Last week, we asked you for money to keep us accountable to you, and to keep us paying our rent. Originally I wanted to get 100 donors giving $100 apiece, so I put up a blog post on a Friday evening, thinking we'd have to go through the weekend fundraising. My experience with fundraising is largely with big donors, and big donors are, to put it delicately, uninterested in helping progressives. Look no further than Prop 87 in California, a proposition to tax oil companies funded by Steven Bing and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla that was embarrassingly defeated by the voters. Bing himself put in $40 million. With basically no grassroots organizing, Bing and his ilk essentially gave tens of millions of media consultants and TV stations with nothing to show for it. The proposition also had support from Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts, showing that celebrity liberals and large donors are largely unable and unwilling to wield power.
As Chris suggested in last post, on a state level, it looks like Democrats might have performed better in the last two elections than we did on higher levels. Based on what I can read from spending patterns, genius operative Rahm Emanuel actually represented a subtle undertow that prevented Democrats from making even further gains in the House given the environment. The big media top-down nature of our political elite is a serious problem, and nowhere does this become more apparent with large donors. This isn't something that anyone wants to talk about because there's a sense that one just might be able to get money from big donors, but the reality is that the large donor universe and the foundation communities are the single most dysfunctional and unaccountable pieces of the progressive movement.
Rather than investing in voter registration for single women and Latinos, which would build the base and is the single least expensive way of generating votes, they put tens of millions into a useless, annoying, and failed airwar. Rather than investing in a California blogosphere and organizing efforts, they let California governance lapse because it's a blue state already for Presidential so who cares. This is of course antithetical to the 50 state strategy, and we will see how California suffers as a result of this neglect. There is a takeover underway by activists in that state, but it's slower than it could be if progressive elites were on board.
Small dollar donors are actually a very different, much more dependable, and much more realistic group. And I don't just say this because I am one. The relatively small amount of money that went to Blue America or the Netroots page had a huge outsized impact. I'm struck by the parallels between charitable giving by class. Typically, the wealthier you are, the less you give by percentage of income to charity. Middle class people are just more generous. This apparently carries over to the political world; activsts are just more serious about politics than their wealthy and famous counterparts. The progressive elite don't know it, because everyone around them largely panders, but that's the reality.
So anyway, back to what you all did. I was looking for $100 from 100 people over a weekend. What we got was $11,557.94 from 142 of you. That's incredible. It's a validation of the work we do, and it's a recognition that we must all pay for public spaces, we must all pay a little bit for honest dialogue. We must all pay a little bit to have a stable society, and a stable and honest media. If it shows us anything, the conservative revolution shows that tax cuts are incredibly expensive. And with the money you gave us we intend to show, in detail, just how true this maxim really is.
So anyway, thank you. We got a little more than we expected, we are political junkies, and so we're going to do something really really cool with the money. We're hiring Tim Tagaris from the Lamont campaign to head down to New Orleans and cover the LA-02 race for MyDD, somewhat as he did for Paul Hackett in OH-02 though with more of a journalistic focus and with a video camera. Corruption in the Democratic Party has its roots in local machines, and there's no more colorful or weird machine than that of William Jefferson, a DLC Congressman caught with $90k in cash in his freezer. A progressive Democrat, Karen Carter, is challenging him, and we've already endorsed her. But there are two other important themes that Tim is going to cover when he's down there. One is race, which is inescapable in Louisiana and in this election. The second is Katrina, which is also inescapable in this election.
We are committed to progressive change and to a progressive agenda. A post-Katrina New Orleans is the domestic symbol of the conservative movement. Not only did underinvestment in a poor and largely black city lead to a devastating disaster, but the promises of the Republican Congress and Bush, the promises they made in our names as American citizens, the promises to rebuild the city, these are promises that we have not kept. Tim is going to New Orleans to remind us of the compact we have as citizens, and as a country. He's going to cover an election because that is how our political dialogue takes place. And he's going to do it because you were generous and civically-minded enough to provide the resources. There's no need to chip in now, but if you want to be a part of this adventure and for some reason wasn't reading MyDD last Friday evening when we asked, you can still give here. We promise we'll keep investing in cool, interesting, and impactful activism/journalism work with the money you give. And if you know of or have a New Orleans blog, please put it in the comments.
Thank you for what you do.