It’s hard to get focused on long-range political goals so close to elections. But there is a good article noted in the ‘hump day’ wrap-up below that political strategists should grab and save. Search far and wide — you won’t find a better analysis of the need for a greater investment in Democratic youth leadership development than Iara Peng’s Alternet article “How Progressives Can Win in the Long Run.” Peng’s challenge:
For nearly 30 years, ultraconservatives have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in young people and built an infrastructure that initiates young people into the radical right movement through campus activism, leadership training and career development. Their investments have paid off. The radical right wing now controls the executive and legislative branches of government, and it’s only one seat away from complete dominance of the Supreme Court.
If progressives want to achieve the same sort of political success that the radical right has enjoyed for the past two decades, we’re going to have to do more than focus on the next round of elections and pay lip service to engaging young people. We must make a serious, long-term investment in our next generation of progressive leaders.
Yes, Dems have their own youth leadership training programs. But can they match this?
For decades, right-wing organizations including the Leadership Institute, Federalist Society, Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation have spearheaded a massive effort to bring young people into their movement. Last year alone, the Right invested $48 million in 11 youth-focused organizations aimed at increasing the number of ideologically friendly campus papers, fostering networks of students on campuses, shifting the way that students self-identify in terms of political ideology, providing skills and strategies training, and promoting right-wing values.
Students are cultivated by the right-wing campaign against college courses that conflict with their agenda. For example, they have accused more than 100 professors of making “anti-American” statements. They attend courses with titles like “How to Stop Liberals in Their Tracks.” They have internships, fellowships and jobs waiting for them when they graduate. They learn how to run campaigns and how to run for office.
…Right-wing groups spend more than ten times as much on long-term political leadership development than we do, and financial trends over the past four years show that progressive leadership development organizations are actually, on average, experiencing a decline in revenue.
And the pay-off has been impressive. As a result,
A powerful network of young ultraconservatives fills state capitols, the halls of Congress, the executive branch and the courts. It is supported by community leaders, skilled organizers, academics and media personalities that help dominate the debate. The leaders in whom the right has invested in are familiar names. In 1970, a man named Karl Rove was head of the National College Republicans. In 1981, Grover Norquist took the reins. And in 1983, it was Ralph Reed.
Peng offers some credible corrective measures, and there are some good comments responding to her challenge. Clip her article, read it and consider making a contribution for the long haul.