You're probably overdosed on post-election punditry by now, but the Agitator just can't resist applying some of the smart analysis we've read to the fundraising and communications missions of progressive advocacy groups.

Why? Because a classic battle is about to intensify within many cause groups.

“Fundraisers” — whose mission is self-explanatory — thrive primarily by throwing red meat and shrill rhetoric at the most ideologically motivated supporters and prospects they can find. Just like, say, Karl Rove or your favorite liberal blog.

“Communicators” — in our parlance, the folks who sell your group's ideas to decisionmakers — succeed when they frame messages that a broader audience, a centrist majority, can embrace. Just like, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Bill Clinton.

The 2006 political outcome suggests that fundraisers and communicators will be slugging it out more than ever for control of their organizations' megaphones over the coming political cycle. Many groups will be conflicted internally as they attempt to rally the base on the one hand, and win policy converts on the other.

Why? Because the political center has called out loud and clear for performance and governance as opposed to strident posturing and divisiveness. Independents gave an 18 point majority to the Dems this November, while self-described Moderates gave Dems a 23 point majority, both margins up sharply from 2004.

Here are the conclusions of two pretty insightful observors:

From Andrew Kohut at Pew Research:

The outcome of this election — and others in our recent history — was determined by the shifting sentiments of independents and moderates. It is no exaggeration to say that the views of the least ideological voters decided this election for the Democrats.

(T)here is no evidence the country is moving culturally or ideologically to the left. From all we know from the exit and opinion polls, it is safe to conclude that far from being about social values, or other broad ideological issues, this year's midterm elections were a referendum on Bush and GOP control of Congress, a judgment about performance, not ideology.

From David Brooks, NY Times columnist:

For decades, moderates have been the cowardly lions of American politics. Youd see them quivering in the corner as the anti-establishment left exchanged culture war mortar fire with the anti-establishment right. Youd see them passed over and dissed as the parties mobilized their bases and played to their primary voters. Well, somebodys been on steroids, because on Tuesday the muscular middle took control of America…

The country is hungering for … open-minded, unassuming centrists who are interested in government more than politics.

More than usual finesse will be required by most progressive cause organizations in the days ahead as they attempt both to energize their bases (fearing their donors will relax after Congress changes hands) and to project their policy agendas in terms that appeal beyond their bases. Some groups might need to ponder:

    • Do we want to raise money, or do we want to win new friends and influence people? How might we do both?
    • Dare we risk looking like a “negative” or “extreme” fringe group determined to thwart “reasonable” compromise and collaboration on the issues?
    • Is our optimal strategy still to exert maximum pressure at the edge, so as to pull or prod the center in our direction?
    • Will “the center” pay our bills?

Your thoughts?

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