The Left Needs to Cultivate Its Talent

The following isn’t necessarily the main point of Michael Tomasky’s piece, but it’s what stuck out to me.

…there are four Democratic senators from deep-red states who are up for reelection in 2018. The pressure on those four—Claire McCaskill, Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Jon Tester—to support Trump initiatives will be enormous. Another five represent states that Trump won, albeit more narrowly; they too will face such pressures, so [Democratic Senate Minority Leader, Chuck] Schumer is going to have a tough time holding that caucus together.

So what do the Democrats have? Mainly right now, what they have are a lot of pissed off and freaked out people who want to do something.

Since I knew a friend was in from out of town, I attended the Philadelphia chapter of Drinking Liberally last night for the first time in about five years. I was a staple in that organization from 2005 to 2010, when my son was born and parental responsibilities intervened. At its height it was a bit of a salon for antiwar bloggers. Our unofficial leader was Duncan Black (a.k.a., Atrios) of Eschaton. Susie Madrak was a regular, as was Chris Bowers (then of MyDD.com, now with Daily Kos). A long list of other writers, most now inactive, were also members. Beyond the writers were the organizers. I had come into that world as a veteran of the dreaded ACORN. Before long, I was working as a political consultant for Democracy for America. Others worked at MoveOn, Color of Change, the SEIU or became deeply involved in Obama for America (later Organizing for America). We cross-pollinated with local groups like Philly for Change.

None of us got rich and none of really got anything more than something like sub-famous. But we toiled and worked hard and I think we made a difference, each in our own way.

Last night I saw mostly new, mostly younger faces. They were the faces of people who are “pissed off and freaked out” and “want to do something.” They were looking for leadership.

One thing the left might learn this time around is to value this new generation of folks more than they valued the last one. This isn’t sour grapes; it’s just good, solid advice.

The right has their wingnut welfare and they cultivate half-talented people who we’re all now familiar with because they have syndicated columns and make regular appearances on television and radio. The left, in my experience, has seen their impassioned organizers and thought leaders more as nuisances and unwelcome gadflies. Maybe the election of Donald Trump will finally convince them that (especially in a more populist environment) outsiders have something of value to offer and that talent should be cultivated rather than shunned as an uninvited challenge.

I would have liked to have been able to tell those folks last night that there might be some future in what they’re looking to do and that they’ll find grateful allies in the Democratic establishment. That wasn’t my experience during the last go-round. They’ll go to work anyway because they’re patriotic and altruistic and they need an outlet for their angst. I hope they have a better experience and more success.

We’re all kind of depending on them.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.