In the 24 hours since I launched my first annual HA Pledge Week, 38 readers have contributed nearly $1,400, bringing me more than a third of the way towards my one-week goal of $3,500. That’s an amazing start, and I thank all 38 of you for your generous support. (As for the other 2100 readers who visited HA today, well… you know who you are.)
Still, not everyone reacted so positively to my pledge drive. I expected the usual personal attacks belittling me as stupid or lazy or a societal leech, and my trolls didn’t disappoint. But by far the nastiest comments came via email, where one pseudonymous righty lectured that my “shameless panhandling” made me an “unfit parent,” and claimed to have copied the email to DSHS along with my street address and phone number.
Of course, if I were a righty blogger with a comparable impact on local politics and media coverage (and yes, I know that requires a leap of imagination on both counts) I probably wouldn’t be reduced to begging — at least not publicly. The right has developed institutions to nurture and support up-and-coming talking heads, and help build and promote their profiles. Faced with the prospect of losing a right-wing voice like mine, a faux-think-tank like the EFF might find me some cushy job, or a friendly publisher might offer me a generous book deal. Nobody on the right would expect me to continue doing what I do for as long as I’ve done it without some sort of steady income.
And yet that’s exactly the status quo on the left. This despite the fact that us netroots bloggers have not only become an integral part of the Democratic Party’s messaging machine, but have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Democratic candidates.
Chris Bowers writes about the “one-way flow of progressive movement money,” and he comes off sounding rather pissed. And rightly so.
In a painful and disturbing irony, the same Democratic political consultant structure that the netroots seek to reform–and which Markos and Jerome called “The Consultant Con” in Crashing the Gate–is actually being funded, reinforced, and strengthened by the netroots. Roughly one-third of the money that went to Democratic campaign consultants in the 2003-2004 election cycle came from netroots activists….
[…] While I don’t think the netroots should regret any of the money it raised for Democratic candidates during 2003-2006 […] we needed to do more to help support the underfunded people, institutions and ideas that make the progressive movement possible. Just lining the pockets of already well compensated consultants is no way to build a movement over the long term.
My partner at BlogPac, Matt Stoller, has previously written about examples of full-time progressive movement activists who receive little or no compensation for their work. Maria Leavey, who did not have health insurance, passed away last month as the result of a heart attack a doctor could have identified. […] Local progressive bloggers typically lose money on blogging every year, even as they help transform local media and activist scenes. Even a prominent blogger such as myself, who helped raise around $2 million for Democratic candidates and committees in the 2005-2006 cycle (and transfer another $3 million into competitive races through Use It Or Lose It), spent the entire 2005-2006 cycle without health insurance. Quite frankly, it is pretty brainless for someone such as myself to help so much money flow into the hands of a small number of highly paid consultants without simultaneously raising money to meet my own basic needs, such as health insurance. What the hell was I doing?
But I am not just angry at myself, or the general lack of funding currently available to the people, institutions, and ideas that make the progressive movement so vital. I am also pissed off at the Democratic and progressive establishment that is funded with our dollars, but which refuses to fund us in return.
I’m not ashamed to be asking for your contributions, but I don’t particularly relish doing it, and I realize that long term this is an unsustainable way to support my work. My personal goal is to integrate my blogging and activism into a fulltime radio gig or some other kind of paid media venture. But my personal finances aside, the larger deficit is institutional, and if we want the progressive blogosphere to continue to grow in size and influence, the progressive community is going to have to step up and find a way to support bloggers of merit. This means labor, environment, pro-choice and all the traditional private and institutional backers of progressive candidates and causes are going to have to dedicate resources to funding bloggers like me. You can’t expect us to do this work, unpaid, indefinitely… and in the long run, you get what you pay for.
But in the meanwhile, I need your help. If you value what I do, if you would miss this blog if it were to suddenly go away, if you look forward to the impact I might have on future elections, I ask you to please reach into your pocket and throw a few bucks my way. I don’t do what I do for the money, but the bank that holds my mortgage does.
Six days and $2,100 to go. Thank you in advance for your generous support.