ActBlue, the left's online political donation network, announced today that it's channeled $100 million to Democratic candidates since its inception in 2004. That's a lot of money, spread out over five years and myriad politicians: ActBlue doesn't take in donations and give money to candidates it prefers, like typical political organizations--it's basically a means for individuals to give to nearly any Democratic candidate of their choosing. It's a facilitation mechanism, not a political body.
The $100 million proves that it's possible for liberals to raise and give large amounts of money online over several years, apart from the massive online funding drives of campaigns like President Obama's in 2008. To put it in perspective, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent just under $143 million in 2008.
Equally important, the right doesn't have anything quite like it. ActBlue enjoys a strong alliance with liberal blogs like Daily Kos, and, while major conservative blogs like RedState and Townhall encourage their readers to give or not give to candidates from time to time, ActBlue stands out on the left as a convenient way to channel political giving online.
Liberal blogs played a part in the Democratic wave in 2006, and since then they've made their play to influence the Democratic Party further, seeking to push it leftward by supporting some primary candidates. ActBlue has translated some online opinions and activism into cash, and it was a big part of the online Democratic movement in the past few years--now it's got $100 million to prove it.
The conservative online community is engaged in a strategic move, its response, more or less, to the left's recent success: prominent conservative blogs have aligned themselves with the movement tea party-ism has become, forming coalitions with tea party groups like the Tea Party Patriots, as well as FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity. The goal is to drive protests and grassroots activism; conservative bloggers have found their role in endorsing and promoting this activism.
But can that succeed without money for candidates? Liberals had the passion from 2006 to 2008 just as conservatives do now, and, thanks to a shrewd online fundraising mechanism, some cash came along with it.