by Shai Sachs, Sun Jan 11, 2009 at 11:17:07 AM EST
Yesterday's post on the next steps forward, in light of Soapblox's near-meltdown, generated some very interesting suggestions and questions, and even a bit of a good old-fashioned programming language holy war, in the comment thread. Alert reader Jon Pincus also pointed me to Pam Spaulding's very insightful thoughts about Soapblox. Pam gets right to the heart of the matter in pointing out that the issue underlying this meltdown is money, or lack thereof. Progressive bloggers aren't wealthy, and some of them failed to pay even Soapblox's reasonable monthly fees.
I do not think there will ever be a single, ideal blogging platform for all progressive bloggers, for the simple reason that each blogger will make her own decisions about where and when to post. Soapblox may grow and thrive for a long time to come; I hope it does. But I would also like to see the development of an alternative system that is every bit as easy to work with, and every bit as cheap, as Soapblox, but with a stronger technological foundation. Ideally, I would like to see an alternative system that is more feature-rich, and capable of supporting the next wave of progressive organizing that is already beginning.
by Shai Sachs, Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 11:25:02 AM EST
This week Soapblox, the content management system and hosting platform of choice for many, many local progressive blogs, had a serious meltdown due to a massive hacker attack, and nearly collapsed. The attack on Soapblox immediately took down a huge chunk of the progressive blogosphere's infrastructure, and threatened catastrophe for the progressive movement, just as a new session of Congress and a new administration was getting started. The story was already covered ably at DailyKos, Open Left, and many other progressive blogs. The consensus that appears to have emerged after a fairly short but very wide-ranging discussion is: it may make sense to transition to another system eventually; for now there is no readily available alternative; Soapblox is a shoestring operation run by a good progressive; so progressives should chip in to save Soapblox.
More on the meltdown, and how we can use this crisis as an opportunity, across the flip!
by Shai Sachs, Sun Dec 14, 2008 at 04:21:13 PM EST
Tonight I attended one of the "house parties for change" organized by the Obama campaign. The house parties are meant to contribute to an ongoing conversation about what to do with the energy and structure that was the Obama volunteer organization.
If you think you've heard this song before, you're probably right - this was the question faced by Dean volunteers in the aftermath of his 2004 defeat, and there are similar, smaller-scale challenges faced by other candidates at the local level all the time. Dean's campaign operation ultimately became Democracy for America (DFA), and it and its far-flung network of chapters are still kicking. Given the founding conviction s of DFA - that progressives need to show up everywhere, and that voting is just the beginning of civic involvement - it wouldn't be too unreasonable to say that DFA was a prototype for the DNC's 50 State Strategy in spirit, although the mechanics of DFA and the 50 State Strategy are very different.
The problem of what to do with Obama's campaign structure is very different, for a number of reasons. One, Obama's campaign was much, much larger than Dean's. Two, in early 2004 there was a huge overlap between the netroots progressive movement and the Dean campaign, whereas the Obama campaign of necessity includes plenty of moderate and establishment Democrats, and no small number of Obama volunteers were Republicans. Three, and perhaps most importantly, Obama was in fact successful, he now has to govern, and his supporters have reason to expect that their priorities will be represented in the White House.
by Shai Sachs, Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 12:48:58 AM EST
In full-blown panic about an almost certain loss at the polls, conservatives are now trying to win the post-election narrative - they're trying to claim that, despite the election results, the country is still conservative. The new watchword for conservatives is "center-right nation" - as in Jon Meacham's absurd piece in Newsweek which claimed that despite what looks like a wholesale rejection of conservatism at the polls on Tuesday, "America remains a center-right nation". David Sirota has been doing yoeman's work beating back this meme, dedicating his column to Obama's FDR-style mandate, and running a Center-Right Nation Watch at OpenLeft.
The notion of this county as a center-right one, despite what the polls may say on Tuesday, appears to be an important part of the conservative post-election narrative. It will be bolstered by exit polls which show something like 28-33% of the electorate identifying as "conservative", and 17-22% of the electorate identifying as "liberal", with the rest of the electorate identifying as "moderate". According to the Roper archive of exit polls, ideological self-identification numbers have been hovering in that range since 1976, so if the numbers are substantially different than that on Tuesday, then we know that there's been genuine ideological movement. Even what looks like a near-loss to conservatives - say, a 26-24% conservative-to-liberal self-identification gap - would actually be a huge victory for progressives. Failing that kind of self-identification parity, progressives usually argue that we are a nation of "operational progressives", never mind the labels we give ourselves. That is, that on many issues - especially economic issues - polls show that most people support the progressives point of view. Campaign for America's Future and Media Matters made this argument most recently with an exhaustive review of recent polling in June 2007.
From the point of view of Election Night and the week following it, though, I think it's better not to bicker and parse over numbers in this way. We are almost certain to lose that game, since the simple numbers (the ideological self-identification numbers) are least in our favor. Instead, I think the best approach is to promote the Democratic base as the new center of politics.
by Shai Sachs, Sun Oct 12, 2008 at 06:35:39 AM EDT
The book launch for Dispatches from the Religious Left is coming up on Tuesday, Oct. 14. In anticipation of the event, I'm running a series this weekend on a few essays from the book. Yesterday I wrote about PastorDan's essay on the role of the Religious Left (PastorDan responded here), as well as Rev. Debra Haffner and Timothy Palmer's essay on a theology of sexual justice.
The third part of the book is dedicated to "getting from here to there", and is a bit more nuts-and-bolts-oriented than the first two parts. It includes the essay my wife and I wrote on new media, which focuses on helping religious organizations find their voice online. However, since that material is probably pretty familiar to many blog readers, I'm instead going to focus on the contribution by Frederick Clarkson (who is also the editor of the book), titled "Three wheels that need not be reinvented".
Fred's main argument is that the Religious Left must get more involved in electoral politics. By way of contrast he points to the Religious Right, which actively participates in party primaries, registers voters, and maintains high-quality voter lists that persist from one cycle to another. All of these ingredients help the Right exert power far beyond its numbers, and Clarkson argues that the Left must respond in kind in order to realize its vision. His chapter profiles three progressive political organizations in Massachusetts, and offers them as organizing models for Religious Leftists.
Join me across the flip for a discussion of these organizations, and the kinds of things the Religious Left will need to do in order to build cross-cyclical electoral power.