Editor’s Note: This month and this week, NPI is cel­e­brat­ing its tenth anniver­sary. This is the third post in a sev­en-part series reflect­ing on NPI’s first decade. Each install­ment will be penned by one of NPI’s board members.

I came to Wash­ing­ton in 1992, but I did­n’t become involved in pol­i­tics until 1999 when I start­ed attend­ing meet­ings of the 45th Dis­trict Democrats.

I became a precinct com­mit­tee offi­cer (PCO) to help with the elec­tions in 2000.  I was hap­py that we had some local suc­cess­es that year: Gary Locke was reelect­ed gov­er­nor, Lau­ra Rud­er­man was reelect­ed as State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, and Jay Inslee reelect­ed as U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the old 1st Con­gres­sion­al District.

Of course, I was dis­ap­point­ed by George W. Bush’s five to four vic­to­ry that same year, made pos­si­ble by the U.S. Supreme Court. The peace­ful han­dover of pow­er — even if it was to the wrong can­di­date — was a tri­umph of the rule of law; it demon­strat­ed the resilience of our Con­sti­tu­tion. But it was not a hap­py time for democ­ra­cy; nor was it a hap­py time for Democ­rats and progressives.

Activists in the 45th Dis­trict Democ­rats made me their chair. As dis­trict chair, I tried to expand the orga­ni­za­tion. In this effort, Pres­i­dent Bush and the pol­i­cy direc­tions he pur­sued were a great help. Pres­i­dent Bush exhort­ed us to show our patri­o­tism by going shop­ping after the Sep­tem­ber 11th attacks.

Then Bush insti­gat­ed the inva­sion of Afghanistan, the unjus­ti­fied occu­pa­tion of Iraq, and the nev­er end­ing war on ter­ror, all charged to our cred­it card. At the same time, he and a Repub­li­can-con­trolled Con­gress cut tax­es for the wealthy.

For some rea­son, peo­ple who had­n’t shown much inter­est in pol­i­tics became active with the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. At the same time that NPI was formed, many peo­ple were look­ing for a bet­ter way for­ward: peo­ple ral­lied to the can­di­da­cies of Howard Dean, Den­nis Kucinich, and John Ker­ry. We did­n’t win in 2004, but we kept trying.

We’ve been exposed to the rhetor­i­cal for­mu­la­tion, “war on x”, that has been used as a foil by politi­cians of all stripes: “war on pover­ty”, “war on drugs”, “war on can­cer”, the “moral equiv­a­lent of war” (ener­gy pol­i­cy, if you don’t recall), and “war on ter­ror”. Some are more worth­while than oth­ers, but not one of these has yet been brought to a suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion. (It’s hard to win a war against a noun).

Indeed, some have been suc­cess­ful only in divert­ing resources and atten­tion from con­cerns that should be para­mount. When the mild sug­ges­tion is made that those who ben­e­fit the most from the soci­ety we’ve built ought to pay to sus­tain it, we hear “class war­fare”: the mes­sage machine knows where its bread is buttered.

The unde­clared “wars” are more per­ni­cious. For­give me if these labels are unfa­mil­iar to you — polit­i­cal lead­ers don’t want to alarm you by utter­ing them. Some states have adopt­ed poli­cies that could be iden­ti­fied as “war on immigrants.”

Under the guise of pre­vent­ing vot­er fraud (dif­fi­cult to do as there is so lit­tle of it) we have “war on poor or elder­ly or minor­i­ty voters”.

And then there is the “war on the impov­er­ished”, and the “war on seniors”.

The “war on civ­il lib­er­ties”, one of the myr­i­ad fronts in the “war on ter­ror”, is brought to mind by cam­eras every­where and the enthralling prospect of the NSA read­ing our emails. (Orwell’s tim­ing was a lit­tle off.)

Oth­er fronts are the “war on open gov­ern­ment” and the “War on the free press.”  Ben­jamin Franklin warned, “They who can give up essen­tial lib­er­ty to obtain a lit­tle tem­po­rary safe­ty, deserve nei­ther lib­er­ty nor safety.”

Events con­tin­u­al­ly show that gov­ern­ment can­not assure our safe­ty, so why should we sur­ren­der our lib­er­ties in the false hope of security?

Grant­ed, the gov­ern­ment must some­times under­take some actions that abridge pri­va­cy. But our Con­sti­tu­tion spells out a process for when search­es and seizures are appro­pri­ate and just. I have lit­tle sym­pa­thy for those who, entrust­ed with secrets, break their solemn oaths. I have less sym­pa­thy for gov­ern­ment enti­ties that don’t have the decen­cy to fol­low their own rules.

In the ten years since NPI was formed, Amer­i­cans have gone to the polls three times to vote for Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. (Here in the Pacif­ic North­west, of course, we now pri­mar­i­ly vote at the kitchen table).

Owing in part to the fact that the office of pres­i­dent is the only posi­tion that ever appears on the bal­lots of Amer­i­cans in all fifty states, Amer­i­can pol­i­tics tends to be dri­ven by pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cycles and their outcomes.

Sim­ply put, pres­i­den­tial elec­tions mat­ter, as I allud­ed to earlier.

NPI has cov­ered all three of those pres­i­den­tial elec­tions — each time more effec­tive­ly and more com­pre­hen­sive­ly than it did the cycle before.

In 2004, NPI cov­ered the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion from Red­mond, along with John Ker­ry’s final cam­paign stop in Wash­ing­ton (a ral­ly at the Taco­ma Dome). Only four years lat­er, NPI was able to send a team to cov­er the 2008 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion in Den­ver, report­ing on con­ven­tion hap­pen­ings live from the Big Tent near the Pep­si­Cen­ter in the Mile High City.

And just last year, NPI was offi­cial­ly cre­den­tialed by the DNCC to cov­er the 2012 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion in Charlotte.

NPI’s founder, Andrew Vil­leneuve — who was also elect­ed as a del­e­gate to the Con­ven­tion from the 1st Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict — anchored NPI’s live cov­er­age each night from inside Time Warn­er Cable Are­na, pro­vid­ing per­spec­tive on the goings-on to NPI read­ers back home in the Pacif­ic North­west and around the world.

What real­ly sets our report­ing and com­men­tary apart from what you’ll find at oth­er orga­ni­za­tions is our cre­do. We are more inter­est­ed in accu­ra­cy and con­text than get­ting it first or get­ting it fast. We would rather tell a sto­ry well than race to pub­lish what we know as we learn it. We would rather ana­lyze and reflect than sen­sa­tion­al­ize. As the name of this pub­li­ca­tion sug­gests, our role as a media orga­ni­za­tion is to pub­lish thought­ful advo­ca­cy jour­nal­ism… advo­ca­cy jour­nal­ism that fear­less­ly ques­tions what all those wars on nouns are about!

NPI has nev­er stopped improv­ing its news­gath­er­ing capa­bil­i­ties, because we believe the key to com­mu­ni­cat­ing effec­tive­ly is sto­ry­telling. And there are many dif­fer­ent ways of telling a sto­ry — includ­ing sev­er­al made pos­si­ble by advances in technology.

Thanks to the gen­eros­i­ty of fel­low activists and to part­ners like SEIU Health­care 775NW and Unit­ed Food and Com­mer­cial Work­ers Local 21, NPI has been able to invest in pro­fes­sion­al tools so our staff can cap­ture high qual­i­ty audio and video, take great pho­tos, and report live from almost anywhere.

If you’re a reg­u­lar read­er of The Advo­cate, chances are you’ve fol­lowed our staff’s live­blog­ging or seen some of the great snaps they’ve taken.

We’ve also set stan­dards for our­selves, because our integri­ty is very impor­tant to us. For­mer NPI fel­low Mike Fin­kle, now a Dis­trict Court judge, helped our staff devel­op a robust Code of Ethics in 2009 and 2010 to gov­ern NPI’s reporting.

In NPI’s sec­ond decade, we intend to pass along the sto­ry­telling skills we’ve honed to more activists, as our late found­ing board­mem­ber Lynn Allen urged us to do.

As pro­gres­sives, our focus must be on peo­ple and out­comes that ben­e­fit peo­ple. We have a lot of work to do. With help from our sup­port­ers and vol­un­teers, NPI will strive to keep activists and cit­i­zens across the Pacif­ic North­west bet­ter informed about the issues we face by pro­vid­ing thought­ful com­men­tary and report­ing on cur­rent events through pub­li­ca­tions like The Advo­cate and In Brief, our microblog.

Ralph Gorin has served as a mem­ber of NPI’s Board of Direc­tors since March 2010. He chaired the 45th Dis­trict Democ­rats for over half a decade.

Adjacent posts