I am a relative newcomer to the blogosphere, having just begun posting here at Huffington Post a few months back. I had been paying a lot of attention to the netroots movement for some time, but had never blogged. A friend of mine had told me to try my hand at blogging on someone else's site and see how I liked it, so when Arianna offered me the opportunity to blog here, I jumped at the chance. And I loved it: blogging is a great way to express yourself, and the chance to get immediate interaction with readers is fun and a great learning experience. Now I am getting ready to take the plunge in an even bigger way: with my friends Matt Stoller and Chris Bowers, who have been blogging until recently at MyDD.com, we are launching a new blog next week called OpenLeft.com.
Matt and Chris approached me with the idea of joining them in this venture with the idea that the three of us could be an interesting combination. We are all strongly committed to building a strong and progressive movement and an enduring progressive (not just Democratic) majority. We are all weary of politics as usual and an elite political establishment that cares more about staying comfortable and less about really making most Americans' lives better. We are all believers in the ground-up and democratizing movement-building power of the netroots, and are excited about the innovative strategies of that movement. That unity in terms of values and mission will make OpenLeft.com a powerful place to do movement-building and strategic initiatives.
But there are also differences in our backgrounds, sets of experiences, and sensibilities, and those differences will also make the blog a fascinating place to hang out. While Matt and Chris are great organizers and do a wide range of coalition building, their experience, sense of the blogosphere, and open, honest, speak-truth-to-power styles sometimes rattles a lot of cages. And while I have been known to be blunt about my opinions, I am, by nature and history, more of an insider, someone who has been around D.C. a long time and has plenty of friends from all parts of Democratic and progressive politics, including the Democratic establishment.
I have always believed that the progressive movement needs both kinds of folks. I am convinced that when big changes have happened in American history, it is at the intersection of dialogue between insiders and outsiders, between the sympathetic people inside the party structure and the outside movement beating impatiently on the door, between blunt and angry agitators and diplomatic bridge-builders. That is how the abolitionists and the Republican Party ended slavery in the 1860s; how the progressive movement worked with a bipartisan group of reformers to bring about the national park system, the income tax, direct election of senators, women's suffrage, and food safety in the first two decades of the 1900s; how the Congress of Industrial Organizations worked with FDR's administration to bring about the New Deal, Social Security, labor law reform, minimum wage, and regulation of finance; and how the movements of the 1950s and '60s worked with liberal Democrats to bring about the end of segregation and voting rights, Medicare and Medicaid, environmental protection, and laws protecting worker and consumer safety.
When progressivism fails, it is a failure of both the party insiders and the movement -- political leadership that is too comfortable with the status quo, outside movements whose organizing is lethargic, and bad strategy for both. That is the story of the last three decades. Fortunately, things are beginning to change, and OpenLeft.com wants to be at the center of that conversation: how can the progressive movement best rebuild and revitalize ourselves? How should progressive institutions change? How should Democratic politicians make their party both more strategically effective and better at delivering on the things that will really make a difference in the lives of their constituents? Those kinds of questions, and more, with honest and open dialogue about what the answers are, will be discussed daily at OpenLeft.com.
In keeping with the proud tradition of the netroots, we intend to engage in that dialogue with honesty and bluntness, while welcoming to the fray those who share our desire for a better country and healthier movement even while they disagree with us. We won't hesitate to challenge each other either, because our different experience and approaches are at the heart of what makes OpenLeft.com valuable. Being more of an insider, for example, I am more in touch with the history of the people and groups that Matt and Chris are learning about for the first time. I have been working with those groups while they made decisions that led to our political situation today, decisions that Matt and Chris and the netroots in general only understand as historical episodes. I was in the middle of the impeachment fight of 1998 and I bled with the left during the ugly and depressing health care fight of the early 1990s. Those of us who came before, and those who arrived to politics more recently, have different perspectives. It's time we started hashing out our different perspectives in honest, open discussion, so that we can move forward together. Matt, Chris, myself, and the other members of the OpenLeft community won't always agree, but it is in that dialogue that the future of a nation-changing movement can flower.
I will keep posting here on HuffingtonPost fairly often as well, because I love this community and think it is incredibly valuable. Together, this broader netroots movement will continue to re-define both media and politics.
Mike Lux is the president of American Family Voices, an issue advocacy group sometimes described as the "free safety" of the progressive movement, and consults for progressive organizations and donors through his consulting firm, Progressive Strategies, L.L.C.