NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, August 4th, 2018

LIVE from New Orleans: Candidates in tough races take center stage at close of NN18

Wel­come back to our live cov­er­age of Net­roots Nation 2018.

It’s Day Three here in New Orleans of the country’s largest annu­al gath­er­ing of pro­gres­sive activists, elect­ed lead­ers, and advo­ca­cy journalists.

The Rev. angel Kyo­do Williams start­ed the clos­ing keynote pre­sen­ta­tion by thank­ing those who par­tic­i­pat­ed in this year’s Net­roots Nation and urged get­ting top­ics of race and love into our con­ver­sa­tions going for­ward this elec­tion season.

“When I look out at you all, I see the future, not the past,” she said. “It’s time for us to build some­thing new. We are not the past. We are a new Amer­i­ca and we can do this togeth­er. Let’s do it with love and reach into our col­lec­tive liberation.”

Next up was Arshad Hasan, Net­roots Nation Board Chair.

He updat­ed the crowd on the Joel Sil­ber­man Memo­r­i­al Fund, which has already raised $30,000 dur­ing the con­ven­tion. He said he’s “so proud and so hap­py” and that “the response has been real­ly fan­tas­tic, so thank you so much.”

He con­tin­ued by detail­ing how “big, beau­ti­ful, bold, and pro­gres­sive audi­ence” at this year’s Net­roots Nation is. He also not­ed that it was the biggest Net­roots ever, with almost three thou­sand atten­dees. The record turnout is cool, but ulti­mate­ly, “it’s not about the num­ber, but it’s about who and how,” he said.

He fin­ished by say­ing that “the new Amer­i­can major­i­ty is all of us, and it is you.” Hasan then wel­comed Helen Gym, an at-large mem­ber of the Philadel­phia City Coun­cil; the first Asian-Amer­i­can elect­ed to that gov­ern­ing body.

Gym began her remarks by not­ing that she is a daugh­ter of immi­grants, for­mer teacher, twen­ty-year com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­er for racial and eco­nom­ic jus­tice. She remind­ed atten­dees that Philadel­phia is the poor­est big city in the Unit­ed States, ref­er­enc­ing a his­to­ry of poli­cies of zero tol­er­ance for pet­ty infrac­tions and mass incar­cer­a­tion, as well as sig­nif­i­cant tax cuts for wealthy cor­po­ra­tions at the expense of essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices and the de-fund­ing of edu­ca­tion and transit.

Gym con­tin­ued by speak­ing about her work in com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ing before announc­ing that in 2019, Net­roots Nation will be held in Philadel­phia.

“In 2019 we need Net­roots out there win­ning elec­tions at the local lev­el, all the way to fed­er­al,” she said. “So put your Eagles jer­seys on… and let’s get ready to make some noise in my home­town. See you in Philly in 2019!”

The orga­niz­ers then showed a video in which elect­ed lead­ers like Penn­syl­va­nia Gov­er­nor Tom Wolf wel­comed Net­roots Nation to Philadelphia.

Mary Rick­les from the Net­roots Nation staff then briefly took to the stage to tout their goal of show­cas­ing pro­gres­sive can­di­dates who are bold and vision­ary run­ning in states that are both red and blue. “Some of those in D.C. think Democ­rats need to be mod­er­ate to win going for­ward,” she said. “But our way for­ward for 2018 and beyond is to be unabashed­ly pro­gres­sive, mak­ing sure we elect those who rep­re­sent what this coun­try real­ly looks like.”

She then intro­duced Birm­ing­ham, Alaba­ma May­or Ran­dall Woodfin, who ran and won against a long­time Repub­li­can may­or in 2017.

Woodfin began by say­ing, “The future is in this room. It’s peo­ple from all around the nation com­ing togeth­er, despite our dif­fer­ences, work­ing toward a com­mon cause. You are the peo­ple mak­ing change hap­pen right now and you will be respon­si­ble for the change we need in November.”

Woodfin then spoke about being elect­ed in Birm­ing­ham as the youngest may­or in the city’s mod­ern his­to­ry. “I am proud to tell you that times have changed,” he explained, “Just a cou­ple gen­er­a­tions ago, peo­ple turned a blind eye as evil crept across the South… Hatred thrived and con­sumed a city, state, and region.”

He spoke of his suc­cess­ful cam­paign for may­or, stat­ing that they knocked on over 50,000 doors and made over 30,000 phone calls because they “believed that [their] time was now and because [they] deserved bet­ter.” He explained that they cam­paigned on a promise of putting peo­ple first and cre­at­ed a movement.

And they made his­to­ry “in a place that has done it before.”

Woodfin con­tin­ued by say­ing they “are invest­ing in our com­mu­ni­ties and proud­ly stat­ed that “our mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism is the tapes­try of Amer­i­ca and the blue­print of our future. The strug­gle before us is big­ger than a sin­gle per­son and their Twit­ter ses­sions. Every­thing must be about prin­ci­ple, and not a person.”

He fin­ished by say­ing that “bot­tom line, it is time for all of us to go grass­roots” and real­ize that “mul­ti­cul­tur­al coali­tions are key to all of our vic­to­ries. The ener­gy is right here, right now… Prin­ci­ple has been lost in Wash­ing­ton, but it has­n’t been lost in Net­roots… Prin­ci­ple lives here tonight. We must fight for oppor­tu­ni­ty for all.”

Next up was Bill de Bla­sio, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic May­or of New York City. “Every­one here has a lot to feel proud and pas­sion­ate about,” de Bla­sio told atten­dees. “With the activism here these last few days, I know things are possible.”

He spoke of cham­pi­oning health­care for all, rid­ding our pol­i­tics of struc­tur­al racism, and final­ly mak­ing the wealthy pay for their fair share of tax­es. “To get there, we have to talk about our strength and stay true to our val­ues,” de Bla­sio said

He explained that there are three big lies that pro­gres­sive can­di­dates are told:

  1. Pro­gres­sives can’t win
  2. Pro­gres­sives can’t govern
  3. Pro­gres­sives are a polit­i­cal minor­i­ty in this country

“I don’t buy any of it,” he said.

“I was not sup­posed to get this job… they wrote my polit­i­cal obit­u­ary the day I announced my cam­paign.” He went on to explain that in his race, he did not water down his mes­sage and once he won, he moved speed­i­ly to imple­ment pro­gres­sive poli­cies. “The voic­es of oppo­si­tion will gath­er quick­ly, but if the peo­ple feel pro­gres­sive change, they will want a whole lot more,” he said.

In his first six months as may­or, uni­ver­sal preschool was intro­duced in New York City and 70,000 chil­dren now get all day preschool for free.

De Bla­sio also advanced crim­i­nal jus­tice reforms. The city sub­se­quent­ly got safer and saw 100,000 less arrests than four years previously.

The May­or exhort­ed atten­dees to “ignore the bad advice because the things we believe in can be done. Our authen­tic mes­sage and val­ues are exact­ly what will move every­day peo­ple in this country.”

He fin­ished by remark­ing: “We make change with a bold, pos­i­tive, pro­gres­sive vision — not by talk­ing about Don­ald Trump all the time. I’m more opti­mistic today than I was when I first start­ed. I’ve seen pro­gres­sive ideas take flight and become action. I’ve seen peo­ple’s lives change. I am gen­uine­ly opti­mistic because of you. We are unapolo­getic and we are bold.”

The keynote con­tin­ued with a speech from Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Tim Ryan of Ohio, who had pre­vi­ous­ly spo­ken as part of two pan­els ear­li­er in the day.

Ryan denounced Don­ald Trump’s bait­ing of leg­endary bas­ket­ball play­er LeBron James over James’ most recent pledge to donate $41 mil­lion to a school in Ohio. (James is a native of the state Ryan rep­re­sents and has played for the Cleve­land Cav­a­liers for much of his career, although he is leav­ing Cleveland.)

Ryan then moved on to dis­cussing his time vis­it­ing poor and dan­ger­ous neigh­bor­hoods in his dis­trict and beyond, where one con­stituent could only sell her house for $4,000 and was ulti­mate­ly stuck in her unsafe neigh­bor­hood. “These issues aren’t in a par­tic­u­lar geo­graph­i­cal loca­tion, they are every­where,” he stated.

He spoke of a friend who was detained and ulti­mate­ly deport­ed by ICE, even though he had lived in the U.S. for decades and owned a small business.

“Our sys­tems are bro­ken across the board, we have to fix it,” Ryan said.

He stressed that it starts with under­stand­ing the his­to­ry of our bro­ken eco­nom­ic sys­tem, our cli­mate sys­tem, as well as our health­care sys­tem and oth­ers. He went on to dis­cuss the need to rewrite our trade agree­ments, make an actu­al liv­able min­i­mum wage, and immi­gra­tion reform that takes care of Dreamers.

He added that we need to “go big on pro­tect­ing the environment.”

Ryan fin­ished by quot­ing Mohammed Ali: “I’m always up, or I’m get­ting up,” before stat­ing, “Well, the pro­gres­sive move­ment is up my friends!”

Next up was David Gar­cia, the can­di­date who Democ­rats hope will reclaim the Ari­zona gov­er­nor­ship for their par­ty this year.

Gar­cia told atten­dees that he is a prod­uct of Ari­zon­a’s pub­lic schools, the first in his fam­i­ly to go to col­lege, an army vet­er­an, a father and a pro­fes­sor. He explained that the nation­al rhetoric that is anti-peo­ple of col­or and anti-immi­grants, unfor­tu­nate­ly start­ed in Ari­zona. “But it’s going to end in Ari­zona, too,” he said.

Gar­cia went on to say that “the strength of our adver­si­ty is going to make us rise to the top. It’s time for our most vul­ner­a­ble to have their voic­es heard.”

He con­tin­ued by say­ing: “We need lead­er­ship that reflects the peo­ple, all the peo­ple.” His cam­paign is “a grass­roots effort that is tak­ing over the state, block by block. In the Ari­zona heat, [our] team is knock­ing on 12,000 doors, com­plete­ly vol­un­teer. A vic­to­ry in Ari­zona is going to be a direct rejec­tion of Trump.”

He fin­ished by say­ing: “As we come togeth­er to close Net­roots, let’s take a sec­ond and imag­ine a brand new day in Ari­zona and across this coun­try. A day where we’re all going to stand up, lean in, and speak up in Eng­lish, Span­ish, or any oth­er lan­guage we believe in and give Amer­i­cans some­thing to vote for again.”

He said he’s look­ing for­ward to Novem­ber 7th, 2018 — the day when he hopes that “Trump opens up his Twit­ter account and sees that in Ari­zona of all places, the good peo­ple elect­ed a guy named Gar­cia as gov­er­nor of Arizona.”

Paulette Jor­dan, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee for Gov­er­nor of Ida­ho, spoke next.

“As an indige­nous woman,” she said, “I am proud of the ances­try that I stand from. It is a lega­cy of lead­er­ship. Once we are gov­er­nor of Ida­ho, peo­ple will see what it tru­ly means to love our land and our people.”

Jor­dan said she looks for­ward to dri­ving “more than pol­i­tics into our com­mu­ni­ty.” She hopes to dri­ve “love, com­pas­sion, and human­i­ty — that deserves to be in our gov­er­nance.” She fin­ished by say­ing that “we need a rep­re­sen­ta­tive that is tru­ly of this land. We are flip­ping our state for the bet­ter. Not to be blue, or pur­ple — we’re doing it for the greater good.”

“We are tru­ly about reflect­ing the good of the peo­ple,” she stat­ed. “We will show every­one that we can take back the coun­try. We are the new America.”

Kevin de León, who is chal­leng­ing Dianne Fein­stein for the Unit­ed States Sen­ate in Cal­i­for­nia, was the next can­di­date to take to the stage.

De León, who has the endorse­ment of the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, explained that his moth­er cleaned the homes and worked to the bone to give her fam­i­ly a bet­ter life. “She crossed a nation­al bor­der against a wave of big­otry,” he said.

De León told atten­dees that he is the first Lati­no leader in the Cal­i­for­nia State Sen­ate in more than a cen­tu­ry and authored some of Cal­i­for­ni­a’s, and the coun­try’s, most pro­gres­sive poli­cies on envi­ron­men­tal respon­si­bil­i­ty and net neu­tral­i­ty. He was also involved in mak­ing Cal­i­for­nia the first sanc­tu­ary state.

“Because of that law,” he explained, “Jeff Ses­sions sued the great state of Cal­i­for­nia. To which I said: Bring it on.”

“I’m not just a pro­po­nent for the Amer­i­can Dream… I am a prod­uct of it,” he said. “I, like you, have nev­er backed down form a fight.”

“We’re engaged in a bat­tle for the soul of our nation,” he added.

León wrapped up by declar­ing: “Big pro­gres­sive poli­cies should not end at state bor­ders. More than at any oth­er time in our nation’s his­to­ry, every one of us has to take our fight to Wash­ing­ton. A new, bold gen­er­a­tion of lead­er­ship is need­ed in Wash­ing­ton, dri­ven by val­ues and not pow­er. We’re not doing our best unless we are out in the streets get­ting our friends and loved ones excit­ed about voting.”

He explained the Democ­rats’ mes­sage of inclu­siv­i­ty is what gets peo­ple excit­ed to vote, and that we can’t move our poli­cies for­ward if those in our nation’s cap­i­tal keep resist­ing the pro­gres­sive resistance.“We are not going to let one elec­toral aber­ra­tion reverse decades of progress,” de León proclaimed.

Activists involved with the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment then made an unan­nounced appear­ance on stage to lodge a few griev­ances regard­ing how Net­roots Nation 2018 was orga­nized and scheduled.

They lament­ed that speak­ers were asked to pay to par­tic­i­pate (instead of being com­pen­sat­ed with hon­o­rar­i­ums) and that com­pli­men­ta­ry reg­is­tra­tions weren’t made avail­able to peo­ple who live and work in New Orleans.

They also told atten­dees they want more posi­tions in con­fer­ence and lead­er­ship and a say over pro­gram­ming, with one of the activists declar­ing: “We will no longer be tok­enized by so-called white allies.”

The Rev. angel Kyo­do Williams then returned to the stage to cel­e­brate the impor­tance of allow­ing protest at Net­roots Nation (and indeed, as our Exec­u­tive Direc­tor can attest, pro­gram­ming inter­rup­tions have long been a facet of the con­ven­tion), before intro­duc­ing Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s nom­i­nee for the U.S. House in New York’s 14th Con­gres­sion­al District.

“After spend­ing the last two years knock­ing on doors, we’ve learned a lot of things,” Cortez said after receiv­ing an enthu­si­as­tic wel­come. “We’re not going to beat big mon­ey with big mon­ey. We’re going to beat it with big organizing.”

She explained that swing vot­ers don’t vote for for timid­i­ty. “They vote for authen­tic­i­ty, for the per­son who is cham­pi­oning them the most.”

Refer­ring back to the last elec­tion cycle, she added: “It’s no secret that [the Democ­rats] lost a lot of seats, but that’s alright. It’s always the dark­est before the dawn. We need a burst between now and Novem­ber. We need to real­ize the con­scious­ness of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and I believe it’s time for us to come home. When peo­ple real­ize we will fight for them the most, they will fight for us too.”

Cortez spoke of her suc­cess­ful cam­paign and fin­ished by say­ing that “the future of this par­ty is to redis­cov­er our soul. It’s time to real­ize we are the par­ty of King, Roo­sevelt, those who went to the moon, who elec­tri­fied the nation. We cre­at­ed Medicare and Social Secu­ri­ty and the eco­nom­ic and sci­en­tif­ic basis of our great­est accom­plish­ments. There is no dis­trict too red for us to flip.”

Clos­ing out the speak­ing pro­gram was Julián Cas­tro, the six­teenth U.S. Sec­re­tary of Hous­ing & Urban Devel­op­ment under Barack Oba­ma from 2014–2017.

Cas­tro explained that in his life, he has been a ben­e­fi­cia­ry of pro­gres­sive poli­cies. He spoke of his broth­er’s oppor­tu­ni­ty to get to go to Stan­ford, some­thing his grand­par­ents could nev­er have imag­ined. He said that this was one of those “moments in your life where you’re so hap­py that your dreams are com­ing true.”

But then he described the moment his fam­i­ly got the tuition bill.

Cas­tro went on to explain the ben­e­fits of grants and work­ing loans, say­ing “our coun­try is its best when we invest in our people.”

He went on to say that “change does hap­pen,” but “some­times progress takes time” and it “takes our dogged commitment.”

He closed with an impas­sioned appeal.

“If you want lead­ers who unite our coun­try, who are hon­est, who lis­ten to the peo­ple instead of close cir­cle of lob­by­ists, who want chil­dren in bet­ter class­rooms instead of cages, an Amer­i­ca that can move for­ward and progress, instead of back­wards — the way we’re head­ed now — don’t waste a minute of your time feel­ing daunt­ed that Don­ald Trump has a base of die-hard fans.”

“Richard Nixon did before he resigned, Roy Moore did before he lost, and so will Don­ald Trump before he los­es,” Cas­tro point­ed out. “Mobi­lize the strong major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans who want change right now in 2018.”

“Remem­ber that we’re doing this because we know we live in an awe­some and great coun­try. But we also live in a coun­try that can be bet­ter, more equal, more inclu­sive, and more pros­per­ous for every individual.”

“You can make progress hap­pen. We’re count­ing on you.”

And with that, Net­roots Nation 2018 came to an end.

Thanks to all who fol­lowed the con­ven­tion from home with us here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate — we hope you enjoyed our coverage!

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