Announcing the Blue America Speaker’s Bureau
Our chat with Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has been postponed until March 24th. Today Jane and Howie want to bring up the next step for Blue America, a progressive speakers bureau.
There just aren't enough people on TV reflecting a progressive political perspective on a regular basis. The right has long had an advantage on this front — they identify people early, train them and book them just about anywhere to talk about just about anything.
The success of FDL's coverage of the Libby trial has prompted a lot of people to say "what's next?" And what's next is a Blue America speaker's bureau. Bloggers know what's happening in the news better than anyone, but they don't have access to many of the speaking opportunities that the right still dominates. Do we really need Kate O'Beirne interpreting current events for us? I don't think so. But providing an alternative — identifying good speakers, getting them the training they need, hiring a booker who will constantly be working to get them speaking engagements everywhere from college campuses to cable news shows — that is the challenge.
Fox "News," in their unrelenting quest for "fair and balanced" has just hired a former Republican member of Congress and a former Democratic member. The Republican is uber-reactionary Rick Santorum, one of the most extremist members of the Senate in modern times. And they balance that out with… Harold Ford, Jr., a right-of-center Democrat who chairs the odious, corporate-backed DLC. How many times have you wanted to kick your TV set in when the "Democratic perspective" on an issue was represented not by a clued in progressive but by Joe Lieberman or by Inside-the-Beltway powerplayers with non-values-oriented agendas like Donna Brazile or James Carville?
On January 20, Matt Stoller, Tom Swan and myself (Howie) were visiting Jane in the hospital and this whole Speakers Bureau idea became a topic of conversation while Jane drifted, happily, in and out of consciousness. Since then the four of us plus John Amato, Joel Silverman and several other FDL community members have been trying to hone the idea into some kind of reality. It's still a work in progress and Jane and I thought we'd like to open it up to the members of the community for ideas and suggestions.
The next step is financing both intensive training seminars and the hiring a booker. To that end, this week Jane was telling me about all these great bits and pieces of memorabilia she had from the Libby trial. Having done several eBay auctions for People For the American Way that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, a light immediately went off in my head. I tried (unsuccessfully) getting the Louboutins away from her but we did come up with a great list of items we could offer for sale in a Blue America eBay auction, including the Dianne von Furstenberg silk wrap dress she wore to the Bill Clinton meeting in Harlem as well as in court when the Libby verdict was read. We're looking for more items now and if everyone keeps it on their minds, all sorts of opportunities will present themselves. Example: Jane will be interviewing Dan Rather at SXSW this coming Monday and she's going to get a copy of "What's the Frequency, Kenneth" signed by him– at which time we'll see if we can get those great R.E.M. guys to sign it too. A unique and collectible valuable eBay item conjured up out of nowhere. I bet lots of people will come up with even better ideas.
We're really excited about the idea of the speaker's bureau. Not only will it allow people to like Cliff Schecter to be paid for their efforts (colleges pay speakers, cable news doesn't), it will allow them to hone their speaking skills and take the message into venues that have been dominated by conservatives for eons. We'll be providing infrastructure to get progressive messaging out into the political discourse beyond the blogosphere on a regular basis, and that is a very valuable and much-needed service.