Thursday, March 31, 2005

Creating Progressive National Security Activists

Mathew Iglesias reports today on a new, really incredible, Democratic Security Blog, Democracy Arsenal, a joint venture of the Center for American Progress and the Century Foundation

There's a recent post on their site which strikes very close to home for me, the famous Matt Bai NY Times Magazine article Wiring the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy. This article strikes close to home for me partly because this past summer I got highly involved with one of the groups mentioned in the article, Music for America. My work with MfA changed my life, taking me off of an Academic track and showing me my true calling-- active politics.

But, since I've decided to change careers I face a dilemma. I know that I'm good, I would even say great if I weren't so modest ;-), at politicing and I have more passion about fixing the sorry ass state/direction of our nation than most. But, as I finish up my Masters thesis and I begin to look to switch my career from computers into the political sphere, I'm struck by the almost complete lack of an infrastructure to plug myself into. I have plenty of connections and people who can testify to my abilities, and I almost certainly could land myself a good political job come summer. But what I really want is to get plugged into a broader movement/organization, but that, by and large doesn't exist.

As the the Democracy Arsenal piece points out:
on the left, we have academics and operatives.(who don't communicate with each other) The right has academic operatives. Karl Rove is the prototype. Stepford Wonks are the ones who repeat the talking points on TV and radio. The academic operative fights in the gutter in the morning but then cleans up nicely for a Clausewitz lecture in the afternoon. Voila!

The liberal side doesn't really have anything equivalent in significant numbers. Yglesias' piece about the gap between the liberal concept people and Democratic operatives on defense issues is a good overview and identifies places to begin building infrastructure for our side. (Derek, the 12 Step Program!)

One attempt to try and create this infrastructure is being done under the auspices of the Principles Project (which I wrote about a few weeks back). For now it seems that the Project will focus on voting reform as an issue to work towards the creation of an infrastructure (an issue that I care about, but I seriously disagree with making it the one and only organizing issue). I tried hard to push national security issues at the conference, since nearly a third of the document deals with this area, but ultimately I wasn't in the meeting where the issue was chosen, so my voice wasn't heard (at least not in the right place at the right time). I also tried to push credit issues, since a very large coalition-- including advocacy groups from the Armed Forces-- is about to be launched with the express purpose of re-regulating credit, but that also didn't seem to catch on.

But- no matter who does the organizing, or under what auspices, creating a new cadre of national security progressives desperately needs to happen (but please, please, don't invite Joe "Bush was right to invade Iraq" Biden to speak or teach- we don't need more Neo-Con Dems).