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January 9, 2006

The Nose Points Toward The Paycheck

-- by Dave Johnson

Daily Kos: Crashing the Gate Excerpt: Psychic Income. Go read it.

You can make a living being a conservative. In fact, the pay is so good that they can compete with business for the best talent. There are plenty of talented conservatives who don't buy into the whole thing, and are there just to make a living. As I've said before, that doesn't say good things about the content of their character, but a lot of them do good work, and they are beating the pants off of us.

The first topic at any gathering of progressives (and bloggers) is where will the money come from and where will the participants find the time away from their day jobs to help the project. There are some well-funded progressive organizations but their entire schtick is about keeping their funding sources, not about how to be effective and help the overall progressive cause. And they all largely speak only to their own funding base, not to the public-at-large. So over time support from the public-at-large necessarily erodes. How much good do you think the big environmental organizations are doing for the environment these days? And to top it off, the funding shortage causes tremendous turf wars -- pretty much every progressive-oriented organization leadership acts as though they believe all money is either/or -- that any money going to any other progressive organization is money they should be getting instead.

Meanwhile right-wing funders "get it." They provide huge multi-year general operating grants to organizations that do nothing BUT ideological advocacy PR. So these organizations are out there every single day talking about how conservatives are good, conservative ideas are good, and progressives and their ideas are bad. The same message, repeated over and over again, 100 different ways, from hundreds of well-funded PR organizations, and the country is pushed ever more to the right.

Who is to blame? First, the big funders and the funding system. But there is a story behind how it got to be this way. Part of it is that has been a long-term ongoing strategic "defunding" campaign to intimidate the big philanthropic foundations away from giving money to organizations that might actually fight back against the "conservative movement." Go to anyone who works at one of the foundations and say the word "advocacy" and see how fast they run away. Or say "general operating expenses" and see the reaction (hint: duck). Just go to their websites and look at their grantmaking statements. It's the opposite of the situation on the Right.

But let me add that I think Progressives in general are also at fault. Giving to organizations is NOT a core Progressive value, but it certainly should be. Let me explain. Howard Dean demonstrated the power of lots of people giving money. He showed that this people-power can overcome the power of the moneyed interests. But actually, Dean raised around $50 million in average donations of about $80. ONLY 625,000 PEOPLE GAVE MONEY TO DEAN. And $80 is hardly "giving till it hurts." Progressives are cheap.

What do you think would happen to the direction America is taking if 6 million Progressives gave only $100 a year to build organizations designed to fight back against the Right? The Right's funding is about $400 million a year for this purpose, and THEY have the difficult task of persuading blue-collar workers to give up their pensions so some rich fuck can buy a bigger private jet! Imagine what would happen if we could convince Progressive to actually donate money!

Posted by Dave Johnson at January 9, 2006 5:15 PM

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Comments

david, are there ANY organizations that TODAY really doing what you suggest?

Posted by: selise at January 9, 2006 8:03 PM

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