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Thursday, July 22, 2010

LIVE from Las Vegas: Ed Schultz takes on the establishment; Brian Schweitzer lifts spirits

We're now into the second half of the Netroots Nation 2010 opening ceremony, starting with MSNBC's Ed Schultz. Ed is angry. Really angry. Angry at Republicans, but even more angry at Democrats who he says are "negotiating with themselves."

In his self-aggravandizing style, he bluntly stated that he isn't afraid to take on Democratic members of Congress, and invited the netroots to join him.

"If I got the balls to say it, you better have the balls to write it. It's time we hold this party accountable," Schultz boomed.

But he didn't stop there.

"We have to do our vetting process. You are either with us or you're against us in the progressive movement in America," Schultz shouted, sounding very much like the last person who occupied the White House.

"We are in an ideological fight for the country," he continued, repeatedly asserting that the right wing may have money and infrastructure and access, but it doesn't matter, because as Ed says, "I've got the truth on my side."

Of course, the problem is, one person's truth is another person's fiction. The "truth" will not set us free. If we want to win over hearts and minds, we have to reframe, which is more difficult than pumping a fist and declaring war on the political establishment. (Incidentally, Ed made sure to look in the camera and direct his provocative Bushism to the White House).

Now, we don't really have any qualms with Ed's ends (no pun intended). We're populists too, and we want an America that is more democratic and just. As Schultz said: "We are the party of the people. We are the movement of equal rights, civil rights, social justice, all of the great foundations that make our country great."

But our means are different from his.

We may not like the establishment, but we also don't like dealing in absolutes. You're either with us or you're against us is one of the most criticized things that George W. Bush ever said, for a reason. It's polarizing and divisive.

Anger is a powerful emotion. It's easy to feel rage, resentment, or contempt. It's also not difficult to express those feelings — Schultz is doing a fine job of that at the moment. But it's difficult to channel such feelings into something positive. There's nothing wrong with feeling determined, but people who let their fury get the best of them aren't going to be able to accomplish much.

UPDATE: Ed has finally finished yelling and yielded the stage to our own Markos Moulitsas, who was the major keynote speaker at the first Netroots Nation (then YearlyKos) four years ago. Markos reflected on how much has changed since that first convention, also in Las Vegas.

He opined that while we've made a lot of headway in the last few years, it's in part thanks to the fact that the Republicans self-destructed.

"We don't have a genuine progressive majority. The conservatives worked for thirty years for their infrastructure, and we've had it for six," he said.

He's motivated to win the 2010 midterms because he wants to see the tea party demoralized. "They are convinced they're going to take back the House and the Senate," he reminded the audience.

He then proceeded to introduce Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, who is about to walk onstage. Schweitzer is the final speaker of the night.

UPDATE II: Governor Brian Schweitzer just arrived on stage and he is rocking the house. In stark contrast to the speakers from the South Bronx, or Berkeley, or other urban areas generally considered to be liberal, Schewitzer's from Montana. Naturally, he opened with a story about the 4H club and steers.

He used the story (which was very funny, and will soon be available from the Netroots Nation video archive to drive home his point that the most important lesson he's learned from life is that "it is more important to be lucky than good".

Like Steven Horsford, Schweitzer believes in the importance of public education, because, as he says, "I can't change the heart of a thirty or forty year old man, but I can change the mind of his kid if I get there soon enough."

"If we can start early enough, we can equalize the opportunities for everyone."

Then, Schweitzer told us — in amazingly rich detail — about one of his constituents named Walt, who is now the world's oldest living man. This actually wasn't just one story, it was a whole series of fascinating, well-told stories about Walt's life, which enthralled the room.

Reflecting on why Walt has lived so long, Schweitzer observed that he has done a lot of volunteering during his one hundred and thirteen years on planet Earth.

"When you help other people, it's good for your soul," Schweitzer said. We agree. That's what being a progressive is all about.

Schweitzer also talked about stopping "Real ID" in its tracks, and about his decision to pardon the people who were wrongly arrested or prosecuting for violating the Sedition Acts during World War I nearly a century ago.

He ended his address by concluding that our greatest challenge in these unusual times is breaking our addiction to foreign oil.

"If we get this right, we will be the greatest generation. If we get this wrong, we will send our kids to another war," he said.

And, just like that, after two fun-filled hours, the opening program is over.

Good night, readers!


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