What Are Progressive Blogs Lacking?

This post, written by Mike Lux, originally appeared on Open Left

There is a great deal of conversation in the blogosphere about why Democratic and progressive donors don't do more to support this movement. Bloggers are justifiably proud of the incredible added value they've brought to Democratic/progressive politics in the form of breaking important news stories that the media has ignored, shaping the debate on major issues that nobody else has done, identifying candidates early on that the Democratic establishment was ignoring and helping them go on to victory, recruiting tens of thousands of new volunteers for Democratic candidates and raising millions of dollars for the Democratic Party and progressive candidates. Bloggers have revitalized the Democratic Party and progressive politics, and yet for the most part, they are ignored by its major donors.

I wanted to share my perspective on this, as someone who knows and has worked for many years with people in the donor community. I believe that bringing these donors into a mutually beneficial relationship with the progressive blogosphere will happen, but that it will take a different kind of strategy and some patience before things change. I am optimistic over the long term, because for all their differences, the big donor community and the blogger community have one big thing in common: candidates and groups all too often look at them as ATM machines, rather than valuing their ideas and strategic thinking.

Here are the barriers I see to the relationship:

First, I think it is important to understand the frame of references donors are living in: anybody who gives a lot of money to good causes has a huge target on their back. I was once, about 10 years ago, visiting one of my dearest friends in the donor world, a legendary force of nature named Bernard "B" Rapoport. B has given away millions of dollars a year, for many decades now, to Democratic causes, progressive think tanks and advocacy groups and to educational institutions to help poor kids. I got to his hometown of Waco, Texas late in the afternoon, and went to his office to hang out with him before going to dinner with he and his wife, Audre. In the hour I was with him in the office, he had eight phone calls. One was related to his business, the other seven were from people asking for money. Among that seven were six from politicians, including Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, Tom Harkin and Ted Kennedy. The one that wasn't a politician was from another major donor friend, whom B had just gotten to give a big check to a favorite cause of his own, who was calling to ask B to return the favor.

This is the life of a big donor. They get hit up constantly by just about everybody they know, including big name politicians, other donors, celebrities and heads of well-known organizations on a very regular basis. All of the folks asking make their strongest possible pitch as to why their campaign, or other candidates they are supporting, or their organization is the best thing since sliced bread.
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