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Let me introduce you to The Blue Tiger Democrats.

This is an organization dedicated to building the Democratic Party through civic engagement and community participation. Essentially, through programs that deal with people's specific needs in their communities and involving the party to address those needs. To make the the party matter in people's lives by solving community problems.

From their web site:

Blue Tiger Democrats believe that civic engagement must be the first and foremost priority of local Democratic and Progressive organizations across the country.

We advocate channeling the massive volunteerism seen during the 2004 election and recent periods of crisis towards civic engagement just as Democrats did historically from the mid 1800s through World War II.

Far too much Progressive political giving goes to funding 30-second commercials.

Our mission is to encourage you to invest a portion of your funds in strengthening the roots of party organizations at the local level through civic engagement.

By performing civic engagement, local party organizations will regain respect in their communities and therefore be able to play a larger role in vetting and grooming new Democratic candidates and workers.

The founder of the BTD is Bill Samuels, a great guy who is dedicated to creating a new paradigm for political involvement. I've met with Bill many times, and his energy for this cause is contagious.

His screen name is, oddly enough, BlueTigerDem. He is presently helping the New York State DSCC win the NYS Senate for the Democratic Party.

Since he recently signed up, he can't post, but he has written a piece I'd like to share with you.

Snarky warning...the piece mentions me as well as our campaign heavily, but I happen to believe in the logic behind the mentions. I would have posted this had it not involved the Keeler2006 campaign.

Progressives: Coming in from the cold

The debate about the meaning of the LamontLieberman Democratic primary fight missed the point.

On the right, conservative columnist David Brooks of the New York Times incorrectly likened Ned Lamont's challenge to Lieberman as no less than a "liberal inquisition" to reinforce a notion that Democrats are in continual disarray.

Conversely, Liberal commentators held up the Lamont candidacy as a manifestation of the long simmering backlash against the Democratic Senators who voted in favor of the war in Iraq. This too is basically an incorrect reading of the current situation.

In reality, the Lamont candidacy is signaling something far more important for the Democratic Party.

Lamont's candidacy is an indicator of a homecoming for "progressives" as they return to work within the Democratic Party at the local level versus criticizing it from the outside.

The fact that Lieberman has now chosen to run as an independent signals his complete lack of understanding of how important people feel it is to make the Democratic party relevant again, a party that stands up strongly against the Republicans on an array of issues, not just the war. In short, Lieberman is out and the progressives are moving back in.

This is not just occurring in Connecticut. For example, in a lower profile, but important race across the border in upstate New York, progressive Democrat Brian Keeler's campaign for State Senate is gaining momentum both on and offline. Last month, Keeler raised more than $10,000 online in a single fundraiser. Since announcing his candidacy last May, Keeler has raised money from more than 500 small donors; a good deal of it online. Keeler, who is a well-known progressive in the Netroots community, like Lamont represents a growing cadre of progressive and liberal candidates who have decided to rejoin the Party at the local level.

Over the years, the word "Progressive" has come to represent activists who are uncomfortable identifying and associating with the Democratic party. Lamont and Keeler are examples of progressives moving from criticizing the Democratic Party from the outside, to rejoining it and running for office.  

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Democratic Party was hot and activists debated and fought within the party over priorities such as the Vietnam War, civil rights, the environment and women's rights.  By 2000 the same issue oriented activists were working outside the party rather than within it. This was problem was exacerbated by McCain-Feingold, which forced activists to find alternative methods of financing outside of the party. The party literally could not coordinate with "progressives". This has moved energy away from the party structure, creating a larger chasm between voters and local Democratic organizations, once the backbone of the party.

By 2004, this started to change. When the history books are written, the most important thing to come out of the 2004 election will be the approximately $170 million online by Democrats within the party at low dollar increments, signaling a promising shift away from the high dollar donors who have for so long dominated Democratic politics. This was clean money. These contributors were not looking for a seat at the table, they were looking to change the table itself.

Now, two years later, active progressives are still raising funds within the party. Politicians at every level are embracing the power of small dollar fundraising. According to a recent piece in the Washington Post, "In 2002 at this point in the election, the DCCC had raised $6.5 million from donors who gave less than $200." This year, the DCCC tripled those donations to nearly $21 million. The other Democratic fundraising apparatuses are having similar experiences.

Lamont, Keeler and the other progressive candidates who are running for office at many levels will be measured not only in their performance at the ballot box, but in the profound effects they have had in bringing their fellow progressives home to the Democratic Party where they belong. The goal of this progressive movement into the Democratic Party is to increase the party's relevance.

With Lieberman running as an independent, he again misses the big picture as he did when he aligned himself too closely to the Republicans on the war and other issues. Lamont has won the Connecticut primary. He should be supported by all Democrats, because the most important goal is to bring independents and progressives back to the Democratic party.

You'll be seeing more about the Blue Tigers in the future. I hope you can support the effort and give Bill a listen.

My Best, Brian

Originally posted to NYBri Report on Thu Aug 17, 2006 at 12:32 PM PDT.

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