Much of my writing at MyDD has centered around a somewhat nebulous concept known as "the progressive movement." Sometimes, people mistake the progressive movement for the progressive netroots, even though the netroots are simply the subset of a much broader whole. Stretching beyond merely the progressive netroots or the progressive blogosphere (which is itself a subset of the progressive netroots), beyond new progressive media such as Air America, beyond merely the Democratic Party (or at least certain elected officials, consultants and members of the Party), and beyond the extensive ecosystem of progressive advocacy organizations, the progressive movement refers to something much larger. In addition to overtly political and media-oriented work conducted with progressive interests in mind, the progressive movement is also part of a social movement. It is connected to the growing dominance of "creative class" values within much of American culture, and to the rise of a new structure of the public sphere based not on mass membership institutions but upon self-starting, micro-targeted social networking. Contemporary progressivism has become more than just about our political beliefs, but also about the way we conduct many other aspects of our daily lives. In fact, it is pretty safe to argue that is the increasing prominence of progressive values in our everyday lives--how we work, how we meet new people, how we shop, and how we re-create ourselves on a regular basis--that jumpstarted the political side of the progressive movement, rather than the other way around.
Within the progressive movement, there is probably no organization that better represents the connection between a progressive lifestyle and progressive politics than Living Liberally. This is an organization that helps progressives and liberals connect with one another in a variety of ways that, while not overtly political, often have positive repercussions for progressive politics. By bringing progressives together to drink, laugh, watch movies, eat dinner, discuss books, and many other activities, Living Liberally provides social depth to gatherings of like-minded lefties. In my personal experience semi-regularly attending a Philadelphia chapter of Drinking Liberally, one of Living Liberally's main projects, our gatherings have often led both a great deal of relaxed, non-political discussion as well as to frequent networking with local progressive activists, candidates, and political professionals. In fact, because of the rapid expansion of Drinking Liberally, even when I am traveling, I always can find new friends and fellow activists.
Today, Drinking Liberally reached a major milestone. With the arrival of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, the Drinking Liberally map has hit 200 chapters across the country. While beer companies should rejoice that more Americans are promoting democracy one pint at a time, it's the progressive movement that has cause to celebrate. With every new social club, Drinking Liberally, and its umbrella organization Living Liberally, are building a community that energizes and expands Liberal and Progressive America.
For the past three-and-a-half years, as it has grown city-by-city through local organizers, word-of-mouth and blog-fueled buzz, Drinking Liberally has never been about the "drinking." These progressive social clubs provide a regular (some are weekly, some monthly), welcoming, informal (a number have guest speakers, but most are more conversational) destination, in which newcomers can engage, activists can connect, and everyone can make progressive politics part of their every day lives. And that's taken different shapes around the country:
- In Reading, PA, Drinking Liberally is about hosting 100 activists to meet grassroot candidates before the '06 election
- In Gooding, ID, Drinking Liberally is about defending the word "liberal" from libelous attacks in the local newspaper
- In Natchez, MS, Drinking Liberally is about finding a bar where black and white patrons feel comfortable attending together
- In Louisville, KY, Drinking Liberally is about building a network that pledged thousands of dollars to local public radio.
Our movement is still young. We are developing a communications engine, a new Democratic Party, new ways of raising money, a network of think-tanks, a host of leadership institutes and new public officials. However, no movement succeeds without a cultural level. Living Liberally is the social community infrastructure of our movement, and every new chapter of Drinking Liberally expands that community. Visit a local chapter, or start one if you don't have one. Also, throw them a few bucks. Help promote democracy one pint at a time.