Me: Do we have someone named Forrest working with us? Stephanie: Yes! He just volunteered to do a research project about how various congressional campaigns spent their money in 2008. He's researching Grayson first. Me: ah!
I relayed the news to Stoller, who had recently left OpenLeft to work for Rep. Alan Grayson -- letting him know that this guy poking around asking probing questions was legit.
Subequent Gchat conversation with Forrest:
Me: how'd you join the PCCC list? Forrest: i think i read a post by Bowers about it Me: he wrote some nice stuff Forrest: i read almost everything on openleft
Forrest (who makes a cameo at the front of this recent PCCC video) was a 17 year old prodigy at the time. Today, he's a 19 year old prodigy, deferring Harvard for a year and doing all sorts of talented, mind-blowing things as our Senior Fellow in DC.
This line of conversation has always stayed in my memory -- and has special significance on this bittersweet day of transition for OpenLeft.
It's a reminder of who you -- the person reading this blog post right now -- are. You are not just a "reader" or "commenter" or some random person browsing the Internet. The OpenLeft community is comprised of some REALLY smart and talented people -- people who have gone through an experience together. We've struggled together, had victories together, mourned losses together, and had resurgences together.
And despite this site shutting down (for now), our journey of fighting together to beat back the ridiculous conventional wisdom that flows from DC, give voice to a more accurate narrative of the world, fight hard for a progressive agenda that helps regular people, and build long-term progressive power will go on...together.
Some enterprising folks have set up an OpenLeft Survivor's blog. Forrest just set up an OpenLeft Survivor's Facebook page. The PCCC -- which thousands of people have joined through OpenLeft -- will keep marching forward (and you are formally invited to join if you haven't already). Chris, myself, and others will keep blogging at Daily Kos and other places. Digby, John Amato, and others will keep the narrative flowing at their awesome blogs. And Matt will keep the ideas flowing at his own new perch consulting for MSNBC and doing some other fun progressive stuff in the near future.
Speaking of which, back to the sappiness...
Matt Stoller is brilliant. I'll never forget the first time I met him in person.
Thanks for being part of this community, and thank you for letting me develop my voice and ideas in concert with your voice and your ideas. In 2007, Chris, Mike, and I started OpenLeft based on the idea that there was a new ideologically left-wing yet open set of actors on stage. I still think this is true, and perhaps, there's some of that going on right now in the uprisings in the Middle East. Though it's in fashion, I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on Egypt, except to note that Facebook will totally set everyone free. Thanks, Zuck!
The signs of a world undergoing profound change are everywhere. Wikileaks is a genuine social innovation, a new form of collaborative media that scales what Daniel Ellsberg did. The political blogosphere, and then the financial blogs, have sketched an open counter-elite that can truly challenge the existing financial oligarchs' intellectual stronghold on our social order. Much of the world is overthrowing the Washington consensus, and our elites are naked to the world in terms of their own incompetence and ignorance.
After OpenLeft, I worked for Congressman Alan Grayson, in what was the best job of my life. He used to joke when he hired me that most Congressmen have staffers, while I had a Congressman. Man did we have a good time, fighting the good fight. And we accomplished a whole lot - the first audit of the Federal Reserve in history is being done right now, in part because of Grayson. And actually, as I think about it right now, working for Grayson was a lot like blogging. Blogging is its own form of writing, at once conversational and collaborative. You aren't in a room, with the door closed, trying to think up the brilliant phrase that will turn the world on its head. You're riding the wave. You're interacting with thousands. You're getting steamed by commenters, the flame wars and the critics, and your friends gone right and gone wrong. At its best, blogging is a democratic space, a necessary ingredient of what Lawrence Goodwyn pointed out was a predicate to the great social movements in American history.
OpenLeft was such a space, which is why many of us are sad about today. It was a space to which all of us contributed. It's not that bloggers, commenters, and audience are going away, never to be heard from again. I'm still around, you can find me at @matthewstoller on Twitter, stirring up trouble and ideas. The rest of the gang is going to be on the internets as well. But there's a mixture that will be missing. I know this because of the people who called me when I worked for Grayson, some of my coworkers and interns, who were part of the OpenLeft world. There was a very specific, I don't know what to call it, but flavor, a code, perhaps, a way of seeing the world that we all shared, and share. When we got together at Netroots Nation, or in the comments sections, or when I meet a reader, we had and have a bond.
We can create that space again. I suspect it will be created, in much larger forums than we ever imagined. Humans can accomplish profoundly incredible feats when challenged. I keep seeing Egyptians saying that they never dreamed these days would come, when their people would rise up. I cannot right now imagine such a day for Americans, but that does not mean it won't happen. It means that it will happen in a way that I will not expect. Perhaps some of you will lead such a consciousness raising moment. The great social movements in American history worked that way, with generations passing down memories of dissent, until there was a disruptive break-out social innovation, like the farmer's cooperatives of the 1880s, the sit-down strikes of the 1930s, or the boycotts and marches of the 1960s. In Poland, Solidarity came from the memories of worker strikes in the 1950s, and I suspect that we will discover the roots of what is happening in Egypt come from something similar. Like Facebook! Zuck is so dreamy, did you see the Social Network? It was awesome! Oscars here we come!
This has been a wonderful community to be a very small part of. When Matt and Chris said they were leaving MyDD, I knew I would be following them to wherever they were going. I thought they were full of wild and crazy ideas, but ones that could be implemented.
They knew that principles mattered because they set the course of events. Principles told you when you were veering off course.
My identifier on this site was this quote from a Matt Stoller piece during the 2008 election cycle
"Incrementalism isn't a different path to the same place, it could be a different path to a different place"
I have been doing politics in different ways at different levels for many years. From being one of the founders of the first women's "liberation" group in Boston, to marching in the streets against war and for equality, to helping to make films about the history of the left and its repression in America, to being involved organizationally with the abortion rights movement. Being a liberal, one who thought we should be loud about our liberalism....Well, it was often a very lonely place for an unreconstructed liberal like me.
You know that hackneyed phrase. "I haven't changed, I haven't left the Demcoratic party, the Democratic party left me,"? It is always used by right wingers to justify themselves...for whatever heinous betrayal of principles they have just engaged in. However for me, it's also true. I haven't changed, I am just the liberal I always was. It's just that the Democratic party has become less so. However, I keep refusing to accept that that is to be the final outcome, a constant drift rightward. So I try mightily to pull it back to where it once was
The community on the internet and on the blogs, alleviated that sense of loneliness. Actually it made me realize I wasn't the only one who was crazy. Crazy for freedom and equality and all those words everyone uses and abuses. To me the truest and most fundamental expression of freedom and equality are to be found in that space known as progressivism now and liberalism then.
Matt was very right about the dangers of incrementalism. If the arc of change is too long and too curvy, it gets diverted from its final object. Diverted by corruption, diverted by fatigue, diverted by a misplaced sense of comity, diverted by money and the distortion in power that money creates, and diverted by the idea that if change doesn't come now it will come later. Well it may, but it won't, by then be the change that is needed and that we liberals have fought for. It won;t be the change people NEED. The more it gets diverted, the less power real people have to make the change that is best for themselves. It is a downward spiral instead of an upward one. Patience is not always a virtue.
FDR made big change and he made it fast. It has had a lasting effect. We are still trying to fill in the gaps in the vision he brought for.
I want to thank Matt and Chris for the oppurtunity they gave me to write for this wonderful blog. When Matt asked me to write here, I replied I wasn;t a good enough writer. But he said I stuff to write about, that I was passionate about...so I did. I hope I got better.
I want to thank Paul Rosenberg for all his wonderful posts and the help he has extended to me since he's been editor. And to Mike Lux for being himself, smart, left but centered. And to Adam Bink for being himself as well and fixing my techno screw ups. ( Adam say hi to your mom for me)
I have been asked to write about abortion, choice and women at Crooks and Liars. I am thrilled to do so.
And I want to thank my colleagues here at Open Left when we won the Pub Quiz at Netroots Nation when we were in Pittsburgh in 2009. I never had more fun at a conference in my life. Maybe that's why John asked me to write for C&L!
To the commenters on this site, I want to say that this is smartest, most insightful and most courteous group of commenters on the internet. I thank you for letting me write for you.
Please see the end for my thanks yous and where to find me after today. I have opted to close with an attempt to describe the field of play -D
Shortly after Kerry's loss in 2004, at MyDD, Chris wrote "Conservatism is our enemy" which I think is the first time I ever encountered a direct ideological assault on conservatism itself. Along with Phil Agre's rightly famous essay on the subject, it began me on a road and mission to better understanding this beast. Everything I have learned to date from then continues to bolster Chris' original thesis. Conservativism is still the primary enemy of progress, justice, fairness and widespread happiness for humanity. It remains a destructive and corrosive force on the institutions of democracy and the single biggest obstacle to world peace.
If I have had a broad meta thesis here at Open Left, it is that the true fight is one of ideas and thus ideology. We must reject the mushy centrist claim that ideology is necessarily an evil. Not only is it not necessarily evil, ideology is necessary period. The fights over parties, the media, particular policies and tactics are important, but my read on the broad sweep of history is that when the dominant ideas are bad, the parties will behave stupidly, the media will fail to correct them and the policies will be destructive. There is a reason Canada, the UK and the US all elected right wing governments in the 80s. There is a reason Obama's team could not even consider a new WPA or even ask for a big-enough stimulus. Bad ideas are still dominant. I see no refuge in any 3rd party, because I see no reason such a party would not itself be quickly co-opted by the same bad ideas upon attaining power or in order to attain power. I want to fight bad ideas directly.
How about, "See you around"? I don't know where, exactly, though I do have some good ideas. More on that at the end.
While that may suffice for us individually, though, it certainly can't for us as a community. And that's what I will miss most of all about Open Left. Of course I'm grateful to Chris, Matt & Mike for creating this place, and then giving me the opportunity to write here. But I've always craved online writing because of the immediacy of hearing what people think of what you've written, because there is so much to be learned. It's axiomatic, really, that the group mind is orders of magnitude smarter than the individual mind, so the smartest thing the individual mind can do is find the best way to benefit from the group mind.
It's not just about intelligence, of course. It's also about wisdom, compassion, humor, patience, forgiveness, forbearance, resilience... and on, and on, and on. In a word, it's about community. Because we are social creatures, made so by millions of year of evolution, this is the highest and deepest thing it can be about.
It's messy as hell, though, because we're also individuals with strong ideas and the ability to articulate and defend them. So counterpoint, more than harmony, is the ideal ideal for a place like this. Of course the ideal isn't always realized. In fact, it's usually not. Otherwise, it wouldn't be an ideal. But we come close enough often enough to keep the ideal alive in the flesh, and not just some abstraction that all can agree on, because it's never real.
I wish I could mention everyone by name, and acknowledge the sorts of things I've learned from them, the things I will miss. I wish this especially, because if I start with just mentioning one or two, then where do I stop? There are a few of you I'd especially like to single out by name... but then that would unintentionally slight others, and that's the last thing I'd want to do. So, I wish I could mention you all by name... even though I know I cannot. And so, instead, I'm going to do the incredibly lame thing, and just say, "You know who you are." But I will try to elevate it just a smidgen by adding, "And so do all the rest of us." You've made this a truly wonderful place to write, a place that always made me want to do better next time. A place that kept me wanting to grow. And I hope, above all, that it was that sort of place for all of you as well.
I will continue writing, of course. Above all, I have a backlog of ideas for books I want to write, and I'm determined to focus on getting one of them done. But I also want to keep writing online--although at a lest all-consuming pace. Unfortunately, I've got things in the works, but not finalized yet.
That's why God invented search engines. With date ranges. You'll be able to find me, I'm sure of it. I should be popping up somewhere within a couple of weeks or so.
I can still remember starting out in progressive politics. It was back in the early part of the last decade, and there was very little tolerance back then for anything even remotely resembling a progressive counterforce to the corporatist conservatism embedding itself within the Democratic Party. That's not to say that there wasn't a counterforce - it is only to say that there wasn't much tolerance for one, and there wasn't a lot of public space for any kind of progressive discourse. There wasn't, in other words, much of a genuinely open left.
This (not surprisingly) deeply troubled me - and my disgust got me into more than a little trouble in career. As just one example, I recall being raked over the coals by some of my co-workers at the Center for American Progress when I simply pointed out how much credit card industry cash the Democrats who voted for the bankruptcy bill had taken.
That was then, though - and this is now. And thanks, in part, to this site, it's fair to say that there is a much more open left than there even was a few years ago.
So while I am sad to see the end of OpenLeft.com, I also think all of us in the OpenLeft community - from the front-page posters to the diarists to the commenters - can declare Mission Accomplished. No, we haven't realized the progressive agenda we all continue to fight for and believe in - sadly, not even close. However, I do think that we have played a significant role in opening up the left to the kind of vigorous principled debates that have been lacking for far too long. I don't think that's self-aggrandizement - I think that's just a statement of fact, one that we should all feel proud of. It's not often that you get to contribute to an endeavor that genuinely changes the scope and parameters of our national political discourse.
On a personal note, I just want to offer a huge thank-you to everyone at OpenLeft. Scratching and clawing together a career in independent media is no easy task - and having a venue to write professionally without fear of editorial backlash is extremely rare. OpenLeft provided that for me, and I couldn't have survived on this career path without both the creators of this site, and the tremendously constructive community here.
For me, all those projects I am working on - from a radio show with a fast-growing audience, to book writing, to a syndicated column - are a dream come true. Really, I feel so lucky to have cobbled together a career in this line of work - and now, I've got almost more work than I can handle (no doubt, a good problem to have in this tough economy). But none of it would have been possible without this community here at OpenLeft. I am eternally grateful for the chance, and in closing will just reiterate what I said to start: As much as I wish that OpenLeft.com could continue, I'm confident that we have helped truly open the left. That, more than anything, is what this project has always been about - and for good reason. Only with an open and vigorous left will we have a chance at achieving the change our country and world so desperately needed.
I am going to keep this pretty short because I don't want to get too maudlin.
When we started OpenLeft, it was an experiment: By combining the ideas, skills, creativity, and experience of three incredibly different partners, and bringing in all of those things from a wide cross-section of other interested folks, could we spark some new models of how to do organizing and new media? The answer was yes. I will always be proud of how OpenLeft became a home for experimentation, innovation, and cross-fertilization that was always interesting and sometimes genuinely groundbreaking.
For me, it has such a great learning experience. I was the crotchety old D.C. insider on the site, which led to some fun and spirited arguments with other parts of the OpenLeft community. But it was also great for someone like me to learn, up close and personal, the chemistry, rhythms, and pulse of the blogosphere, and to get a feel for what this part of the progressive community was feeling and thinking.
I have some thank yous to make. I'll start with Matt Stoller, who was the one who invited me to join him and Chris as they were leaving MyDD to set up a new blog. Stoller and I think very differently, and clashed quite a bit, but I always will value his passion for justice, and his flashes of incredible creativity and insight that so often went right to the heart of how to approach a political organizing challenge. I want to thank Chris, who has been the steady, solid, calm soul of OpenLeft since the very first day, and whose incredible analytical mind has been a joy to learn from every day. I want to thank Paul Rosenberg, whose writing has been deep and thoughtful, and who took over the day-to-day site editor duties from Chris when he left to go over to Daily Kos. All of the people who wrote regularly for us have been so great to read and so much fun to work with. I especially want to thank my own staff, without whom OpenLeft wouldn't have functioned well at all. Adam Bink was a driving force from the very beginning on strategy, on advertising, and then on writing - I have been especially proud to see him grow and develop and turn into such a rising star for this progressive movement. And the great unsung hero of OpenLeft - someone our readers never knew about because she never blogged - was Carla Engle, who managed all the behind-the-scenes accounting, legal and business operations of the site, and was always a key player on the overall strategy of the site.
I am sorry we felt like we had to make the decision to shut down. I always have felt that Chris was the day-to-day driver of OpenLeft - the heart and soul of making it such an interesting place - and when he got the wonderful opportunity that he did at Daily Kos, we just felt that it was better to phase things out rather than keep going. But I am very philosophical about these kinds of things: I have been a part of starting a great many organizations over the years, and I have always felt that there is a cycle to institutions, and that it is sometimes better to shut them down than to keep them alive too long.
Having gotten my start in the world of the blogosphere, I will stay involved in a variety of ways. I am doing some consulting with Daily Kos and with the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC (which, while not a blog has the same spirit and values of the blogosphere); I am on the board of Netroots Nation; I will continue to post at Huffington Post sometimes, but will also be starting to write for Crooks and Liars in the coming days, which I am very excited about.
I have one final thank you: to all of you who have been a part of this beloved community. I have thoroughly enjoyed arguing with you, learning from you, and taking political action together. I look forward to working with many of you in the future on new endeavors to help strengthen the progressive movement in this country.
Some of you may have noticed I haven't been writing for some time. The reason is because I recently accepted a position as Director of Online Programs at the Courage Campaign, where I will be running the online shop with a special emphasis on LGBT equality campaigns, but have been so engaged I haven't found time to write a farewell post.
I have been working on OpenLeft since before the day we launched in July 2007- managing the advertising spaces, working out the bugs, working on the design with Chris and Matt. Many of you remember my open threads asking for improvements, and then we went out and did our best to fulfill your requests. Eventually I started writing, and many of you liked my work, so I started writing more. Eventually I started working on action campaigns like No On 1/Protect Maine Equality, buying the advertisements you funded around the public option in DC newspaper outlets, coordinating the work to promote Mike's book The Progressive Revolution, and more.
I really would not be where I am today, starting off in a new role with a strong and vibrant online community at Courage Campaign, if not for working on all of that with you all. You chipped in to defend equality in Maine, chipped in to fund ads supporting the public option, came to book events, sent a public comment to the HHS Committee considering a revision of the ban on blood donations from MSM, and more. You joined our e-mail list, now over 100,000 strong, all built from scratch.
What I mean to say with all of this is that you all helped me get my start in online organizing. And I'm truly grateful to have had the opportunity to work together. Grateful with all my heart.
The second thing I want to say is to ask you to glance to the right of this blog post, at the top under the user log-in/menu, at our list of OpenLeft campaigns. I am proud of the work we did here. Electing Donna Edwards. Helping Joe Sestak beat Arlen Specter. Generating remarkable ROI in the Searching for John McCain project. Nearly getting the public option to the finish line. Changing the conversation with the Responsible Plan to End the War. We did create some real change, and where we didn't push things over the top, we took great strides in moving people and lawmakers and the media. Some campaigns are years-long campaigns and much of the work we did is only the start.
The last thing I want to say is that although OpenLeft will no longer publish new content, we are continuing to fight the good fight elsewhere. I will be doing it at Courage Campaign and its blog, Prop8TrialTracker.com (where you can continue reading my writing), Chris at DailyKos, and the rest of us in various other places throughout our movement. I write with a heavy heart because I've tried to make the site ever better, the writing interesting, and the actions strategic, and I hope you've found it to be so. But I take heart in what Chris wrote this morning, that this movement is bigger than just one blog, and we will continue working to build a better and society and planet.
I have some sad news. After nearly four years in operation, today will be the final day Open Left publishes new content.
The site will not disappear, and all published content will remain online, but after today we will cease producing new content.
As the people who founded the site, myself included, moved on to other projects, we have gradually run out of money to maintain operations. It is a difficult decision, but we kept going for as long as we could.
I am, and always will be proud of the work we did here. I am, and will always be grateful to everyone who supported, visited, and participated in the site.
No matter what, the inside-outside fight we engaged for progressive change at Open Left will continue in other venues, even though this blog is about to close. The movement is much bigger than one blog.
Farewell posts will run throughout the day. Thank you, so much, to everyone.