Opinions on the left about Edward Snowden are mixed, but we can't seem to stop talking about him -- a statement purportedly from Snowden on the Wikileaks site was the top story in the blogosphere for nearly an entire day, according to Memeorandum, mostly as a result of posts on lefty blogs.
We also love Wendy Davis on our side -- she's become an overnight star on the left, and to some extent in the mainstream press, after her Texas filibuster.
But it's highly unlikely that Davis or anyone else in Texas is going to stop the state from ultimately passing the legislation she filibustered -- and while lefties tout Davis as a gubernatorial candidate, a new poll has her 14 points behind Rick Perry. Meanwhile, abortion restrictions are being passed in just about every state in which Republicans control the governor's office and legislature (most recently in Ohio).
So America has a new pro-choice heroine. Too bad America doesn't have a new (or newly rejuvenated) pro-choice movement. (Or, for that matter, a strategy to win white voters in Republican states back to liberalism and/or the Democratic Party.) Nor does there seem to be much of a movement to fight the surveillance excesses Snowden has revealed.
We often seem to think we've started to turn the tide when one person with progressive ideas grabs the spotlight and does something high-profile and mediagenic. But there has to be follow-up. Superstars don't make change -- not all by themselves. It takes a lot of people doing a lot of work for a long time.
We didn't build movements after the first Obama campaign -- we just assumed we could kick back after his inauguration and let him take care of stuff. Occupy Wall Street seemed like a movement, but it was, in effect, a newly emerged celebrity who happened to be a group of people rather than just one, a group engaged in a bit of performance art that was interesting to watch for a few weeks but, like a 24-hour Warhol film, ultimately became boring. Nobody really built on what Occupy began. Nobody said, "Yes, fight for the 99% in these specific ways." As Occupy became mired in the fight to keep occupying public spaces, nobody assembled a movement to fight economic injustice.
As I've said in other posts, the gay-rights and immigration-rights movements are the most successful progressive movements right now -- and please notice that when you think of them, you think of them as movements, not as Famous Activist(s) Whose Big Moment in the Spotlight Made the Walls Come Tumbling Down. In each of these movements, a lot of people whose names you and I don't know have logged a lot of hours getting stuff to happen -- and a lot more hours trying to get stuff to happen and hitting their heads against brick walls, but persisting anyway.
That's how you get change. Wendy Davis is swell, but there has to be more, in a lot of good causes.