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During the summer I wrote about a campaign to push the discourse on America's campuses to the right fueled by millions of dollars of rightwing money and the tireless efforts of ultraconservative political pros.
I ended the article by warning that if the progressive establishment didn't get into the game, "the next generation of conservatives will be even more dogmatic and uncompromising than the ones in power today, and they will have won plenty of converts along the way."
Among the many responses I got to the article--which seems to have touched nerves on both the left and the right--was a note from People For the American Way. It said, simply, 'Nice article. We're working on pushing them back.'
It's five months later, and here I am in Washington DC at a national summit of young progressive activists from across the country hosted by PFAW's latest project, Young People For.
And if you're feeling glum about the frightening state of American politics, you should take a whiff of the heady atmosphere here. The next generation of progressive leaders are smart, energetic, aware of the issues and--most of all--are looking to kick some ass. These aren't granola-munching slactivists.
Perhaps most exciting is the diversity of the class. After watching the Five White Guys Plus Wellington Webb who are vying for the DNC chair talk awkwardly about "speaking to communities of color," it's refreshing to see a group of progressives that reflects the face of America instead of the usual collection of guilty white liberals.
The 120 student activists from 40 campuses will have an opportunity to work on campaigns in their communities with experienced mentors for a year. Over the weekend, they're getting pumped up by the likes of Ralph Neas, David Brock, and representatives from Jobs with Justice, MoveOn, the NAACP and the Institute for Policy Studies (it's a family affair; tomorrow Gadflyer Sarah Posner will join Michael Tomasky and David Corn to discuss advocacy journalism).
And PFAW's not the only organization getting in the fight. Here's an article in The Nation about the Center for American Progress's new project, Campus Progress, which will do the same sort of media training and provide the kind of support for progressive campus publications that the Young America's Foundation's National Journalism Center and William F. Buckley's Intercollegiate Studies Institute have done for years on the right.
And if you want to know what's on the minds of those 'youth voters,' you can skip the pundits' nonsense and read HTTP://WWW.newdealmagazine.com" target=window>New Deal Magazine, a network of progressive campus publications organized out of Harvard. They've got some pretty good young writers and it's worth a look.