Friday, March 31, 2006

i second that emotion

John Aravosis, letting lose a tirade which is so desperately needed:
There is a core group of Democrats who simply don't like money and power. They distrust it on a such a visceral level that anything that even vaguely smells of either is immediately suspect and worthy of public ridicule. Thus they freak out over my attending the gala. It's the same freak out I get when I ask for donations for the blog. How dare you try to earn money, I'm asked always, every time, by numerous commenters. Why don't you go on a budget like other Americans, one person wrote, rather than asking us for donations (as if the income were coming from somewhere else other than ad sales and donations?) That person went on to add a familiar refrain I've heard before - how dare you expect me to pay for your trips abroad! When I pointed out that most of my trips abroad have been paid for by clients or third parties like the Dutch government, the person launched into some other excuse to criticize me (not to mention, I don't recall anyone ever asking one of their employees how much they spend on their family vacation so you can lower their paycheck accordingly). And let’s not even talk about the criticism I got for going to France last summer. Yes, I decided to cat-sit for friends in Paris – the horror, the horror - and somehow that meant I was living high on the hog. It apparently meant I had a lot of money (though how staying for free at a friend’s place in exchange for taking care of their pets was somehow lucrative still escapes me - then again, there were those who didn't think it was lucrative at all, they just figured I'd spent all of your donations on the trip and publicy said so) and, again, didn’t deserve donations, because apparently writing from Washington DC is good, but writing from Paris, not so much.

The criticism happens far too often, is far too nasty, and comes from far too many people, to be written off as a few trolls or crazies. They may not be the majority of the party, thank God, but they are far too many in number to be left unchallenged.

What's at the core of all of this? It think it’s something that someone noted in the comments to the gala post below. In the same way that conservatives don't respect anyone who doesn't have money and power, a core group of liberals don't trust anyone who HAS money or power. The problem is that we live in a society where money and power are part of the key to political success. So how exactly is it that we win if we insist on keeping our wealth and our power to a minimum?

How do we expect our blogs and bloggers to continue being the first and only left-wing-noise-machine we have (along with Air America, Keith Olberman and Jon Stewart), to keep pushing the Hill, to keep working on elections and advocacy, to keep the media honest, if we think actually paying them to do their full-time jobs is somehow immoral?

The answer is: We don't win.

Too many Democrats are afraid to pay people a wage they deserve. Sure, they’ll give millions to a big-name liberal advocacy group, but when it comes to individuals, to real people, having them earn even half the salary of the muckety mucks at the big organizations is somehow immoral. Rather than ask ourselves “how much is our freedom worth? How much would I pay to get my country back?”, we look at our lives and say "I can't afford to take my wife and daughters to Europe, so why should I donate to you when all you do is spend my donation on vacations" (true post). Suddenly, the worth of my work is linked to how well YOU have or have not provided for your family. Suddenly my success is an affront to you, and must be stopped, lest... what? And the result? We don't get the best people for the job because "good people shouldn't expect to be paid." Which is a fascinating concept I'll use next time my rent is due.

I’ve even had people criticize the fact that I grow orchids. It’s a rich-man’s hobby. How dare I try to earn a living running this blog when I grow orchids. How do you respond to that kind of crap?

And it's not just wages. I think that far too many liberals have no idea what it takes to win in politics. The mixture of intelligence, creativity and chutzpah it takes to win in Washington and beyond. God knows we see it on the Hill, in terms of members of Congress who refuse to do what it takes to win, even when the opportunity is handed to them. Far too many liberals - still a minority I think, but a far too loud and influential minority - don't understand that we need money, we need power, we need influence and connections and friends in the media and even, God forbid, some Republican friends if we want to win. You simply can't sit back, hug a tree and sing cumbaya in your Birkenstocks by the campfire and expect the crystal fairy to hand you your civil rights and your country back.

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