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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Live from Chicago: The Last YearlyKos

We just finished up the closing keynote session this evening, during which YearlyKos Executive Director Gina Cooper that tomorrow would mark the end of the second and last YearlyKos Convention. It's the end of an era for this movement.

But before our right wing readers cheer or snicker at this news - I have a second announcement to convey. YearlyKos may be going away, but this event will not. It will continue as The Netroots Nation Convention.

Hopefully this will mean the end of the traditional press articles that have incorrectly credited Markos with conceiving this remarkable, unique political gathering which, as Gina put it, has "outgrown one URL."

Markos will probably post his keynote speech tonight, so rather than summarize what he said, I'll post a copy of his prepared remarks after he makes them public.

UPDATE: Here it is. You already got a snippet from stilwell.
We are a community.

We celebrate our successes. Like the two marriages that have emerged from the Daily Kos community.

My wife, who has has the two most documented pregnancies in history with Ari, and this year with Eli.

And you’ve shared your happy moments as well with your pictures. Of your babies. And your cats.

We also grieve together.

This year we lost valued community members Station Wagon and Jay C.

Jim Capozzola of the Rittenhouse Review was an early pioneer of this medium, a friend and mentor to many bloggers in these first lonely days.

Steve Gilliard was one of the first Daily Kos contributing editors, proprietor of the News Blog. A friend, an ally, sometimes a critic, and a voice I miss desperately every single day.

Now tradition dictates that at times like these we observe a moment of silence.

But we’re activists. We don’t do silence.

So wherever they may be, let’s thank them, loudly, to let them know we will always be fighting the fight that they dedicated their lives to, and that we will carry on.

I’m given a great deal of credit for our movement’s success.
But let’s be brutally honest –
what I’ve done is... build a website.

Let me say that again –
my chief accomplishment the past five years has been
building a website.

I simply provided a safe haven for progressives to meet ...
and then a beautiful thing happened.

Without my planning or prodding, You started organizing.

You started talking to each other and deciding, on your own,
to take charge of your politics.

You began a conversation about the direction of our country.

Scorned and ridiculed (when not downright ignored)
You continued to speak to each other.

Today, your views – once framed by the powers that be as naive and out of touch – are now shared by a majority of Americans.

Your early conversations have become the national conversation.

But it wasn’t just talking...

You decided that it was no longer enough to watch a 30-second political ad, or simply to hit the polls on Election Day.

You realized that our nation wasn’t going to fix itself,
We couldn’t depend on our Democratic Party to save us.

The media was AWOL.

We shared a common disgust at the irrelevance of our once proud party and its allied organizations.

But what could we do?

We were nobodies.

And you had to be somebody to change the world, didn’t you?

I was a nobody.

I grew up in El Salvador, but my family fled the country to avoid its vicious civil war.

I was a mess of a teenager.
I was short and looked far too young for my age.
I barely spoke English.
I was a nerd.

And if that wasn’t bad enough...

I was a Republican.

I joined the United States Army in 1989.
I served my nation, during the gulf war, and in return,
my nation provided me with a college education,
with self-confidence,
and with a sense of duty to my fellow man.

Those who wore combat boots looked out for each other.
We took responsibility for each other.

This is how I wanted to live my life.
And as such, I could no longer be a Republican.

So there I was... a newly minted Democrat,
But, an inconsequential one.

I got a solid education at a public university just 80 miles west of here, Northern Illinois University.
I attended law school in Boston.
Ended up in California with a new wife,
working a good but unremarkable job.

People like me could spend hours talking about politics,
but it mattered little in the greater scheme of things.

Then technology changed everything.

Whether it was blogs, or podcasting,
or social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook,
or MoveOn,
or YouTube,
people quickly adopted myriad communication technologies emerging from the web and turned them to political purposes.

Millions did so.

And while individually we were still nobodies,
together, we became ... somebody.

A very important somebody.

And that makes some people very uncomfortable.

Like David Broder.
Joe Klein
Robert Novak

Bill O’Reilly

Echoing what so many of his colleagues think, Bill Kristol on Fox News was outraged that anyone would take us seriously. He called me a, " left-wing blogger who was not respectable three or four years ago.”

And he was right. In their world, I wasn’t “respectable”.
None of us were.

As our good friend Atrios likes to say,
We weren’t “very serious people.”

You see, we weren’t stupid and gullible enough to fall for the administration’s lies on Iraq.

Those “respectable” people couldn’t stop praising Bush for being “bold,” and “resolute”.

They fueled what has now become the biggest foreign policy debacle in American history.

They told us to capitulate to Republicans on Iraq in 2002 and 2004.

Democrats listened... and lost.

They said us crazy bloggers were pushing the party to the left, and that our increasing influence would doom Democrats to electoral defeat in 2006 and beyond.

David Brooks in The NY Times wrote in 2005 that thanks to bloggers – those rabid flying venomous sheep - Democrats would be sure to carry just Berkeley for decades to come.

Many Democrats nodded along in agreement.

Did we listen? No.

In 2006, those respectable people said Democrats couldn’t win unless they continued cheerleading that war.

Did we listen? (No)
We weren’t that stupid.

The respectable people said that electing Howard Dean chair of the Democratic Party would doom us to perpetual minority status.

Did we listen? (No)

They said that we had to privatize social security.

Did we listen? (No)

They told us we should fear “San Francisco Liberal” Nancy Pelosi.

Did we listen? (No)

They said there was nothing nefarious about the outing of Valerie Plame.

Did we listen? (No)

They said targeting Joe Lieberman would cost us the Senate.

Did we listen? (No)

No we didn’t listen. Of course not.

And then
in 2006,
we won.

Blogger Oliver Willis recently put it perfectly:
“I used to believe that a lot of these people were just talking over my head, their discourse too lofty for a regular guy like myself. But that isn't true.
They're just stupid.”

Still Brooks continues to be wrong. After the election he said Democrats “will have to show they have not been taken over by their bloggers or their economic nationalists, who will alienate them from the suburban office park moms.”

“Suburban office park moms”? Who writes this stuff?

Are we going to listen?

Of course we’re not going to listen.

We learned to tune out the likes of David Broder and Joe Klein years ago. But what’s amazing is that we’re no longer alone.

While we were once lonely voices on the outside, people on the inside have discovered that we’re not so scary after all,
that they don’t need to fear us.

We’ll get our hands dirty. We’ll deliver results.
And they’ve learned that, quite frankly,
We tend to have a habit of actually being right about things.

Still, there’s a lot more to this movement than being right.
The hallmark of this movement is the leaders it generates.

It’s a movement that continuously refreshes itself, taking advantage of its democratizing infrastructure to give anyone with the right idea and passion a chance to change the world.

It’s a world in which the gatekeepers in the traditional media,
political and activist establishments can be easily bypassed.

It doesn’t matter whether the elite think we are respectable or not. They have no right to judge us.

It is those leaders – YOU -- who are changing your country.

Me? I’m just a guy who built a website.

You – the thousands of YOU -- have taken hold of Daily Kos
and so many great sites like it to become your own leaders.

YOU are running for office.

YOU are walking precincts.

YOU are making campaign phone calls, talking to neighbors, families, co-workers –

YOU are bringing passion back to true progressivism.

YOU are building the institutions of our new progressive movement – MoveOn, Democracy for America, ActBlue, TPM Media, SoapBlox ...

The culture of entrepreneurship you’ve created will provide the foundation for our future progressive majority.

Just a year ago, we were a freakish curiosity.

I stood before you at the first YearlyKos conference and declared that we “had arrived”.

People snickered and mocked me.
Those reporters at the back of the room.
They were laughing at me.
They were laughing at us.

But then Ned Lamont kicked Joe Lieberman out of the Democratic Party.

And how about people-powered Jon Tester and Jim Webb?

We helped recruit them into the race, helped them win tough primary races, and pushed them over the finish line.

It was fitting that their early morning razor-thin victories – those victories that the netroots fueled -- gave Democrats control of the Senate.

In the House, dozens of candidates with strong netroots support won their races, others came shockingly close.

In Massachussetts, the people-powered movement helped elect the state’s first African American governor, Deval Patrick.

And suddenly, we were no longer a curiosity,
We are effective.

We delivered victories that were born of our passionate political conversations.

And now?

We are a full-fledged partner in the progressive coalition.

We have gathered here in my hometown, Chicago,
to celebrate not just with ourselves,
but with our allies in the labor movement,
our friends in the issue groups, and our party leadership.

Last night we were treated to the next generation of people-powered candidates. And weren’t they incredible?

Earlier today, we had a conversation with the next president of the United States of America.

Like any movement, we are maturing.
We threw stones, got people’s attention, and
perhaps a bit surprisingly, they listened.

That early hostility – based on substantive differences –
is now giving way to new respect and trust.

None of us in this new coalition –
the netroots activists, the issue groups, the party officials – None of us can win on our own.

And we don’t need to.

We have each other.

And yet, seeing all that we’ve accomplished,
I still can’t believe that this all started with a bunch of frustrated progressives hacking away at computer keyboards.

I’m often asked if I knew what I was doing when I first started Daily Kos.

Of course not.
I’m not that smart.

This was never my intent.
It wasn’t some brilliant master plan.

I had no idea that our country was full of natural leaders,
all looking for a way to get involved.

I simply built a website.

It was you who built the netroots.

And together all of us will build a true progressive America.

Thank you.
Well done, Markos. Heartfelt and truly appreciated.

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