James Clark

Rob Stein's Liberal Legacy →

10 May, 2022

If you’re not already subscribed to Micah Sifry’s The Connector, you should be.

Today’s post about the US left’s failed attempts to copy the right’s infrastructure-building is a sadly familiar story.

Unfortunately, instead of building the kind of institutions and investing in the kind of leaders who could genuinely counter the New Right, the Democracy Alliance’s donors prioritized institutions that were meant to strengthen the existing Democratic party, not replace it with something more ideologically coherent or less beholden to corporate power. Or frankly led by people who weren't white men. As LaMarche wrote last year in The Forge, “when I came to run the Democracy Alliance in 2013, its portfolio was heavily weighted toward policy groups, most of them white led.” Its donors also focused more on building think-tanks and media watchdogs and much less on matching the kind of leadership-development or local organizing infrastructure that the Right has built. LaMarche led a visioning process helped make the case for “supporting year-round organizing in securing enduring progressive change, resulting in a set of investment recommendations that included the Working Families Party, People’s Action, Faith in Action, Color of Change, and Working America, as well as movement-connected think/action tanks like Demos, the Roosevelt Institute, and the Economic Policy Institute.” But as I noted in The Connector last summer in a post called “The Poverty of Grassroots Organizing,” he admitted that most the DA’s funders hadn’t shifted much beyond white-led Beltway groups and that, “It’s unacceptable that the resources needed to build power are dependent on occasional allies like me.”

Money, infrastructure and leadership development over the long term. It’s a frustratingly simple formula.

Since we’re in the final stretch of an Australian election where an unprecedented sum of cash is being spent on a purely electoral operation with a questionable-at-best long-term strategy, I can’t help but also pull out this quote from Josh Nussbaum:

I think it’s a fundamental misunderstanding to think that what the conservative movement has built is only electoral. And perversely, as we've seen, focusing on building infrastructure that's only centered on near-term election outcomes obviously doesn't build a movement, but long-term it's also been pretty shitty at winning elections as well.

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Hey, I'm James Clark. I’m an organiser, writer and social movement nerd based in Melbourne, Australia. You can read more about me here.