By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
It's hard to build a political movement, especially one that depends on "spreading the wealth around," as one of last year's presidential candidates famously observed in a somewhat different context. Because, at the end of the day, some people just expect to be paid for their labors.
This is, in and of itself, not unreasonable. But the demand for revenue does sort of conflict, at least in my opinion, with the image of altruistic activism so many on the left work so hard to cultivate.
Earlier this week, a cohort of liberal bloggers, and influential ones at that, organized what some are calling a "revolt" against left-of-center progressive organizations and the Democratic Party infrastructure over a failure to provide financial support by buying ads on their sites. As Greg Sargent wrote for his Washington Post blog, "A number of these top bloggers agreed to come on record with me after privately arguing to these groups that they deserved a share in the ad wealth and couldn't be taken for granted any longer."
Sargent goes on to cite complaints by several prominent liberal bloggers, include FireDogLake founder Jane Hamsher, who said, "They come to us, expecting us to give them free publicity, and we do, but it's not a two way street. She then added, "They won't do anything in return. They're not advertising with us. They're not offering fellowships. They're not doing anything to help financially, and people are growing increasingly resentful."
The revolt apparently had an effect. As Sargent later reported in a separate post, Americans United for Change, "the big liberal group that came under fire from liberal bloggers in our story today for not advertising on the blogs, is now saying they will make the blogs part of their ad strategy." But I'd be surprised if that were the end of it. What happened this week is an important lesson in what happens when you forget to dance with "the one what brung you."
That's what happened to the Republicans after they won in 1988 and again in 1994. The winning coalition began to splinter shortly after assuming power as various parts of it either went out of business (because they won on their issue) or went spinning off into the universe as the party went south on their issue, like taxes in 1992 and spending in 2006.
The liberal blogosphere is as important a component in the Democrats' winning coalition as the so-called "Christian Right" is for the Republicans at the presidential level. So it is no surprise that the bloggers are being very clear that, in the words of Arthur Miller's Linda Loman, "Attention must be paid." And it's also no surprise at how quickly their initial demands were met, at least by one group, once they decided to "go public" with the complaints. But the Democrats who run the political business of the party and the White House and Congress, as well as in their major institutions like the labor unions and the trial lawyers, should expect a lot more of it over the next four years.
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