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June 09, 2006

Day One of YearlyKos Convention

I hit one workshop this morning and two caucuses this afternoon.  I attended one of the three Progressive Majority workshops, the one on bloggers and the progressive movement, in the morning.  It was largely an opportunity to discuss how we could be more effective in helping progressive candidates win elections and how we can help bridge between Democratic electeds, progressive organizations and the blogging community to build a bigger progressive base. 

The first caucus I went to, the Pacific Coast Caucus, was jammed.  It was mostly Californians but we Washingtonians and the Oregonians had a respectable showing.  And there were a smattering of folks from Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and one guy from Alaska.  We discussed the CA-50 race that Busby lost by only a few points this last Tuesday and what might have made it a win - more outreach to the 30% of the Democrats who were Hispanic, a larger turnout generally, and no candidate gaffe just four days before the election.  There was some discussion about the numbers just being bad for Democrats in that district, period.  We talked about the races in the West that were most  winnable, including Darcy's and Goldmark's.  We discussed the issues that would draw out the rural voters - local sovereignty, local gun control, healthcare, deficit control, maintaining the constitution and better education.  It was a nice opportunity to see ourselves as part of a larger region and to talk more about the Western strategy, something that many of us think is going to be crucial to winning in November and again in 2008.

The MyDD Caucus came later.  There wre about 50 of us.  Jerome Armstrong, considered the godfather of the blogosphere, started out, talking about how he began blogging in 2000 and then slowly focused primarily on politics and then brought in Chris Bowers and Scott Shields and, more recently, Matt Stoller and Jonathan Singer.  They each talked about what they focus on. 

Of particular interest right now is the net neutrality issue that Matt is emphasizing.  I understood the issue at a deeper level than I had previously.  Matt Stoller has been the primary Internet coordinator for saving net neutrality.  He reported that pretty much as we were meeting the House was voting down net neutrality.  But he talked about how this issue will be with us for ten or twenty years.  He reminded us that political power is about human connections and the big telcos, the ones who are opposing net neutrality, have been making connections in Congress for 75 years.   We're new in the process and it is amazing that we have done as well as we've done. So, even though we just lost in the House, we're going to take it to the Senate, building on the momentum we have.  A bipartisan bill, sponsored by Snowe and Dorgan will be introduced shortly.  He said that the blogosphere represents a public forum, something new in the system.  The existing communications policy was set in 1934 and has not changed substantially since then.  The issues have been fought, up until now, between the very, very wealthy and the very rich.  The blogosphere makes it a new ballgame.  We will win in the long-term because public discourse is a good thing. 

Jerome added that historically the large media have made a lot of money on running political ads and in the process have had great influence over the winners of the elections.  With information and ads going to the Internet and being made by any number of people, the large companies both lose money and lose control over the electoral process.  No wonder they are fighting it so hard.

Earlier Matt had talked about the particular influence that MyDD has with the staffers in government.  They and candidates both often call MyDD to talk over issues.  These wonky meme-setters on this blog have a lot of influence.  As the session continued with beers and mingling, I became aware that Dan Balz of the Washington Post, Maureen Dowd and Adam Nagourney of the New York Times, and several folks from the American Prospect were all in that session.   I guess people pay attention to the MyDD folks.

The conference itself started in the evening with a big reception and program in the big hall.  There are supposed to be 1500 of us at this workshop.  I'm guessing we had 8-900 there for this first big session.  We listened to a couple of comedians; cartoonist Tom Tomorrow; Gina Cooper, prime mover and organizer of YearlyKos; and then Markos Moulitsas himself, one of the smartest politicos of them all.  Markos pulled no punches in his keynote address.  He talked about the significance of what we've all done in creating this new way of communicating.  He talked about how we are truly crashing the gates and taking on both the old establishment of both Parties in Washington and the ineffectual media. 

There was a sense of the importance of what we are doing together here in that room.  It was palpable.  And it was enhanced by seeing Ambassador Joe Wilson sitting 20 feet away at the next table and then being introduced to General Wesley Clark in the back of the room when I walked through to step outside for a moment.  It was made more powerful listening to Markos talk about the power of the Stephen Colbert performance at the Washington Press Club a couple of months ago.  He did not let the fact that several of the most important journalists in the country were there with us stop him from reaming out the media for ignoring Colbert's pokes at the government and the media.

Later, my sister and I went to a party that Wes Clark's WESPAC put on at the Hard Rock Casino a couple of miles away.  It was inspiring listening to Markos introduce Clark in a small setting.  I had not been aware that Markos and Jerome had started the Draft Clark movement in 2003 and had only switched over to supporting Dean when Clark didn't get in the campaign early enough.   And I could see why.  I have always been impressed with Clark and supported him for the short time he was a candidate.  Seeing him up close is awe-inspiring.  In addition to being incredibly smart and personable and funny, he gets the bloggers and the importance of what we do in promoting democracy and in trying to turn this country around.  He also challenges us to take it to the grassroots. 

I also met many other bloggers from around the country as well as folks who read and comment on blogs and who work on campaigns and in grassroots organizations all over the place.  It is inspiring to be around so many people who take this business of rebuilding our democracy so seriously.       

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 9, 2006 at 02:00 AM in Media | Permalink

Comments

Very nice write up. On the subject of reaching out to Hispanics, Mike McGavick now has mcuh of the content of his campaign site in Spanish as well. I'd be curious to know if the folks in Vegas believe that's a necessary approach. It certainly can't hurt.

Posted by: Daniel K | Jun 9, 2006 8:01:35 AM

Wow Lynn--that sounds so amazing. What a great experience.

Posted by: carla | Jun 9, 2006 3:42:04 PM

Daniel K - the spanish language version issue was brought up by a questioner during meta Kos. Frankly, the answer wasn't very satisfying, but suffice it to say that it's a technical hurdle. In short, McGavick's site is primarily static and written by one person, and as such can be translated easily and accurately. Kos is written by many people and is dynamic, requiring an automatic translator. No such thing exists, at least not one that is accurate with syntax. Not YET, anyway.

Posted by: switzerblog | Jun 12, 2006 4:48:11 PM

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