Split on the Left as progressive indies tossed out

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Money Watch,Mark Tapscott

Don't expect it to get much coverage in the liberal mainstream media but there is a bitter split on the Left between funders and activists who want to be more closely identified with helping Democrats win elections and those who prefer to remain independent and focused on building a progressive infrastructure for the future.

Huffington Post has the story this morning concerning the split in the ranks of the Democracy Alliance, the powerful umbrella funding panel formed a decade ago explicitly for the purpose of building a new progressive infrastructure explicitly modeled on that of the Right from the 1970s and 1980s.

But over the years, the panel has increasingly functioned as a satellite of Democratic campaigns, especially at the congressional and presidential levels. That trend has led to the split described this morning by Huffpo:

"The donor network has long faced tension over how to build a progressive movement and bring about social change, particularly over whether to focus on electing Democrats in the next cycle or building lasting infrastructure. The group has faced particularly acute friction over deciding if it should devote funds to President Obama's reelection or invest in more long-term projects.

"Among those who support the creation of a progressive infrastructure, there is heavy debate over whether to fund organizations closely aligned with the Democratic Party or those that operating outside it and pressuring it to move in a more progressive direction.

"The groups dropped by the Democracy Alliance tend to be those that work outside the party's structure. Groups with closer ties to the party, such as the Center for American Progress and Media Matters, retained their status with the Democracy Alliance as favored organizations."

There is a further wrinkle in the split that bears watching and that is the racial undertone in the groups booted out. "Groups working on issues relating directly to people of color appear to be the most dramatically affected," according to Huffpo.

The split has been bubbling along under the surface for several years. Deborah Sanger, a Democratic activist who was among the original boosters of the underlying concept of Democracy Alliance, left the panel two years ago. She tells Huffpo this morning that she saw it coming:

"I was sorry to see that the DA has continued on the trajectory away from funding independent infrastructure that induced me to leave the organization two years ago. I will say that the DA was a great idea  ... did some excellent funding of good groups, and it's really a shame that it has not been able to fulfill its promise."

This split may have an analogy elsewhere on the Left in the apparent rift between the Democrats' traditional labor union allies who want President Obama to support proposals like the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada because it would create thousands of new jobs and Big Green environmentalists who oppose the project because it would reinforce the role of fossil fuels in the nation's energy structure.

For more from Huffpo on the Democracy Alliance situation, go here.


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