The Netroots and The Progressive Movement Are The Difference

A few hours ago, The Dailykos / MyDD / Swing State Project Netroots page passed $1,000,000. That blows my mind. The people who make these blogs happen, the people who make thee blogs relevant--the readers--have shown their strength yet again. I bet that if we did a cross-reference between the roughly 10,500 people who have donated to Democrats on this page and the FEC database, that the total amounts given to Democratic candidates by these 10,500 people would be several times larger than $1M. Further, I can only imagine what the total donations to Democrats this year would be if you combined an FEC database search with everyone who has given to MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, and Act Blue this election cycle. In 2004, MoveOn.org alone calculated that their members gave $180 million to Democratic candidates in itemized donations over $250. Combine all three organizations, and count all of their donations, including the ones under $250, and in 2006 you are almost certainly talking about several hundred million dollars to Democrats from netroots activists. I would like to know what the exact number is, and then still see anyone seriously debate whether or not the netroots "deserve a seat at the table" in the Democratic Party. And that would not even measure the media buzz, campaign volunteer help, fresh strategy, and new infrastructure that the netroots provide. While some people were still debating whether or not the netroots deserved a seat at the table, those people somehow didn't notice that several of us had grabbed chairs and pulled up alongside the table without anyone ever asking us to do so.

There are two primary reasons for the improvement of Democratic prospects in 2006 compared to other recent election cycles: Republican implosion and the maturation of the progressive movement. Generally speaking, Democrats have not taken the advice of the three main narratives that followed the 2004 elections: talk faith, get right-wing on national security, and make it clear what they stand for. However, outside of Tim Kaine and Harold Ford, I haven't seen much of anything from Democratic candidates this election cycle when it comes to actually "talking faith." I also missed the point where Democrats moved to the right on national security, especially with 90% of Democrats favoring a timetable for withdrawal of troops in Iraq for almost a year now, and Democratic opposition to the Patriot Act increasing sharply. And if someone can tell me that the Democratic platform is clearer now than it was in 2006, I'd like to hear that argument.

The differences between 2006 and other recent elections is not that Democrats have started talking faith (we haven't), not that we have moved to the right on national security (we haven't), and not that we have a clear agenda (we aren't any clearer now than we were in 2004). I also don't think that the argument that we had a slightly more vicious DCCC chair than in the past works very well. Further, I don't think the argument that we have more appealing leaders in the past works very well, because nationwide almost no one knows who Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are. The difference is that Republicans are imploding and that we have a mature progressive movement. For starters, just look at the financial improvement Democrats have made in 2006 (emphasis mine):
House campaigns raised $544 million (up 18% from 2004 levels) and spent $325.5 million (17% above the previous cycle). They reported a cash balance of $367 million as of June 30. Receipts by Republican House candidates increased 12% with increases for incumbent candidates (23%) and open seat candidates (15%) but a decline in overall receipts for Republican House challengers of 34% when compared with 2004. Democratic candidates' receipts were 26% higher than in the last cycle with a small increase for incumbents (4%) and larger increases for both open seat candidates (46%) and challengers, whose fundraising more than doubled when compared with 2004.Given the numbers I listed above, where do people think all the new money to Democratic candidates is coming form this year? It isn't the business community. In August, I conducted a survey of corporate PAC money in 2006 compared to 2004. In the 2004 cycle, corporate PACs gave 66.0% of their money to Republicans. As of August 2006, they had actually given 66.6% of their money to Republicans in the 2006 election cycle, slightly increasing their pro-Republican contribution habits. By way of contrast, Act Blue alone has raised $9M more for Democratic candidates in 2006 than it raised in 2004, an improvement of over 1000%. Further, how much more has been raised for Democrats by email lists since the 2002 midterms? And who do people think are the Democrats receiving those emails and giving the money? It case anyone was wondering, those people are netroots activists. We are the reason why Democrats are more financially competitive in 2006 than in any other recent election cycle.

Now, let's look at candidate recruitment and party infrastructure. Democrats are running in more districts this year than they have run in a long, long time. While the Democratic leadership, including Rahm Emmanuel, deserves some credit for this, it didn't happen until the netroots started banging the drums of the fifty-state strategy in 2004. Howard Dean and the netroots demanded that we run everywhere, and then we went about making that plan a reality. We have filled thousands of vacant committee seats and precinct captainships the Democratic Party, paid for party organizers in all fifty states (the DNC is primarily bought and paid for by the netroots and the progressive grassroots), and sounded the call to activists around the nation that we could and should compete everywhere with Paul Hackett's narrow loss in OH-02. The netroots and the progressive movement are the primary driving forces behind the fifty-state strategy. They are why we have candidates, organizers, and party officials in more places than at any time in recent memory. This strategy has had, and will continue to have, a significantly positive impact on the outcome of the 2006 elections.

And why is the press coverage for Republican so much worse these days? The obvious answer when it comes to Foley is that sex is involved, and sex sells. However, the longer-term answer over the past two years is once again the netroots and the progressive movement. New organizations such as CREW and Media Matters are putting more pressure on the media to cover Republican scandals accurately than ever in the past. The netroots are keeping stories alive, such as the Downing Street Memo, and eventually helping to push them into the mainstream. New progressive media is now directly reaching millions more people every day than it did in the recent past. This is not even to mention these new progressive medias, especially the blogosphere, are putting serious pressure on the established media every day on every issue on every news story. This simply was not around before 2004.

The national media is already spinning that if Democrats win in 2006, it will be in spite of the netroots and the progressive movement, and if they lose it will be because of the progressive movement. However, the truth is that almost every major improvement Democrats have made in 2006 compared to previous election cycles was primarily driven by the netroots and the progressive movement. Fundraising, infrastructure, fifty-state strategy, media--almost all Democratic improvements in those areas were driven by the netroots in particular, and the progressive movement as a whole. We are the primary difference between 2006 and the past five election cycles (click here to see just how large that difference is right now). Even when it comes to Republican implosions, the progressive movement played a large role in making sure that those implosions were on display within the establishment media for the entire country to see.

The media narrative should not be that Democrats have a chance to win in spite of the netroots and the progressive movement. An honest appreciation of the situation reveals that most, if not all, of the significant improvements Democrats have made from 2004 to 2006 were generated primarily within the netroots and the progressive movement. If Democrats win in 2006, it will be because of the netroots and the progressive movement, not in spite of it. That Democrats are in such a good situation right now is largely because of the netroots and the progressive movement, not in spite of it. I'd really like to hear a counter-argument as to what improvements Democrats have made in 2006 that were not primarily generated by the progressive movement. An argument could be made that the nexus of new institutions surrounding Democracy Alliance is another major difference maker, but that is hardly an old-school development. The netroots and the progressive movement are far more organized and wide-reaching than they were in 2004 and before, and that is making a big difference in Democratic fortunes in 2006. Just look at Colorado for a microcosm of this. Democrats are not winning in Colorado in spite of the progressive movement, but because of it. When Democrats gain seats in 2006--and Democrats will gain seats in 2006--that will be because of the progressive movement too.

Tags: 2006 elections, Blogosphere, Democrats, Media, netroots, progressive movement (all tags)

Comments

14 Comments

A Seat At the Table, Misleading Concept

Not to belabor the point too much, but the "seat at the table" doesn't belong to you or Markos or Jane Hamsher etc. The point is that netroots efforts, at their best, are about making officeholders and party officials listen to voters and to shine a light on all of their activities in ways that wouldn't have been possible even ten years ago.

To be clear--this isn't a cut on you, you're out there fighting to make this happen. It's a cut on the clowns in Congress who think of you and Markos and so on as interest group chieftains instead of activists and idealists little different than millions of others, and a warning to the same that using "the blogosphere" as a Luddite whipping boy as some (like that asshole the Moose) tend to do is dumb in the extreme, because all they're doing is insulting voters and that's the biggest no-no there is.

by KevStar 2006-10-02 11:29AM | 0 recs
Re: A Seat At the Table, Misleading Concept
Didn't think I said it was about me. I agree that it is about the hundreds of thousands of people who partiicipate in the movement. It is importnat that people know that it is a movement, and it isn't encapsulated in any small set of individuals. The pwoer is wide-ranging.
by Chris Bowers 2006-10-02 11:47AM | 0 recs
Re: A Seat At the Table, Misleading Concept

And you personally did go win a seat at the table of the state committee.

by joyful alternative 2006-10-13 08:01AM | 0 recs
Re: The Netroots and The Progressive Movement

Thankyou I and I believe I can speak for others just like me, we needed a pat on the back even if it was from one of our own hands! I have recently become a regular Lurker and sometime contributer to the blogs. It has truly been a god send to me and I believe many many more. People like myself who needed a source of honest information and camaraerie. You guys inspired, informed and encouraged me to act! Bravo!

by eddieb 2006-10-02 11:32AM | 0 recs
Donor statistics

Is that 10,000-whatever really the number of individual people, or is it the number of times someone has donated? I've given several times through the Netroots ActBlue page over the months, and I suspect that number has increased each time. That is, if I give to three candidates today, that counts as one donor. Then if I give again tomorrow, that's another donor.

So the 10,000 donors may actually only be 8,000 or 5,000 different people, depending on how many repeats there are.

I suppose it's possible that the calculation excludes duplicates by examining people's names and addresses, but I'd be surprised.

by KCinDC 2006-10-02 12:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Donor statistics
That is individual people. The average person has donated 3.6 times. There have been nearly 40,000 donations.
by Chris Bowers 2006-10-02 12:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Donor statistics

The 40,000 donations is counting it as 3 donations if I fill out the form once giving to 3 candidates, right?

Suppose I give to 3 candidates at once in August and then come back in September and give to 2 candidates. Then that's 1 person making 5 donations, but going through the donation process twice. Are you saying the total "donors" number doesn't increase when I do that the second time, even though ActBlue doesn't have user accounts for the donors?

Has the average person really gone through the donation process 3.6 times, or is it that the average person gives to 3.6 candidates when going through the process? Or that the average person has a total of 3.6 candidate donations for all the times they've been through the donation process?

Sorry if I'm giving people a headache. There isn't very good vocabulary for expressing these distinctions.

by KCinDC 2006-10-02 12:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Donor statistics
I don't know if they have gone through the process 3.6 times. All I know that that 10,500 individual people have made nearly 40,000 donations to the page since we set it up eight months ago.
by Chris Bowers 2006-10-02 12:59PM | 0 recs
good stuff

and important piece.

This passage:

Given the numbers I listed above, where do people think all the new money to Democratic candidates is coming form this year? It isn't the business community. In August, I conducted a survey of corporate PAC money in 2006 compared to 2004. In the 2004 cycle, corporate PACs gave 66.0% of their money to Republicans. As of August 2006, they had actually given 66.6% of their money to Republicans in the 2006 election cycle, slightly increasing their pro-Republican contribution habits. By way of contrast, Act Blue alone has raised $9M more for Democratic candidates in 2006 than it raised in 2004, an improvement of over 1000%. Further, how much more has been raised for Democrats by email lists since the 2002 midterms? And who you do people think are the Democrats receiving those emails and giving the money? It case anyone was wondering, those people are netroots activists. We are the reason why Democrats are more financially competitive in 2006 than in any other recent election cycle.

is critical.  

It may overstate the netroots/email list connection however. There's a whole generation of pre-netroots email list using Dems.  My folks for one.

by kid oakland 2006-10-02 01:36PM | 0 recs
We're showcasing values and moral leadership

which resounds with people much more than talking faith.

Whether its on Iraq, healthcare, or the Foley scandal, we're not mouthing religious platitudes or quoting bible verses out of context.  We're calling for actions that reflect the inherent worth and dignity of all people and demanding a foreign policy that respects indivdual and national autonomy.

by northcountry 2006-10-02 01:40PM | 0 recs
Incredible

The gains will not be what they should be because our platform is not clear, we have spent too much time emphasizing negativity, and not nearly enough focus on the economy specifically in terms of getting out the vote of young women who priorotize economy/jobs.

You can't look at the bottom line and assume we did wonderful just because we picked up seats and maybe took control. The question is maximizing opportunity. It's like Tiger Woods constantly tinkering with his swing and changing equipment to reach the next level. He doesn't assume since's he's on top and has been there since '97 that everything is great and he doesn't need to alter anything.

Our party is relying on anti-GOP and this year that happens to be working out, due to remarkable sustained implosions. But let's not kid ourselves that it is any type of foundation. We'll be here two years from now with a Republican nominee who doesn't have a 40% approval rating, and then what? We're stuck. I'm continually amazed at how incompetent the handicapping is.

by jagakid 2006-10-02 03:34PM | 0 recs
Re: The Netroots and The Progressive Movement Are

The gains will not be what they should be because our platform is not clear, we have spent too much time emphasizing negativity, and not nearly enough focus on the economy specifically in terms of getting out the vote of young women who priorotize economy/jobs.

Well, in some districts the economy is a big deal and in some districts not so much.

But in virtually all districts, the incompetence of the ruling (R)'s resonates with voters. So emphasizing negativity is not a bad thing. You say that the platform isn't clear, but the candidates in  competitive districts are generally doing a good job of stating their plans and goals for the next Congress. This is an off-year election and it is not about a national personality or national candidacy. Each (D) running for office is running a local race. Since we are a big tent party, there are lots of different versions of what that local representation will mean for that geography.

There is a general overarching theme. A party platform, as it were. For example, http://www.democrats.org/agenda.html  
Of the races I've had surveyed, all of the Democrats have articulated views congruent with that agenda.

I'm not sure what you want. Keep in mind that we aren't Babe Ruth. (Alert: changed metaphor :-) We're the kid that is batting in the 8th inning and has struck out all 3 times he's been to bat. Getting a hit is huge, even if it's isn't a home run. Yeah, the pitcher is only 20 feet away and he's pitching underhanded. Yeah, Babe Ruth would pound the ball over the fence into the parking lot. Maybe next time up we'll do that. This time we aren't striking out, we're getting on base and we might even hit a double. Does that mean the fans shouldn't cheer? Does that mean all we should hear is moaning that it wasn't a homer? Personally, I just don't want to fall down rounding first base. A few cheers would be welcome  when we're standing on base.

by KB 2006-10-03 07:41AM | 0 recs
Typo

it should say

"Of the races I've surveyed..."

by KB 2006-10-03 07:42AM | 0 recs
by estebban 2006-12-03 11:53PM | 0 recs

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