We tend to complain a lot about not having progressive voices in the media, and yet we watch how the conservative movement rams their voices into the media through books and publications. When conservative authors sell lots of books or conservative magazines build a big circulation, the rest of the media comes calling. It's a pretty simple formula, and that's why one of the things I tell audiences at my events is that by buying a progressive book or by subscribing to a progressive magazine, you are engaging in an act of movement building. This concept is at the heart of my new newspaper column today.
Since the column began back in September, I have tried to use it as a platform to promote the great work of progressives. Doing that expresses the same impulse that led me to create the Progressive States Network - a group that spends most of its time promoting the terrific work of others at the state level. Such efforts try to counter one of the worst traits that plagues the left: territorialism.
Let's be honest: today, there is still very little national movement-building infrastructure designed to help promote the work of others. The multimillion-dollar progressive institutions in Washington spend almost no time promoting or supporting the work of anyone other than themselves, leaving many local groups, organizers, writers to feel completely alone in their work. The same can be said for some of the biggest Internet-based groups and blogs. (As just a personal aside: After my own book tour when I start trying to find a new job, I am considering a major career change completely out of politics and writing for fear that it is impossible to make a living in this line of work, especially if you don't live in Washington, D.C...I tell you this not to lament and not feeling awful about it - it just may be a fact of life, though I will admit I am a bit surprised about it in that I thought it might feel like the landscape was a bit less bleak after scratching and clawing to get a column into 45 newspapers and writing two NY Times betsellers...any job ideas are welcome...but I digress).
I won't go into the details of the three books I promote in the column - you can read the column for that. The point of this post is for us all to try to understand this problem we face, and work in our own ways to overcome the selfish territorialism that plagues our movement.
When you see authors promoting their work, don't get angry and accuse them of "self-promotion" - and especially don't get angry and then whine and moan that we don't have voices in the media. Instead, help promote the author's work, whether it's my book or someone else's. When you hear of a new progressive organization in your community, don't immediately get angry that others aren't joining your group - reach out and try to see where you can work together. When you see a blog like OpenLeft ask for financial contributions, don't get mad - make a contribution. You get the idea.
Let's be clear - sites like OpenLeft, DailyKos, FDL, and Huffington Post; groups like the Campaign for America's Future and all the grassroots organizations I have worked with on my tour are examples of working to overcome the problem. The most exciting part about this book tour for me has been to meet with thousands of people who are doing the real work of movement building at the local level - not just writing on a blog venting and fuming but doing no long-term organizing. Out of this uprising can come a movement - if we all work together. And working together means, among other things, buying progressive books - whether that's THE UPRISING, the books I profile in my column, or other books.
You can read the whole column at the San Francisco Chronicle, the Denver Post, Ft. Collins Coloradoan, the Vail Daily, TruthDig, In These Times, Credo Action or Creators Syndicate. The column relies on grassroots support, so if you'd like to see my column regularly in your local paper, use this directory to find the contact info for your local editorial page editors. Get get in touch with them and point them to my Creators Syndicate site. Thanks, as always, for your ongoing readership and help contacting local editors. This column couldn't be what it is without your help.