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June 19, 2008


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Jay Taber

What Berlet describes is not theory. Jerome Himmelstein documents these investments by the right-wing in his book To The Right. Berlet knows the score; the mostly unfunded pro-democracy network he mentions has a track record of achievements going back forty years. The sad thing is these achievements have been undermined by a failure to invest in building a bona fide movement on this foundation. Even sadder is that many of the most knowledgeable are getting on in years and need to pass on their skills to younger people. No resources means this wisdom will largely go to waste.


I do hear you, Jay. The contrast between conservative and progressive funders in this respect is stark. Why? It seems that conservatives are more pragmantic and strategic. They have a few funders who not only care about the issues, but see how they can leverage think tanks into policies that put money back in the funder's own pockets by deregulation and tax law changes. On the progressive side, the beneficiaires of the work are many millions of atomized, half asleep, people who do not donate. Larger progressive funders are often shy of politcally related giving. They tend not to want to be trouble makers. And as a class, well, they are still wealthy and have the social mores of that group, they still go along to get along with money and power. Also, as you know, progressivism became the party of identity politics. That emphasis remains. Funders often identify more with their identity group than with the problems of democarcy over all. Finally, Jay, is fear. "We don't want to get on the wrong list" is a common sentiment. The forces of concentrated power fight dirty. Why mess with them? That is of course an open invitation to the continued abuse of power by those in charge, but fear has set in, and we are entering the era of happy faces masking intimidation. We are learning to live 24/7 in the intimidated falsely upbeat way of corporate employees who know that justice is not the issue, the issue is what the higher ups want. That spirit of going along with the abusers, since fighting them is futile and dangerous, seems pretty common. I wish I could tell you otherwise, but you are standing beside a Dumpster here, Jay. We are talking this up daily and have for years, but mostly I am talking to myself and the crowd as it passes by in silence. Your voice is welcome here. I hope it is heard or overheard.


Jay, the contrast between conservatives and progressives may be wrongly drawn. The better contrast might be between the centralizing and decentraliazing forces. Small business may be an ally. Small town patriots may be allies, if properly informed. See http://www.solari.com for a conservative perspective that puts progressives to shame. We all have a stake in a free society. We may do better to mobilize across the traditional divides. Libertarian and conservative self made people are not all bought into the what is happening in DC. They too can see that it is a very small clique there, and they themselves may not be included. My experience is that these small town conservtive self made people have more spine than progressives and are more likely to make tough calls and to put themselves and their money on the line. Just think about it. Lots of counter-examples, but there are people who know what is goin on who are bedrock down home conservatives and who want America back.

Jay Taber

So set up a fund where no contributor has to participate alone. Just make sure that the trustees or investment advisors have the creds to do what needs to be done, not what is in vogue. What could be more innocuous than funding conferences?


Some donors to off center projects run donations through donor advised funds at places like Tides. You get, though, into the whole drill about applying for grants. That could prove to be a time drain and exasperating to you. A few years go, we did an open space conference in Chicago for about 30 people. They came at their own expense. They fed themselves. We rented a room at University of Chicago for about three days at a cost of $1,300. Chicago was a good place because it was central and a pedestrian city. So you might be able to do a conference for not much money.

Jay Taber

I'm familiar with Tides, et al. My suggestion is that interested donors meet with Berlet to discuss what is needed and how the need can be met. Berlet's organization is a c3, and he knows everybody in the country doing the front line stuff. As for the dog faces, they can't apply for grants because they aren't incorporated, mostly because they've either determined it to be a waste of time, or because they lack the energy to do the work as well as play the game. We did research on incorporating our network, and found it would do us no good, but these are precisely the people you want to be there. They have no resources, so scholarships including travel and lodging are necessary. When the donors are ready to help those fighting back, I'm sure they can figure out how to carry it off.


I agree that if donors wanted they could have and would have found you already. The appalling thing to me is the lack of interest in funding true grassroots pro-democracy efforts in the US. It is not like there is a huge pent up demand among funders just looking for an introduction to you or Berlet. I wish it were otherwise. I will add him to my resource list. I do hope that in time funders will surface who are interested in more than maintaining an increasly bleak status quo.

Jay Taber

Persistence and patience are tough to balance, but they finally found Berlet. He just hasn't yet managed to convince them to invest in the rest of us. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume their worldview comes with blinders making us invisible. Discussing this in the open on venues like your blog can't hurt.


I hope funders and researchers do find one another, indeed.

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