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Dead Voices or Netroots Nation 2011

Netroots Nation is on in Minneapolis. This is the big convention where Democrats go and talk about how progressive they are. It only lasts a few days, I suppose, because that is how long participants can keep the irony at bay.

Netroots Nation started its existence as Yearlykos and still bears the Moulitsas imprint. It is described as a project of Bloggerpower which in its most recent 990 from 2009 names Moulitsas as a director (as is John Aravosis of Americablog). I thought it was funny that Bloggerpower took in some $800,000 that year of which $113,000 went to catering, but I digress. Bloggerpower is domiciled in San Francisco so in Moulitsas' backyard. This is important because Moulitsas is essentially a Democratic operative, and Netroots Nation is very much a Democratic party creature, a vehicle to co-opt progressives resources to Democratic party ends.

I am still unsure about the source of Netroots Nation's funding. On this page, it is described as receiving the "generous support" of the Netroots Arts and Education Initiative in the text and the Netroots Foundation at the bottom of the page. I don't know if these are the same organization or who is behind them/it. Netroots also has a whole slew of sponsors, most of them unions.

I read through their agenda, the list of sessions with their descriptions. There were some that looked critical of Obama, but the Democrats in general? Not so much. On economic topics there was one with Mike Konczal. That's about as far left as they were willing to go. No mention of kleptocracy, class warfare, or wealth inequality, which for me are the great issues of our times.

I mean how much credibility does a convention like this have if it is still wedded to the Democrats who are screwing us all over and is completely clueless about the economy? It looks to me like zero on the politics and zero on the economy. I don't see how it could get much worse.

What got me started on this is that there was a post at emptywheel by bmaz on Marcy Wheeler introducing Russ Feingold as a keynote speaker. He described Feingold as a "hero." This sparked a comment by antoine22:

Well, I’m somewhat leery of Feingold — he did, after all, vote for the Baucus-Fowler insurance industry-friendly health care bill.

Run for president? Democratic party Trojan horse: he will dissipate progressive energies that we could channel into supporting third party candidates, and will then endorse Obama at the 2012 Democratic Party National Convention in the name of party unity. And, we might very well have Dubya’s fourth term.

Support for any national Democratic Party Candidate is, in my opinion, futile. The only way, in my opinion, for progressives to secure a voice in the political process is by speaking truth to power, not joining it

He was taken to task by bmaz for being a single issue critic of Feingold. That in itself was a strawman. Healthcare was the issue that defined Democrats as anti-progressive. But of course there is more. Feingold is a deficit hawk. He did not object to Bush era appointees, opting out of his Senatorial duty to advise and consent, on the grounds that a President should be able to pick whom he/she wants.

He is also remembered for his censure motion against George Bush, but that was back in 2006. For the last two years of the Bush Administration and the first two years of the Obama Administration, he went silent. These were critical times. A liberal, progressive voice was needed, a voice of protest, but that wasn't Feingold's. When progressive leadership was needed, he was nowhere to be seen. Indeed the fact that he did not speak out against Obama, that he was legitimately tied to Obama's policies, was the likely cause of his re-election defeat. This is the "hero" bmaz is talking about.

The truth is that antoine called this exactly right. This is all about dissipating progressive energies to leave them with nowhere to go in 2012 but the Democrats. Obama and the Democrats have the full expectation that most won't go third party or stay at home. An event like Netroots Nation shows not only why they think this way but why too they have so little respect for progressives. Democrats will screw progressives because, seeing the pseudo-progressives in Minneapolis taking all the oxygen out of the progressive movement, they know they can.

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Submitted by regulararmyfool on

I hadn't thought of Netroots this way, but you are spot on. I'm still looking for third party supporters. All of the Netroots would sell out in a hot flash to be on a Democratic candidate's staff.

Submitted by jm on

He also took part in the ignominy of January 6, 2001 when, during the joint session of Congress held to certify the selection of Bush as president, members of the Congressional Black Caucus rose to contest the result based on credible allegations of the widespread disenfranchisement of African American voters in Florida. In order for their objection to be heard, at least one senator was needed to second them. You know the rest. The entire Democratic Senate Caucus sat on their thumbs and allowed the "election" outcome to stand.

Sure, had the senate Dems refused to certify the results and investigated the allegations, the election likely would have been thrown to the House of Representatives where Bush still would have prevailed. But it would have sent a strong signal to the Republicans that they wouldn't roll over every time their colleagues across the aisle sent a stern look their way. Bush and Cheney certainly were paying attention and drew the obvious conclusions about their political "opposition". Again, you know how all of that turned out.

For me, this event epitomized the soullessness of the Democratic Party and foretold the ongoing decline of the next ten years. The Democrats, any of them, are not the answer.

techno's picture
Submitted by techno on

I live in a Minneapolis suburb so if I were going to attend a NN, this would have been the year. I took a look at the schedule, however, and decided I had better things to do with my money.

The NN lineup utterly ignores all the big issues like peak oil, the collapsing infrastructure, debt restructuring, long-term joblessness, never-ending wars, climate change, peak food, the lack of a Progressive narrative, etc.

I haven't decided the convention is this way because the NN folks aren't very aware or imaginative or that this is a deliberate attempt to lead the Progressive impulse into an irrelevant little pen where we can all be safely castrated? I know Kos claims to have once voted for Reagan and we know he once tried to get a gig with the CIA. But I have no idea if he is clever enough to figure out a strategy for selling the Progressives down the river on his own.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Here's what he had to say about Feingold's appearance:

I do love that Feingold "urged the president to stand up to corporate interests" -- oh, he urged him! such courage! -- just as I adore his claim that "the Democratic Party is in danger of losing its identity." Well, Russ, if you weren't such a dedicated Democratic partisan, you might begin to grasp that the Democratic Party has revealed its identity more clearly, as opposed to its marketing lies.

The whole thing is worth reading (as always with Arthur).

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

...I went to YearlyKos 1 and 2. The first one was really special. I can't even describe it. It was like a big family reunion.
The second one was "off". It was pretty clear by the last day that the Kossacks were getting played. They messed up Hillary Clinton's scheduled breakout session too, which at the time I thought was a careless mistake but now I think it was deliberate. The fact that she rescheduled and came anyway is a testament to her determination to win us over. It was a futile effort for her but I understand why she did it.
When it comes right down to it, Kossacks are not unlike a lot of other people who are flattered when important people pay attention to them. They fall all over themselves trying to be as obsequious as possible.
Wanna know who I admired at YearlyKos1.0? Wes Clark. He knew what was at stake and he spelled out what it would take to get us out of the mess we were in.
But whatever. The Kossacks were played and once again, I became an outcast but this time I was the outcast in a whole tribe of outcasts, which makes me weird squared.
I wouldn't have missed YearlyKos1.0 for the world. It was a four day high. After that? ehhhh, not so much.
They're not as smart as they think they are.

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

Year One was very special in that no one knew what to expect. I was quite taken by the Fire pups at firedoglake who had a much more fierce loyalty to each other than the Kos group. And they were fun. Worst part was Mark Warner's over the top party at the top of the Stratosphere with and Elvis Impersonator and vodka spouting fountains. Not quite as vulgar as the Tyco guy, but way up their in garish. I remarked to a reporter that I worked in Hollywood. I said, "We are supposed to have parties like this. We just make movies and TV. Politicians are supposed to be there to save America. " But a lot of people as you mentioned were gaga over celebrities like Maureen Dowd and Mark Warner. Oh , please.
I did get gaga over one person and that was Joe Wilson. Youza! He breaks the rules about Washington being Hollywood for ugly people.
Oh and this was the 2nd time I had heard George Lakoff. First time I found it interesting although I didn't altogether buy the "nurturing parent" deal he spouted. The 2nd time he just repeated himself and also came off as a bit full of himself. I'd rather listen to Chomsky in a heartbeat.
The 2nd year in Chicago was a huge disappointment. It became clear that this was an event about Democrats and not about social justice or peace. And it was pretty white and middle class. Same speakers as before and at Campaign for America's future. Enjoyed the Teamsters picnic though.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

were worth going to. year 1 will always be special to me; i met a dear friend there. it was intimate and adorable, but even then i knew it was over. i remember sitting next to a fairly important lobbyist at a session and we were both so impatient with the naivete expressed by the folks in it. anyway, i like to think of it as year -1, cause from there on it was completely obvious that the 'netroots' had been had, sold out, etc. you're spot on with the "everybody likes to be flattered by and have the attention of rich/famous/powerful people," that's pretty much what these gigs are all about. that and "hey, can i be on TV?" that's what most americans really want, truth be told.

year 3 i didn't bother with anything but the parties and invite only stuff that relates to a group i'm part of, just to catch up with some folks i hadn't seen in a while. it was local for me, so it was mostly like Pride or IML or something like that.

rapier's picture
Submitted by rapier on

Feingold operates at the very limit of what a respectable national politician can. Which isn't much. Unwillingness to compromise on those things mentioned would have put him in the fruitcake category. Admitted the GOP is now totally fruitcake which probably doesn't need mention, but I will anyway.

So essentially the political system cannot possibly work for any populism which isn't of the nativist racist sort so the choice is warm beer Feingold's or........... nothing, or maybe anarchism but that will end up looking like Vancouver the other night. Besides that's a young mans game.

I'm with the old man here