By my title, I mean that we have to provide a way to protect, nurture, and support -- and I mean financial support -- progressive voices. We have a few superstar bloggers, but I suspect that if lucky, they are making ends meet but not much more.
We are way behind the movement conservatives in this. They started systematically establishing a support/recruiting network back in the seventies, and now have a very comprehensive network. Hacks like Michelle Malkin, Bill Kristol, or Jonah Goldberg enjoy regular spots on TV, can always get their books published (no matter how stupid), and never have to worry about where their next paycheck is coming from. We need to start working for a similar network.
It's well documented in The Republican Noise Machine by David Brock, as well as numerous other books and articles. There is an organized conservative network that grooms and protects conservative spokesmen, so they can spend their time propagandizing, instead of worrying about making an honest living. Just think of all of them -- in addition to the ones I named, there is a seemingly endless supply of conservative "pundits" who know little or nothing about the substantive issues, who aren't even good at arguing, but who nevertheless are always on TV, radio, quoted in papers and magazines, regularly get books and articles published, and even get appointed to government positions far above their level of competence when a Republican administration is in power. This is not an accident. There are many conservative institutions that employ and promote these people, so they can spread their absurd positions. Think of a very partial list: The Heritage Foundation, The Cato Institute, The National Review, the Washington Times, the American Spectator, Fox News, The Independent Women's Forum, the Club for Growth, Accuracy in Media, American Conservative Union, National Taxpayers Union, The Christian Coalition, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Federalist Society, Pacific Legal Foundation, Operation Rescue . . . The list could go on and on.
We have nothing comparable. Yes, there are a few liberal or progressive organizations, but they don't have the funding these conservative groups do. More important, for the most part they are not about building a movement -- they are formed to focus on various issues, prepare academic studies, etc. The conservative groups go through the motions of the same types of activities, but their true focus is providing a congenial homes for conservative activists and Republican operatives.
I don't think we should emulate this entirely -- we are a reality based community and we wouldn't (and shouldn't) support baseless propaganda designed to sway the gullible. But we should try to create more of a safety net, so our movement can also have full-time spokesmen who become known to the public. Right now we are fighting the battle with at least one hand tied behind our back.
One obvious difficulty: the right has wealthy backers willing to fund these organizations. Well, we have some wealthy backers too (think George Soros), but we'll always be outgunned in that area. But that's where the netroots can come. We've been pretty successful raising money for progressive candidates (think Act Blue); why can't we transfer some of those skills to raising funds for movement building by supporting the future public faces of our movement? Yes, this doesn't win the next election, but we need to start thinking in the long term.
(The conservative are far better at this than we are; in fact, don't get me started, one of my biggest gripes with Obama and the Democrats -- and I believe an important factor in their current dismal electoral prospects -- is the failure to articulate a political/economic philosophy, and put our current circumstances in that historical/philosophical context; a subject for another diary.)
Join me in brainstorming this -- how can we start laying the groundwork for, and funding, progressive institutions and organizations that will allow our fellow progressives to make a decent living promoting our cause? I'm certain it needs to be done, I'm just not quite sure how. But that's why we have this community. Ideas anyone?