Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Very Happy Birthday: The Northwest Progressive Institute turns four

Exactly four years ago, the Northwest Progressive Institute - born out of the belief that a progressive answer was needed to conservative infrastructure - was first launched into the public sphere as a mere web page on August 22nd, 2003.

Today, as we look back on 48 months of growth and change, it's hard to believe that what was once was just a hope and a fuzzy idea is now a growing organization cultivated by a group of people who are passionate about revolutionizing grassroots politics and restoring strength to the progressive movement in America.

And though we've had much to celebrate over the last few years - consecutive victories over Tim Eyman, the return of a Democratic majority in Congress, progress on important priorities that reflect our values - the road hasn't been easy.

We've weathered plenty of criticism, some of it aimed directly at me and my family, from people who don't like our involvement in the political arena, people who resent or despise our work... and never miss an opportunity to sneer and jeer at us. Much of this, although not all of it, comes from the right wing.

Some people have accused us of pretending to be something we're not, mocking NPI's very name. How can the Northwest Progressive Institute be an institute...if it doesn't have a grand office building, or a big payroll, or a long list of accomplished fellows who have been active in civics for decades?

I have always said, and we have always freely admitted, that NPI is an unconventional organization. Most think tanks or idea factories start out with at least some level of substantial resources. The Northwest Progressive Institute has more humble origins: when it began, it was basically some graphics and text on a web page. Just hypertext markup language.

But it didn't stay that way for long.

Our name from the very beginning has reflected what we aspire to be, but we believe it also reflects what we are and have been for most of our history.

What does "institute" mean? A permanent organizational body created for a certain purpose. Or, a society or organization for carrying on a particular work. Or, an organization founded to promote a cause.

Those definitions are from Wikipedia, Random House, and American Heritage. They're all pretty similar, and they all describe what NPI is.

NPI does not just exist as a domain name in cyberspace (as some have dismissively claimed), it is actually a legal entity; we incorporated in March of 2005. In the future, we intend to establish a permanent physical presence (more simply, an office!) where our paid staff will be based.

But even when we have more resources, we don't expect that our critics will be affording us much respect. Nothing we can do or get will make us credible in their eyes...because we are seen as a threat to their agenda. If we're not a threat to them, if we're not making an impact... then why are we worth the criticism?

The attacks and invective comments have never stopped us in the past, and we're not about to let it start discouraging us now.

It's somewhat astonishing to think that four years ago, this blog didn't exist, Pacific Northwest Portal had not been conceived, and Permanent Defense was only a year and a half old. Four years ago, Howard Dean's campaign for the presidency was almost in full swing, with the Sleepless Summer Tour drawing crowds.

Four years ago, the Center for American Progress was just rising out of the ground, and authors like Al Franken, Michael Moore, Molly Ivins, and Jim Hightower were chronicling the failures of the right wing agenda, or the harmfulness of right wing media, or the politics of fear practiced by the Bush administration.

Four years ago the netroots community was still in its infancy. Blogs such as Daily Kos, MyDD, or Atrios weren't well known, and many weren't even online then. The idea of a Netroots Nation or YearlyKos Convention had not even been contemplated.

The netroots is a rising force in American politics, its influence only grudgingly admitted by a few in the right wing media. But it's a sign of the times that FOX Noise now devotes substantial time to disparaging the community, with tirades against Daily Kos leading off the O'Reilly Factor on multiple occasions.

In the last four years we have concentrated on realizing our goals, putting together a map for where we want to go, and launching small projects that have been spur of the moment ideas (Pacific NW Portal comes to mind) only growing in scope later.

NPI may be turning four, but it's still young, and there is much ahead. Our fifth year promises to be exciting and very different from the last forty eight months. We're anxious to chart new waters and explore untrodden territory.

We hope you'll join us on that journey.

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