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May 22, 2006

The Quickening: The Netroots and the Grassroots

My head swims at just how quickly the netroots is impacting both the Democratic Party and the larger political scene in this country. The netroots is enabling and influencing the grassroots on the progressive side. There is a cry for holding our elected officials accountable for what we want. We are making use of the technology of our times to discuss what we want and to organize for it. Here are a couple examples from the last few days day and I could probably have found three times as many.

Ned Lamont's showing in Connecticut Puts the Democratic Establishment on Notice

On Friday Ned Lamont received 33% of the votes of delegates (to Joe Lieberman's 67%) at the Connecticut Democratic Party convention to select the person who would run for Senate on the Democratic side this year. The netroots has endorsed and supported and championed Ned Lamont, a Connecticut businessman relatively new to politics who had the moxie and the credibility to take on Joe Lieberman. The size of the vote at the State convention is huge, given that Lamont was a relative unknown as recently as January and that Lieberman with concerted support of the Democratic establishment, twisted the arms of the delegates nearly to the breaking point in an attempt to prevent Lamont from getting 15%, the percentage that entitled him to a sponsored place on the Democratic primary ballot. Had Lamont not received 15%, and truly no one expected him to reach that level given the givens, he would have been able to make it onto the primary ballot by collected some relatively high number of signatures of voters. Lamont was well-prepared to do just that. He had 500 volunteers signed up to go. But now, those same volunteers can spend their time familiarizing the rank and file Democrats with who Lamont is and exciting them to vote for him in the Democratic primary to take on the Republican in the race.

Make no mistake about it. The results from this delegate count will rumble through the Democratic establishment all over this country. We made ourselves heard. We, the Democratic base, will no longer support faux Democrats. We want the real thing. This time we had the choice. Ned Lamont is the real thing and Joe Lieberman is the worst of the national Democrats. Nevertheless, many big-time Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Charles Schumer, Chris Dodd, and even Harry Reid put their influence into supporting Lieberman. Rosa D'Lauro, liberal Congresscritter from Connecticut and one of my personal favorites, came out for Lieberman. Now it's not even clear if he will run as a Democrat since the odds are good that he would lose the primary.

The times they are a'changing. Paul Krugman has an opinion piece up on the New York Times discussing how the netroots/blogging community is going around the Democratic Party establishment to reach the people directly - in effect questioning the relevancy of those parts of the Party that don't get it.

Jean Rohe Pre-empts McCain

Thursday evening was graduation day at the New School in New York. One of the two student speakers, Jean Rohe, a music student in the New School Jazz Program (who also received a degree in a second program at the same time) had prepared a speech on communicating through music, particularly with preschoolers and elders with Alzheimer's. Then one day before she was scheduled to speak, she realized how much resistance the students and faculty at the school felt about having John McCain give the commencement address. It was a top-down decision and most of the rather liberal school didn't like it. She also realized that she had an opportunity to speak to what she knew Senator John McCain would be saying and that she was scheduled to speak directly ahead of him. He was giving three or four commencement addresses over several days and had said they would all be the same and had published the first two on his website. The other student speaker pointed her to those speeches; she read the condescending way he talked about the dissent he was likely to encounter and she got mad.

So she wrote a new speech, eviscerating McCain's speech before he even gave it. Nicely. Here's a bit of what she said:

Based on the speech he gave at the other institutions, Senator Mc Cain will tell us today that dissent and disagreement are our "civic and moral obligation" in times of crisis. I consider this a time of crisis and I feel obligated to speak. Senator Mc Cain will also tell us about his cocky self-assuredness in his youth, which prevented him from hearing the ideas of others. In so doing, he will imply that those of us who are young are too naïve to have valid opinions and open ears. I am young, and although I don't profess to possess the wisdom that time affords us, I do know that preemptive war is dangerous and wrong, that George Bush's agenda in Iraq is not worth the many lives lost. And I know that despite all the havoc that my country has wrought overseas in my name, Osama bin Laden still has not been found, nor have those weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, Senator Mc Cain will tell us that we, those of us who are Americans, "have nothing to fear from each other." I agree strongly with this, but I take it one step further. We have nothing to fear from anyone on this living planet. Fear is the greatest impediment to the achievement of peace. We have nothing to fear from people who are different from us, from people who live in other countries, even from the people who run our government--and this we should have learned from our educations here. We can speak truth to power, we can allow our humanity always to come before our nationality, we can refuse to let fear invade our lives and to goad us on to destroy the lives of others. These words I speak do not reflect the arrogance of a young strong-headed woman, but belong to a line of great progressive thought, a history in which the founders of this institution play an important part. I speak today, even through my nervousness, out of a need to honor those voices that came before me, and I hope that we graduates can all strive to do the same.

She wrote about her decision to change her speech at Huffington Post. You can find her speech there as well.

Monitoring "Referendum Sunday"

Then, closer to home, the Northwest Progressive Institute blog has photos of the Antioch Bible Church, where Ken Hutcherson's is pastor, asking people to sign petitions to legalize discrimination against people of a different sexual orientation. Tim Eyman had sent petitions for getting Referendum 65 on the ballot in November to 4500 evangelical churches in Washington State, asking them to get their parishioners to sign. So far he's been having difficulty getting enough signatures. David Goldstein of Horsesass.org had put out the call for folks to go to church this last Sunday and check to see if churches were asking folks to sign the petition. Taking photos of this "Referendum Sunday" drive at a particular church and posting them was a perfect example of holding folks accountable for their actions and getting the information out to the public. None of us are quite sure whether on not this is a legal action on the part of the churches that participate but I truly doubt that it is something folks really want to see happening.

The Netroots in Your Face

I expect the speed of this netroots/grassroots phenomenon will pick up with the opening of "An Inconvenient Truth" in early June and the YearlyKos Convention later that same week. Strap yourselves in, folks. We are in for a ride, a ride that may very well get us back our country. Thanks to Howard Dean for issuing the cry three years ago. "I want my country back." We are heeding it.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 22, 2006 at 10:52 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink

Comments

Unfortunately for David, it is entirely legal for 501c3 organization such as churches to participate in ballot initiatives, so long as they declare their contributions of resources to the PDC, and report appropriately to IRS, etc. etc. Ballot initiatives are different from candidate races, which c3s are not allowed to touch.

The Alliance For Justice (http://www.ajf.org) is an excellent resource on advocacy issues for nonprofits.

Posted by: Jon Stahl | May 23, 2006 8:01:45 PM

Yes it is. But I still like that we are calling them out on it.

Posted by: Lynn | May 24, 2006 8:55:36 AM

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