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April 21, 2008

Funding Progressives Long Term

-- by Dave Johnson

On a day when Barack Obama is raising $1 million in a single minute the Rockridge Institute announces it is closing its doors because it cannot find funding.

You can read their message here. Excerpt:

The progressive infrastructure built so far does not include a cognitive infrastructure. It has not tackled the Big Job--reversing the dominance of conservative Big Ideas in public life. Policy institutes do not address cognitive policy--the ideas and values that have to structure the public mind in order for nuts-and-bolts progressive policy to be accepted as just common sense.

When Rockridge started on its mission, we knew there were huge hurdles -- not just from the Right, but within the progressive community itself.
• The Progressive Funding Problem: The 1997 Covington Report [Sally Covington, Moving a Public Policy Agenda: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations] observed that conservative foundations tend to give large, multi-year block grants to promote conservatism in general. By contrast, progressive foundations tend to give small grants for a short time over a short list of specific issue areas. This results in small nonprofits having to constantly spend a lot of time and effort raising money, and all too often failing to raise enough.

When my mood improves I'll try to have more to say on this.

Update - In a post titled "Messiah Candidate Thinking" (no it wasn't about Obama, it was about Gore) I wrote,

I don't think that one person or one election is going to lead us out of the wilderness. I think there is a lot of work required before progressives can win again and turn America in a progressive direction.

. . . This right-wing assault has eroded the public's understanding of (and belief in) democracy and community. It has even eroded understanding of - and faith in - science and reason! So I think there is a lot of work that has to be done to bring things back. We have to spend the money and do the work and take the time to build the think tanks and communications organizations (like Commonweal Institute) that will reach the public and explain and promote the benefits of progressive values and a progressive approach to issues. Over time this effort will restore public demand for progressive candidates.

Messiah-Candidate Thinking is a way to avoid facing the changes that have occurred in America. It is a way to put off the work that needs to be done.

Obama is great, but the groundwork has to be in place if he is going to be able to get anything done. We have to fund that, too, and it si ALL OF OUR responsibility to do that.

Posted by Dave Johnson at April 21, 2008 9:09 AM

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Comments

Messiah Candidate thinking is actually non-progressive, because it's based on fantasy rather than facts. Progressives are supposed to value truth and a fact-based approach to problem-solving--aren't we supposed to be members of the "reality-based community"? It's ironic that left-of-center funders keep pouring money into Democratic candidates and party operations, without recognizing how much more effective their elected officials could be if they were able to depend upon an adequately funded progressive movement. A movement would have infrastructure organizations to provide the background policy research; develop the framing, narratives, and soundbites; engage the grassroots in pushing progressive perspectives and values; and move public opinion to be receptive to progressive solutions to the problems our society is facing. If Obama is elected president, he won't be able to make major changes all by himself. He's going to need LOTS of ORGANIZED support--a real progressive movement--in order to be able to make real change. His supporters should be tithing--$90 to the candidate, $10 to progressive infrastructure, or better yet, $900K to the candidate, $100K to infrastructure.

Posted by: KatherineForrest at April 21, 2008 3:21 PM

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