Welcome to the second day of Netroots Nation 2015! We’re kicking things off today with a another round of breakout sessions. I’m at a panel on building progressive political power, moderated by Representative Keith Ellison (D‑MN). Netroots Nation has a livestream for this panel, which we have embedded below:
This panel showcased mutliple perspectives on how progressives have lost political power over the last forty years because of well-funded and organized conservative efforts. We started the core content of the session with a daunting presentation by Nick Rathod for the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), which showed how much money these organizations actually have, and the number of legislatures progressives have lost in these years.
The panel then moved to Colorado State Senator Jessie Ulibarri, who talked about his experiences inside the Colorado legislature, and what’s needed to move towards better policy and better candidates, saying “[w]hat we need are folks who can authentically hold on to their values, and be unapologetic about it.”
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito spoke on the gains that the New York City has been able to make with a progressive city council. This illuminated as an example what Senator Ulibarri said earlier, that having a progressive legislative body allows you to set the rules and go on the offense for a better society. Even so, she talked about how the number of women in office has been rolled back, and on this key issue there’s still much more work to do.
Michael Sargeant from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has been the resident redistricting expert in panels both yesterday and today, talked about how the DLCC works with local candidates to make sure there’s a strong campaign which is adaptable to the local area the candidate is running, and how critical this work will be to overcome the gerrymandering which emerged from Republican control of state legislatures after the last census.
Rep. Ellison then asked the panelist how important an inside/outside strategy is, where grassroots organizers and elected officials work together to pass progressive policy. Everyone was in agreement, and Senator Ulibarri talked about how it’s critical for him, because he only has a part-time legislative staff member to help him on issues, meaning that there just isn’t enough time in the day to coordinate moving progressive policy forward. If there wasn’t outside organizations and individuals he can trust, then the work they are able to do is limited.
We then moved to audience questions, where the panelists took multiple questions at the same and then weaved their way through the questions. One of the most compelling statements were by Rep. Ellison, who explained that the reason progressives might not push policy forward strongly is that many progressives suspect people in power, and thus when they have power may be reluctant to use that power to further progressive goals.
It was a great panel, and there’s a lot more discussion to be had on building funding and coordination between our movements. Next up, Elizabeth Warren’s keynote!