BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, March 10 2010
One further note on cold hard cash money from last night's session in Manhattan that had to do with the future of the left's grassroots in the Obama era.
A question from the crowd asked just how grassroots groups can get funding these days. Demos' Ben Barber made the point that social movements depend on social capital more than capital capital. Still, money's nice. The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel namechecked ActBlue as a model that has worked on the electoral side of Democratic politics (to the tune of $122 million since 2004 and counting). KVH suggested that a similar model might work for grassroots/non-profit groups. You might also see a distributed, small-dollar model work for progressive media outlets -- in a few clicks, for example, you might drop five bucks for the Nation, Talking Points Memo, what have you. (It would, in theory, also work on the right side of the spectrum, though there's no ActBlue equivalent in conservative circles.)
It's worth keeping in mind that, as ActBlue reps will tell you, the point of ActBlue isn't to be the PayPal of progressive politics. It's to, to borrow a phrase from them, normalize the act of small-dollar online giving. It becomes something you do online -- you tweet, check Facebook, email some folks, and make a small donation to the politicians/groups/publications you support.
Reps from ActBlue, though, will also tell you that they're going to be consumed by the election through November, so don't necessarily expect something like that to come out of their shop anytime soon.