The Republican Party may be in shambles, but conservative interest groups are still dominating progressives when it comes to issue advocacy. A big part of the problem is procrastination: most progressive organizations rely solely on last minute activism.
Conservatives have been so successful in their issue advocacy efforts because they begin the process way before there is a bill being considered or an important vote. They start persuasion programs far in advance; framing the debate, saturating the media, and activating local conservative networks.
Progressives have not been as successful because we tend to wait until a vote to begin organizing. Now, there are some exceptions; organized labor has been much better at getting a head of issues than the rest of the progressive movement, but for the most part our activism is last minute.
Many progressive organizations didn’t learn the lessons of the 1990s. They believed that passing progressive legislation would be a cakewalk with Democrats in control of the White House, a huge majority in the House and 60 votes in the Senate. The current struggle for health insurance reform shows how wrong they were.
A politician isn’t going to always do the right thing just because there is a (D) next to his or her name. Democrats often have to be pressured as much as the Republicans. In the future we must remember that as long as we rely solely on last minute activism, we are going to keep losing battles.