The Poor Man points approvingly to this great comment by Phoenix Woman, who laments the traditional distaste among so many on the American left for serious engagement in electoral politics.
I think the eagerness to eat our own stems from a fundamental difference in how the right and left operate in this country. The farther left one goes, the more likely one is to have a very cynical and morale-destroying view of politics, one that serves to keep one from engaging. [...] This distaste for deep involvement in democracy is part and parcel of American progressivism and has been since its inception. (I used to be part of an e-mail list called "Socialist Liberty", filled with the sort of people who equated Paul Wellstone with Jesse Helms; whenever any prominent Socialist or Communist such as David McReynolds dared run for political office, even as a Socialist or Communist, he or she would get TONS of flak from other Soc/Coms for selling out and buying into a corrupt system that needed to be left alone to die of its own foul weight.) And this distaste has only got stronger: Many lefty/progressive groups over the years have got out of electoral politics altogether, even as righty/religious groups have got MORE political...Based on my own experience, the self-defeating leftist rejection of serious politics is an obvious and corrosive phenomenon, but what I also like about Phoenix Woman's post is the way she ties it to the same problem from a different angle: the problem with "non-political" philanthropy. The massive amounts of money given in charitable endeavors could in very many cases be more efficiently and more effectively focused on achieving change in government.
The bitter irony of the American left's long distaste for/retreat from electoral politics -- a stance that only in the last couple of election cycles is starting to turn around -- is not just that this is happening even as the right-wing churches and other conservative groups are getting more involved in Republican politics; it is that money and time spent in politics pays better dividends in terms of getting what you want than in almost any other field of endeavor. Here's an example, paraphrased from memory from a writer whose name escapes me (otherwise I'd be linking directly to him):
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett want to spend thirty-odd billion on charitable causes around the world, when just one billion given to, say, DFA would ensure that truly progressive Democrats not only took over the party, but had the resources to go fully mano-a-mano with the Republicans in every single district -- and that would ensure the election of politicians who would back policies that would do much more lasting good than even a thirty-odd-billion-dollar charity could accomplish.