As someone who has been involved somewhat in the punditry circuit (for lack of a better term), I have been asked by progressive friends what I think is needed for the left to compete with the right, not so much in the war of ideas, as idea distribution.
To begin with, we need people who can confidently promote progressive values on television and radio. While the last decade has seen the creation and expansion of progressive think tanks, Air America Radio (an incubator of such talent as Rachel Maddow and Sam Seder), and even primetime MSNBC becoming a mini-progressive TV outpost, we still lack the funding of the right and the pipeline it creates.
A 24-hour conservative television station and talk radio both nationally and locally dominated by conservatives doesn't only get the message out and give cover to politicians and political ideas once considered slightly to the right of insane (make no mistake, they've used these and many print distribution channels to take Bircherism, or Hofstadter's "Paranoid Style," mainstream -- something that was once looked at as absolute looniness by those who even controlled the Establishment on the right).
It also has created everyone from Glenn Beck to Sean Hannity to Tucker Carlson (we can also thank The Weekly Standard and Swanson for this last honor, as in Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson). So we may not have that. Or Heritage Foundation Summer School (with balconies!) and, for the most part, the other think tanks that pay conservative "thinkers" real salaries just to think out loud during non-paid TV segments, in low-paying articles and columns, and to write books nobody buys -- but reach the New York Times bestseller list because these think tanks bulk buy 20,000 of them the minute they come out.
But we are making progress in other areas. One project I'm involved with, The Progressive Talent Initiative, not only provides 3.5 days of media training including everything from performance critiques to messaging advice, but the relationship continues afterwards, as the program gives you a tune up when you need it and helps get you booked for appearances.
It is a great program, which I had the luck of attending, and now maybe it's your turn. If you're a political strategist, progressive activist, blogger, academic, non-profit dweller or the like, this could be a great program for you to earn the key messaging and media training skills the left so critically needs. The training is free to participants, so if you are selected, can take the time to participate and are eager and willing to be booked after the training, the PTI team will take care of everything else.
If this is something you've been thinking about, give it a shot, as we need progressives armed with not only the facts, but the ability to share them with persuadable audiences.
So what are you doing March 9-12? If you'd like to apply for media training, now's your chance. The training is limited to only 12 participants, so showcase your talents in your application for the review committee to see. Application is available here and is open until January 14. So get in the game my friends!
Follow Cliff Schecter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cliffschecter