GOP Wave: Progressives Not Bold Enough?

11/03/2010 02:39 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In their frustration at last night's sweep of the House by the Tea Party-fueled G.O.P., progressives are assessing just how this happened.

"We should have been more bold," Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Lynn Woolsey told Pacifica Radio's Mitch Jeserich last night. Woolsey suggested that if the Democrats had started out of the gate with a jobs bill in 2009, Democratic fortunes might not have fallen to their current lows.

Longtime labor activist Bill Fletcher, Jr., speaking on Free Speech TV, complained that leaders of the progressive coalition that elected President Barack Obama were sent activists "back to the barracks" once the election was won.

Van Jones, who was purged from the White House through a Fox News-orchestrated smear campaign, told a gathering of activists in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, that over the course of the last two years, "we gave away almost all of our power" by receding to the sidelines or turning their attention to individual issues while neglecting the over-arching narrative.

While all of these assessments are true, they don't tell the whole story. The "enthusiasm gap" touted by pundits about this year's elections is really more of an infrastructure gap. As Thom Hartmann noted last night on The Big Picture and on Free Speech TV, the Supreme Court's decision in in Citizens United -- the case that settled the burning question of whether money equals speech -- allowed for such a flood of corporate dollars into the campaign process that 2010 saw the first legal theft of an election since the passage of the 1906 Tillman Act, which limited the use of corporate money in elections.

But that still doesn't get to the heart of the matter, which is infrastructure. Even if the left had access to the kind of money that fuels the right, it would not be poised to use it as effectively. Just as the progressive coalition tends to break apart into issue silos once Democrats are in power, its infrastructure also lacks the links and coordination that occur on the right. So the question is, what do we plan to do about that?