“Folk Art Flag,” El Cajon Yacht Club

October 7, 2017; New York Times

An article in yesterday’s New York Times tells us that all is not rainbows and highly cooperative unicorns within what is loosely termed “the resistance.” We are certainly not surprised to see the struggle for eminence in the opportunity posed by Trump’s excesses and the breakdown of the Republican Party. Some have long held the sentiment that the Democratic Party has become so centrist that it now stands for nothing, while others believe they need to save it from veering too far to the left. The article then goes on to detail the internecine conflicts playing out among those who would see themselves anointed leaders, some of which border on the absurd. One of these, according to this report, involves the Center for American Progress, which maybe for a minute lost sight of the common goal:

The think tank, known as CAP, has engendered resentment from others on the left for casting itself as a leader of the anti-Trump movement and raising money off the resistance nomenclature. Within a few weeks of the election, CAP’s sister organization, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, was offering T-shirts emblazoned with the word “Resist” in exchange for donations of $40 or more. The campaign raised about $450,000 for ThinkProgress, the journalism arm of the action fund, which had its lawyers look into trademarking the iconography.

Still, writes Vogel, this does appear to be a moment when, as progressive groups reorganize themselves, many funders are hedging their bets, making grants to a variety of groups ranging from established liberal bastions to new entities like Indivisible. Quentin James, who helped found one of the newer or reconfigured groups, the Collective PAC to support African-American candidates, says the old guard “spent so much money based on a bad strategy in this last cycle that they should step aside and let others lead in this moment.”

Gara LaMarche, former president of Atlantic Philanthropies and current president of the Democracy Alliance, a collection of wealthy donors giving at least $200,000 a year to groups recommended by the DA, says, “We’re in a disruptive period, and when we get through it, the progressive infrastructure landscape may look different. There may be groups that have been around that don’t rise to the challenge, and there may be some new groups that do rise to the challenge, while others fade away.” The Alliance, Vogel writes, has eased its usual intensive grant vetting to allow for additional groups to come forward, even distributing a “resistance map” to its donors this past summer.

As a result of this philanthropic willingness to wander outside of the traditional institutional left, money appears to have been flowing generously in the direction of Indivisible from multiple donors. George Soros is considering giving to the group, even though he has, according to Vogel, “already donated to a host of nonprofit groups playing key roles in the anti-Trump movement, including the Center for Community Change, Color of Change and Local Progress.” Indivisible, however, says that it must remain conscious of to whom it is primarily accountable and resist overdependence on major donor money. One of Indivisible’s taglines is, “We’re not the leaders of this movement. You are.”

In an op-ed written for Politico in February, Leah Hunt-Hendrix, executive director of Solidaire, “a community of individual donors and foundation allies committed to funding progressive social movements,” writes of the need to diverge from the “neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party,” complete with its “broken tactics” and agenda “more focused on defeating the right than on creating an economy and society that lifts up all people.” For this, she writes, we need new leaders.

Dmitri Mehlhorn, a political adviser to Reid Hoffman, the billionaire founder of LinkedIn who is funding a wide array of groups on the left, says there is little to lose. “The Democratic Party has been fractured,” Mehlhorn says. “We believe that by investing in different people and groups to try different techniques, good ideas will emerge.”—Ruth McCambridge