...this being my modest contribution to the post-2014-midterms discussions...
I feel we haven't quite come to terms with our site's collective, colossal failure in its main declared mission. It is not so much the 2014 results themselves, as the manner in which they came to be.
I don't mean to discourage - rather to the contrary. I am calling for change, and I think we are fully capable of successful change, once we admit the problem and agree to solve it.
Let begin by using Kos' own words in a mass email we all just received:
I started Daily Kos 12 years ago and it’s amazing how far it’s come. We are the largest progressive political news publication in the country, with more than seven million unique readers every month. We have more than 1.7 million email subscribers and 640,000 Facebook fans. Combined, these audiences give us a deeper reach into the progressive movement than any other organization except for the Democratic Party itself.
...When CNN says Daily Kos was the catalyst for filibuster reform that led to a record-breaking number of President Obama's judicial nominees being confirmed, you made that happen. When we make 1.5 million phone calls to help turn out the vote, you made that happen. When President Obama came out in favor real Net Neutrality and an open Internet not controlled by Big Telecom, you made that happen.
IOW, we have become a major national player on the left side of partisan politics.
So how is it, that we don't even know why so many of our sistren and brethren - precisely those key Democratic constituencies whom we keep claiming to know better than the hapless Beltway -
...In Kos' words again...
We’re a grassroots enterprise, and community support is vital to our operations.
...Money aside, how can we claim to be "grassroots" and clamour for "community support" as "vital", when after 6 full-steam hyperventilated election cycles we don't know even what would make a vast chunk of our community show up and vote?
Nor do we seem to have any game plan for, or place any emphasis on, figuring this out, apart from the kneejerk phone-banking and door-knocking come election time.
I've read many theories and speculations here why progressive-friendly constituencies didn't show up on Nov. 4 2014. Sorry, nothing even remotely resembling hard, proven grassroots knowledge of W the F is going on. But knowing what's going on, in this particular game, is precisely the job title we have claimed for ourselves.
If after a decade-plus hyper-focusing on electoral politics, we are so clueless, then we need to change things. That's the meaning of the "grassroots, reality-based" labels we lay claims to.
My suggestion: expand the site's official goals.
Don't focus narrowly on elections and on lobbying the various branches of government, which is what Daily Kos Action is almost solely immersed in. Rather, invest heavily in the broadest possible community outreach, day in day out.
The big glaring gap in our political terrain is not between us and the crazies of right-wing sites. It is between us and apolitical, apathetic people who nevertheless share our values and our overall world-view - but don't care to vote, save for every other Presidential election at best. Collectively, we don't really get them. Otherwise we'd already have found a way to bring them to the polls.
In addition, put issue activism front and center.
Unlike the winner-takes-all-only-to-disappoint-those-who-elected-him nature of elections, issue activism builds gradually until - when issues are chosen right and activism is done right - it becomes an unstoppable force.
That's what happened with Civil Rights. That's what happened with first-wave environmentalism. That's what is happening before our eyes with minimum wage, global-warming activism, LGBT rights, etc. etc.
When issue activism is done right, it is the politicians who eventually fall over each other to be the first one riding the bandwagon. Rather than trail after them like political beggars with so many online petitions whose success rate wouldn't get us into the minor league benches, let us organize - and join - some direct, bottom-up issue activism that sticks.
The issues I named a few lines above are all very popular here. Diaries about them easily make the rec list; Front Page often mentions them too. But grassroots organizing around them is not part of the site mission, and it shows. And it makes the site a bit pettier than we really are as a community, a bit less great than we could be. Daily Kos as it is currently structured, is a spectator in the big fights over the issues themselves, and a player in the circus of partisan politics.
We can do better. Far better.
I summarize my plea: let us continue to work on electing more and better Democrats. But at the same time, 1. Expand the site's mission so that it explicitly includes effective outreach to disaffected communities that tend to support progressive politics - not just during campaign season! - and 2. Also explicitly include issue activism on progressive causes, as a main vehicle to directly transform America (and the world) for the better.
Unless I am much mistaken, such broader more community-focused and issue-driven organizing, will end up paying dividends at the polls too.
I'm not good in catch-phrases and slogans. However people want to name the expanded mission, is fine with me. But please let's do it.
Thank you for reading. Awaiting your thoughts...