Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Friday, July 18, 2008

LIVE from Austin: Back to back panels

I haven't had a chance to write about some of the panels this morning yet, but I made an effort to go to more than one, and was impressed by the quality of the discussion and the presentations.

I stopped by Energize America first, with Jerome a Paris, Adam Siegel, Jeff Merkley, and Mark Begich, the last two candidates who will hopefully be replacing Gordon Smith and Ted Stevens (respectively) in the U.S. Senate.

There has been a similar version of this panel in past years but this year's conversation had an added sense of urgency. It's becoming harder and harder to ignore our addiction to foreign oil, and soaring gas prices are changing attitudes. People are more conscious about the cost of driving, heating/cooling a home, and using energy-intensive appliances.

Key to the forthcoming green revolution, the panelists agreed, would be government investment in renewable energy. Federal support for wind and solar would do wonders for growth of alternatives to fossil fuels.

I next checked in on Lone Star Candidates '08, a lively discussion about some of the races in Texas. Local bloggers provided some perspective on the Cornyn-Noriega race (particularly that the Republicans are concerned about losing and are making an extra effort to engage early, demeaning Rick whenever they have the opportunity) and Texas state House races.

The state House was described as a raucous chamber, especially under the Republicans, who famously rammed a gerrymandering scheme through a few years ago. The Democratic Party fortunately has some strong candidates who are running to unseat entrenched Republican legislators.

Following that, I spent some time listening to Working from the Inside Out: Success Stories in Netroots Organizing, a discussion between bloggers and key staff at established progressive organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union about collaboration on issues such as FISA.

The takeaway from the panel for me was that we need more of our own ideas and infrastructure to be successful on Capitol Hill. Corporate lobbyists are very successful at what they do, and the few public interest lobbyists representing the American people are besieged, mostly playing defense. Also, there's a disconnect between Capitol Hill and the rest of the country. It's hard even for those who care to keep track of what's happening on the floor because parliamentary procedure and legislative rules can be arcane and complicated.

Daily Kos contributing editor David Waldman apparently hopes to solve this by launching a new blog that breaks down what is happening in the U.S. House and Senate. I'm looking forward to seeing what he puts together. [Note the correction that fellow editor Joan McCarter is not involved in the project].


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