives who can kick ass, and have a proven ability to do so.
There is the perception on the right that all of the top liberal blogs are funded by George Soros. I wish. We, for example, are funded by advertising and by your individual donations. Both are dropping in a terrible economy. No one subsidizes my blog. I wish they did. But they don’t.
For our blog to survive – for the liberal blogosphere to survive – we need support. Unlike many of the top bloggers on the right, many of the top liberal bloggers blog for a living (many of the folks on the right have “real” jobs, a lot of them work as lawyers, and blog on the side). This is our job. It’s our career. It’s our passion, to be sure. But it’s also how we pay the mortgage, invest in our retirement, and put food on the table. It makes no sense that Democrats have not found a way to invest in the blogosphere, and help us not just survive, but grow and become even more powerful. It’s almost as if we don’t want to win.
These comments touched off some lively conversations – much of it behind the scenes – and I don’t think I’d be out of line to suggest that while there are nuances aplenty, the consensus is that yes, it sure would be nice if our brightest and best didn’t have to fight the war for America’s future in their spare time, what little of it there is.
The problem here isn’t quite the same as with my hypothetical legion of prog billionaires, though. To put it simply, I’m not sure the large organizations being railed at by Hamsher, Moulitsas, Aravosis and others see much practical value in advertising to the choir. If these groups were to take those bloggers and their readers for granted – where, after all, are they going to go? – it might be hard to argue with them. Maybe. Sure, those bloggers might not campaign for the individual causes in question, but their work on behalf of others who shared the same general mission would lift all the boats together, right? Whether this is accurate or not, it’s certainly a plausible hypothesis.
Would they go so far as to say that the enduring victories we’re after require us to win the hearts and minds of those not already firmly on our side? This is ShoutWorld, after all. If we were persuaded that supporting the faithful would pay off through their redoubled energy – a very solid proposition – that would change the equation. Still, we might find ourselves wondering about diminishing returns or the incremental value of spending on new markets instead of further saturating established ones.
Regardless, the behavior of those with money suggests that not all of them are worried about their intellectuals or their footsoldiers. And those being taken for granted are in a tough spot. You can make your point by withholding your time and effort next time around, but think about the price. Eight more years of whatever neo-Bushevik wins the 2012 GOP nomination isn’t just cutting off your nose to spite your face.
No, folks, that’s more like taking an assault rifle to your nards.