Here’s an account of a conference of American left-wing activists. There are many telling passages, but this one hit home the hardest:
There were leaders, all of them older, of extremely prominent liberal interest groups. We’re talking labor, environmental, economic justice, things like that. And some of them were genuinely awesome.
But there was a large contingent of them that were obsessed with one thing — their pet issue. It was about them, them, them. Why wasn’t their issue being addressed? Did they have to stay in some meeting if their issue wasn’t being discussed? Etc.
Wow! Their self-centeredness and lack of interest in working together (unless it revolved around their issue) was breathtaking.
On the other hand, most of the younger activists at this retreat ran community-style groups. They weren’t focused on any single issue, but on using the collective force of their communities to bear pressure on various issues.
I have long had a suspicion of coalition politics, partly because the power of its messages and prescriptions is so often attenuated in an effort to be all things to all of its constituents. Grocery-list politics has little appeal to the broader public at the best of times; watered down, it’s even less appetizing.
But perhaps the rise of networked activism could change the dynamic where policies and messages are geared not to a shared vision but the demands of a coalition’s most intransigent members.
The Internet could save the Left yet.
Incidentally, this post just casually points me to an extraordinary article mapping both the right-wing and liberal echo chambers in the States. Highly worth reading.