Folks, you just hate to see it—you hate to see it so much that you can't look away, not for a second:
For progressive movement organizations, 2021 promised to be the year they turned power into policy, with a Democratic trifecta and the Biden administration broadcasting a bold vision of "transformational change." Out of the gate, Democrats pushed ahead with the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, funding everything from expanded health care to a new monthly child tax credit. Republican efforts to slow-walk the process with disingenuous counteroffers were simply dismissed.
And then, sometime in the summer, the forward momentum stalled, and many of the progressive gains lapsed or were reversed. Instead of fueling a groundswell of public support to reinvigorate the party's ambitious agenda, most of the foundation-backed organizations that make up the backbone of the party's ideological infrastructure were still spending their time locked in virtual retreats, Slack wars, and healing sessions, grappling with tensions over hierarchy, patriarchy, race, gender, and power.
So basically, the major players of the American liberal movement were poised to get everything they've spent the past few decades working for, and instead they've spent the past year and a half doing... this:
The problem is so pervasive that leadership is fleeing these organizations and not being replaced:
It's become hard to hire leaders of unmanageable organizations. A recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy noted that nonprofits were having an extraordinarily hard time finding new leaders amid unprecedented levels of departures among senior officials. "We've been around for 26 years, and I haven't seen anything like this," Gayle Brandel, CEO of PNP Staffing Group, a nonprofit executive search firm, told the trade publication, explaining the difficulty in finding executives to fill the vacancies.
Progressive CEOs after being subject to yet another six-hour-long Slack session involving "quxxr" narratives and BIPOC self-identifying direct action healing:
And it's worth noting how spectacularly this has backfired on the activists themselves:
Executive directors across the space said they too have tried to organize their hiring process to filter out the most disruptive potential staff. "I'm now at a point where the first thing I wonder about a job applicant is, ‘How likely is this person to blow up my organization from the inside?'" said one, echoing a refrain heard repeatedly during interviews for this story.
So it's a self-correcting problem. In the meantime, it's sure a heck of a lot of fun to watch!
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