Last night, I found myself in a private dining room at an upscale San Francisco eatery with four Democratic funding luminaries: a Bay Area venture capitalist, a honcho from an online auction site that shall remain nameless, a member of the Democracy Alliance and a Bay Area developer. I was, by the way, looking very forward to this dinner. Even bought my first pair of Jimmy Choos for the occasion–making me a mere 6′1".
There was much more about the blogs I wanted to share, too–the excitement about ideas and activism, the communication, the amplification of new voices and new messages. And in a San Francisco crowd, I was expecting to see some of my excitement reflected back at me.
Ummm…not. These funders sucked the life blood and optimism out of me in under half an hour. And left me plenty depressed today, I might add. But, now I’m just pissed.
Once again, I find myself in the awkward spot of not really being able to name names, because I was there as an invited guest, and I mostly don’t want to hurt my hosts’ chances of ever being funded again. But so much of what I see on the left can be so damned ridiculous that I believe it’s my duty to expose and try to change it. If we can’t talk about these things, admit they’re counter-productive, fix the mindset and move on, we’ll always be stuck in our losing ways. So, here goes.
Now let me first say this. The developer guy was enthusiastic, about everything. Expecially about windsurfing. So, no complaints there. But you should have seen the sour pusses on the other three. Sour, unimpressed and each ready to launch into their tired list of concerns and complaints as only the Monied Left can do. Never mind that NPI was doing something, urging consultants and media buyers to add something new and different to their bag of tricks–attempting to reduce waste and misdirected messaging. Democracy Alliance Gal turned up her nose and came back with, "Yes, but what effect are those cable impressions having?" What I wanted to say was, "Well, sugar, we don’t know yet, because we’re just about to start trying out this strategy…but what we been doin’ ain’t been so hot, and the Republicans kick our asses on targeted messaging." The other two funders, following her lead, muzzled any enthusiasm they might have felt bubbling up to the surface about this new strategy idea. Strike One.
For your sake, dear readers, I’m only picking the four things that bugged me most about this dinner. What was Strike Two, you ask? Well it was when Online Auction Guy coolly lambasted Simon for (I believe he said) bending over backwards to support the blogosphere, "…when you know that the blogs are leading us down the path of unelectability." He blasted the blogs for getting Ned elected in the primary. This pompous statement was also incredibly hypocritical because Online Auction Guy had also just held forth on his company’s amazing efforts to promote net neutrality to their users. I asked him, "What about the blogs’ tremendous work to fight for net neutrality?" And on this point he casually threw a scrap of compliment the blogs’ way, while clearly thinking Online Auction Company was the true leader of the Save the Internet Coalition.
Venture Capital Man, who hadn’t read the Buy Cable memo, and probably wasn’t aware of many of the other memos NPI has released this year trying to lay out the technological and political opportunities that progressives and Democrats need to capitalize on in order to make some important strides, advised that Simon’s group should write a strategy memo, akin to the infamous Powell Memo that launched this Golden Age of Wingnutdom. Taken together, the strategy memos that NPI has offered up begin to look a lot like their Dem 2.0 version of the 1971 Powell Memo, but Venture Capital Man just hadn’t connected the dots. Strike Three.
................ Sadly, it’s usually the people that hold the purse strings who don’t know what we stand for, and they would rather hold on, white-knuckled, to the money and complain rather than reward those that are doing something. They’re rich. What have they got to lose, really? Strike Four.
So, my lost optimism today has me hopping mad. Hey, Funders! Look around. It’s a new world since 1992, and Bill Clinton can’t save you Centrist Democrats who’ve capitulated over and over and moved so far to the right that you’re where conservative Republicans use to be. We are not "crazy 60s types" who don’t care about winning elections. And we are not the radical fringe. What we are is the growing voice of a Democratic party that actually stands for Democratic principles and a progressive agenda. The blog audiences are growing, and we’re starting to get heard on the national stage. We’re getting things done, and talking to others, getting them involved, active, signing up new voters, raising money. We’re publishing books and getting them onto the bestseller lists. We want to work with you to get more done, to get more Democrats and progressives elected.
There’s plenty being done. Plenty of folks who do know what progressives and Democrats stand for. Plenty of successful efforts. How about noticing, and letting some money flow? In case you haven’t read it, here’s how the conservative philanthropists do it.
Consider this your memo.