by Shai Sachs, Fri Feb 20, 2009 at 04:36:20 AM EST
As the recession deepened over the last few months, one thing I've worried about (among plenty of other things) is the toll that it would take on the progressive movement. It's no secret that the movement runs on a shoe-string; a single hacker attack is enough to take out a pretty significant chunk of the infrastructure running the progressive blogosphere. It seems inevitable that a wallet-emptying recession will slowly drain the spending ability of progressives, and thereby drag down our nascent institutions.
The key weakness within the progressive movement's business plan (forgetting, for a moment, that the progressive movement isn't a single, cohesive organization, and that many organizations within the movement don't have anything like a business plan in any case), is that a large part of our revenue relies on donations. In a recession, voluntary donations are the easiest things to cut from a household budget. A further weakness is the massive amount of money that leaves the progressive ecosystem. In five years, ActBlue has raised $88 million; some of that has gone to necessary expenses in progressive campaigns and is money well-spent, although no doubt a significant part of that money ends up in the pockets of anti-progressive political consultants. And some of that money does return to the progressive ecosystem, in the form of advertisements in progressive blogs, for example. But on the whole, the progressive blogosphere leaks donations like a sieve, meaning that even the flush years don't leave us with a lot left over for recessions.
Fortunately, I believe it is possible to address these weaknesses, and to help keep the lights on during the recession. Conceptually, it's fairly simple: diversify our business plan beyond donations, and design mechanisms to keep recycle more money back through the progressive ecosystem. The particulars are a bit more tricky, but below I'll outline a few possibilities for implementing these high-level solutions. Other ideas are certainly welcome; feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.