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The Market for Progressive Groups and Websites

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Don Smith       (Page 2 of 2 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink    (# of views)   11 comments

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But because of the competition among advocacy groups, the Left is weak and inefficient. Nationally, corporations and the rich have effectively taken over the reins of power. On the left, power is too diffuse to be effective. There's duplication of infrastructure (e.g., websites), There's competition for funding. There's competition for readership at blogs and websites.

There's a trade-off between effectiveness and egalitarianism. A highly egalitarian movement is diffuse, with multiple foci of power. It's less corruptible, and people feel they have a say. Such a movement is likely to lack direction and leadership.

Sure, you don't want too much concentration of power in the hands of any one group. But you want some coordination and leadership. Likewise, nothing much gets done without charismatic leaders.

One often hears it said that organizing progressives is like herding cats -- that progressives are hesitant to follow leaders. But it's also true that progressives are looking for a strong leader. In 2008, Barack Obama filled the role of the charismatic leader (a pied piper) who inspired progressives with his talk of change. In 2004 it was Howard Dean that provided that leadership. In 2000 maybe it was Ralph Nader.

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So progressives are like cats but they are also like sheep. They will follow effective, inspiring leaders.

Perhaps the Left should agree to concentrate power in fewer groups, even if this means that the movement is less democratic and more vulnerable to power-grabbing by the few.

Alternatively, perhaps leftists should encourage closer coordination among existing groups, so that they can be more effective and less dependent on corporations and on wealthy benefactors to fund their endeavors. (Consider the sale of HuffPost to AOL, which many progressives suspect is a sell-out analogous to the sellout-by Dick Gephardt.)

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With concentrated power, there needs to be some form of democratic decision making. MoveOn, for example, polls its members to decide supposedly on which issues to work on. When groups get as large and as centralized as MoveOn, it's difficult to feel that one has much say, and often one finds oneself frustrated by the inaccessibility of the leadership.

PDA recently announced its intention to build a community website for lefties (See this article.). "We want to elevate the site so it becomes a community bulletin board for the entire progressive community." Good luck, one thinks. Every group wants to own the web. Websites such as OpEdNews, TruthOut, TruthDig, CommonDreams, DailyKos, and HuffPost cross-post many articles but also compete for market share. And I see competition among lefty groups locally, as described here.

In short, my aim in this article has been to suggest an alternative to market-based progressive activism. I'm suggesting that out of self-interest, the left will come together and better organize and coordinate its (online) infrastructure. It needn't mean ceding power to a monolithic national organization. It just means sharing links and some content and some editorial control. (Many lefty websites already cross-post some content.) Everyone wants to own the web. That's not the way progressives should do things. They should cooperate. This is hard to do nationally, but perhaps it's easier to do locally. Hence my proposal for organizing Washington State leftists: How the Left can better market its message.

The key is that people need to be willing to share power and editorial control.

If things get bad enough, maybe people on the left will come together, out of necessity.

Perhaps this is all a quixotic fantasy and progressivism is doomed.  Even if the Left coordinates better, will it ever be anything more than a limited echo chamber?   And if it does gain market share and affect the wider public, as Huff Post did, perhaps it will end up being sold to a corporate interest.

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DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See http://WALiberals.org and http://TruthSite.org for my writing, my (more...)
 

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