In the 1950’s a counter-revolutionary movement became born in conservative circles. Crypto-racist, neo-confederate, anti-communist, anti-socialist, anti-liberal, anti-cosmopolitan strains were fused together into a pro-Christianist pro-Americanist pro-Plutocratic ideology which became “Conservatism”. It was largely self-funded. When, in the 1970’s it was able to secure both a stream of big donors and small donors to pay for itself, it turned on the Republican hierarchy as brutally as it attacked the liberal and Democratic movements which were then still in charge of the government. 1978 is famous as the “purge” of liberal Republicans. By 1990 the species was essentially extinct.
In the present the established orders of the Democratic Party and the old liberal movement are making the same blunder – and the word is blunder – that the liberal Republican establishment made. At a time when Chuck Schumer is nakedly admitting that the Democratic party doesn’t have its “Eight words” – the well oiled parts of the establishment are busy not funding the progressive space known as the blogosphere. A few people in it can make money from it, a few already have safe jobs. But most make less than mexican undocumented immigrants that line up in the barrios and on highways before dawn. Many of the most talented are at the end of their financial rope. A couple of them have died from overwork and underinsurance.
By selective force, those who can pay for themselves – either by balancing a job and internet politics, or by developing their own revenue stream – will survive. But once they do, they are going to see the entire old liberal establishment as the enemies to be destroyed as remorselessly as possible. And in that time frame, media politics will no longer be powerful enough to stop it. The choice for the establishment is clear: invest now, or face a transfigured political landscape of being pelted from the left – not by “those people”, but by people who have developed deep and wide contacts with mainstream America.
Here are some simple things that could be done now, which would both yield big benefits, and would make it so that when the future comes, it will be a blogosphere that looks positively on the old line establishment, rather than has a long history of being screwed, insulted, attacked, belittled and reading their friends obituaries.
1. Blogging Stipends.
$1000 dollars a month for 100 liberal bloggers would come to 1.2 million dollars a year. This is peanuts. It would also form the base for income for 100 people who would be aggregators, writers, linkers and otherwise.
Do you notice how Michelle Malkin and other right wingers are up on stage when the right wing holds gatherings. And yet supposedly liberal think tanks make it a habit to attack, insult and box out liberal bloggers that don’t fit their idea of qualified. This reduces exposure, makes it more difficult for the blogger to push books or other projects, and means that there is a building crescendo of belief among bloggers that old line think tanks talk a good game about the minimum wage – and then expect people to do free labor to push their position papers.
One of the constant mistakes that old line groups make is that they want to hire an i-peon. That is, the plan is developed, laid out, ordered, and they want some uncreative tool to fill in the blanks on the internet. Only, since the internet is cheap, the i-peon gets a fraction of what even a media peon would get. With no career track.
A reality of the electronic environment is that allowing people to cowboy is a big part of what makes bloggers work. Instead of looking at these people as slightly stupid Master’s Degree graduate student labor – which has seen a rebellion to unionize over the last decade because working conditions were so bad – they should see this as a pool of often experienced people with management experience that work without supervision and are capable of high level thinking and planning. These are people who have the same skills – often better – than the same organizations pay a lot to lobbying firms on K Street for. It is just that people out here don’t want to work on K-Street, and they would lose the very authenticity that makes them useful.
4. Blogger’s Credit Union
Someone should establish a blogging credit union, one that offers insurance of various kinds at cost, and open it to liberal bloggers. Cheap checking, savings and credit, along with access to an insurance pool would keep people alive while establishing this new space.
Many bloggers are effective because they have day jobs, contract, rather than demand that they spin themselves into an organization. Many can devoted a week to a project, before going back to the work that gives them the expertise to be important voices on the internet.
6. Pay your bills. Pay them on time.
And don’t shaft people that you’ve promised to pay in favor of psuedo-insider hacks who will take your money and run.
These simple steps will mean that the internet political space will see the establishment as a source of revenue and respect, rather than as a hostile barrier. It will also mean that bloggers and other e-writers will not have to stretch and engage in hyperobole to get a donating audience – something which has flamed out more than a few people.
Otherwise, once this space has its own funding system, the people in it will know that the inside did everything in its power to keep them down and out, and therefore, the inside has got to go. More over, it will be the internet political world that has the “Eight Words” to lay on the American public, since interacting with that public and getting them to give money based on big ideas, and not micro-issues, will be the stock and trade.
Many people will take this as a threat, in a sense, it is history’s threat: when a new body of people emerge, either the established means fund them, and thus bring them in – or those new people establish new institutions, ones which are not beholden to the old world. Being a student of history, I could rattle off a dozen examples beyond the conservative movement. But realize that the liberal blogosphere is a couple of ticked off billionaires away from not needing the inside.
And there are a growing number of progressive billionaires or hectamillionaires, who are less than impressed with how the liberal establishment and Democratic Party have run things. One of them could be the Scaife of the progressive movement, and one of them will be.