Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic nominee in NY-14, addresses Netroots Nation 2018 during the closing plenary
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic nominee in NY-14, addresses Netroots Nation 2018 during the closing plenary

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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