Saturday, February 14, 2009

We Are Not a Movement?

Interesting article over at the Open Left blog which makes the observation that:

In their articles today on how "the left" is failing under the Obama administration John Judis and Glenn Greenwald decry the lack of a mass popular movement agitating all political actors, including President Obama, to enact a specific policy agenda. However, the decentralized, self-producing, public sphere multiplying reorganization of our society brought on by the self-publishing, network neutral Internet is in direct contradiction with the vision of a discrete, hierarchical organization working to enact specific policy agenda. That just isn't going to happen anymore...

As such, even mass membership institutions themselves will be variable in how, and why, they continue to operate. Their goals will be vague, and even those vague goals will not be fixed. This is less comment on the state of the American Left than it is a comment on broader changes in our largest cultural institutions. There is simply no way for the sort of left-wing movement implied by Judis and Greenwald to come into existing given our larger societal trends.

An interesting take on social movements in the Internet Age -- basically, the type of hierarachical, top-down organizations such as a political party or a membership organization (like the NAACP) will become less relevant for Progressive political action and a diffused, decentralized network will take (or has taken) its place.

I am taking the discussion out of Open Left and bringing it here to MOA to get a feel for how a more racially diverse and politically independent audience might see this argument. Do you agree? Is "movement" obsolete for Progressive politics and activism is best channeled via a decentralized, diffuse network? Can such a diffuse, amorphous network of people be effective in enacting policy changes and forcing political parties to take it seriously if it is not organized in a way traditional organizations are organized?


Brian said...

I agree that there is not enough coordination among progressives.

One of the biggest examples of this is the lack of Progressive media to give voice to Progressive interests... like what Conservatives have.

I think local concerns are important....but Progressives will need better national coordination and more media power if we are going to be serious political players.

The politicians in Washington DC will keep ignoring our concerns until we get a voice too big for them to ignore.

Even the Conservatives (especially in Conservative radio & TV) are able to get Obama to respond more than the Progressives who helped get him elected. Remember how he mentioned Limbaugh a few days ago? It shows Limbaugh still has at least some influence...and that the Conservative media is - in many ways- still setting the agenda.... to the point where the President has to respond. It should be the other way around. Progressives should be setting the agenda.... proactively guiding the political debate in the Country...and it's Republicans/Conservatives who should be back on their heels... reacting and responding. But without a Progressive media infrastructure... Progressive voices don't have the platform that they need.

redante said...

I'm with you on this AI. Progressives need some sort of infrastructure (media, organizational, funding, think tanks, membership organizations, etc) that is well-coordinated and which can rival the scope of the Right's movement. My take on this is this infrastructure, if it ever becomes a reality, should function outside of the Democratic Party and should have as its agenda goals and a vision beyond just electing Democrats into office -- the movement should not function as an appendage of the Democratic Party but should function independently of it, pressuring both political parties to do the right things.

I follow the Adolph Reed school of thought in regards to the pitfalls of near-total dependence and single-minded focus on electing Democrats to office and appealing to them as the primary strategy in the political arena.

I will be attending an event in DC next week called the Progressive Movement Crash Course. The description suggests this might be the beginning of a solid organizing effort by Progressives and looks promising. As an independent who is also a Progressive, I wonder where I might fit into the big scheme of things.

redante said...

Here's a link that illustrates the scope of the Right's infrastructure and provides clues on what Progressives can do to counter it. A powerpoint presentation actually exists "The Conservative Message Machine Money Matrix" by activist Rob Stein that lays it all out. I'll search for a copy or link to post here but if someone at MOA can find a good source please feel free to post in the comments section or e-mail me.