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.

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

LIVE from New Orleans: Netroots Nation gets a warm welcome in the Crescent City

Good after­noon, and wel­come back to our con­tin­u­ing live cov­er­age of Net­roots Nation 2018, tak­ing place in New Orleans, Louisiana.

After a long day of cau­cus­es, pan­els, train­ings, and screen­ings, atten­dees are gath­ered togeth­er in the main hall for the open­ing keynote.

The Rev. angel Kyo­do williams opened the keynote with some intro­duc­to­ry remarks stress­ing the need for uni­ty and love in dif­fi­cult times, and led every­one through a series of col­lec­tive quick deep breaths.

Net­roots Nation Board Chair Arshad Hasan then greet­ed the atten­dees and con­duct­ed an impromp­tu sur­vey to find out how many peo­ple are at Net­roots for the first time and how many are return­ing vet­er­ans. He empha­sized that this year’s con­ven­tion has the largest atten­dance in the even­t’s his­to­ry.

Hasan then intro­duced Tom Stey­er, the founder of NextGen Amer­i­ca, a lead­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic activist, and one of Barack Oba­ma’s lead­ing fundrais­ers.

Stey­er salut­ed atten­dees for their orga­niz­ing work and imme­di­ate­ly launched into a cri­tique of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic estab­lish­ment con­cern­ing its lack of response to the “dev­as­tat­ing and obvi­ous truth” of Don­ald Trump’s cor­rup­tion.

Stey­er lament­ed that con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats haven’t mount­ed a seri­ous effort to impeach Trump. While many Demo­c­ra­t­ic elect­ed offi­cials will say they sup­port it in pri­vate, they have been pub­licly non­com­mit­tal or silent, he said.

Peo­ple are tired of speech­es that do not trans­late to action, he added. NextGen is build­ing infra­struc­ture to change Con­gress, empow­er­ing count­less young peo­ple to orga­nize and can­vass in Repub­li­can-held dis­tricts in an effort to help flip seats.

Those efforts are yield­ing results, Stey­er said. Youth vot­er reg­is­tra­tion is up 100%. 80,000 young peo­ple have reg­is­tered to vote in the past few months.

Stey­er empha­sized that Democ­rats need to be bold­er in order to win.

Patri­ot­ic Amer­i­cans are hon­est with the truth, he said.

That’s what it will take to take down Trump and his enablers, bring a more just, inclu­sive and pros­per­ous era to the Unit­ed States.

Fol­low­ing Stey­er was the cur­rent and first female May­or of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, who was elect­ed by the vot­ers in last year’s local elec­tions.

Cantrell revved up the con­ven­tion hall talk­ing about activism and hope, shar­ing her pride in the City of New Orleans and its recov­ery from Hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na. New Orleans is the twelfth city that New Orleans has vis­it­ed, and Cantrell told atten­dees she’s incred­i­bly grate­ful that the city is able to host this year.

Cantrell exit­ed the stage after intro­duc­ing her friend Colette Pichon Bat­tle, Esq., founder of the Gulf Coast Cen­ter for Law & Pol­i­cy.

Bat­tle gave atten­dees a primer on ris­ing sea lev­els and coastal ero­sion — both con­se­quences of the cli­mate cri­sis that are impact­ing Louisiana heav­i­ly.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in states like Louisiana, cli­mate sci­ence is often doubt­ed, mak­ing action more dif­fi­cult. And the impact goes beyond lost coast­line. Com­mu­ni­ties are hav­ing to be relo­cat­ed because of it too.

Bat­tle offered light­heart­ed shout-outs to orga­niz­ers in Mis­sis­sip­pi and Texas (Louisana’s neigh­bors to the east and west), where some great work is being done to advance caus­es like clean ener­gy devel­op­ment by activists whose work isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly get­ting any atten­tion from the mass media.

Bat­tle then turned to the top­ic of racism and race rela­tions, encour­ag­ing white orga­niz­ers and activists to get involved and get engaged with black com­mu­ni­ties and lead­er­ship. Most orga­niz­ing does not hap­pen from behind a com­put­er screen, she told the atten­dees. All pro­gres­sive activists should make time to sit down, hold face-to-face con­ver­sa­tions, share a meal, and real­ly lis­ten.

Dirty forms of ener­gy have led to the deaths of black peo­ple, she not­ed, explain­ing that there’s a con­nec­tion between envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice and social jus­tice. It is vital that we pay atten­tion to where mate­ri­als like solar pan­els are built. “Clean ener­gy can­not pol­lute black and brown com­mu­ni­ties,” she said.

Ms. Bat­tle signed off with a call to action to pro­tect the Earth and the Earth­’s cli­mate — our com­mon home — for the ben­e­fit of every­one.

After she left the stage, atten­dees were shown a video fea­tur­ing Ady Barkan, a young father who is dying from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Dis­ease.

The video, a pow­er­ful doc­u­men­tary short shar­ing the sto­ry of his jour­ney as an activist, was addressed to his son Carl.

In it, Ady explained why he’s gone to our nation’s cap­i­tal, con­front­ed sen­a­tors, and tak­en his “Be a Hero” cam­paign to twen­ty-two states, chal­leng­ing every­one along the way to get involved in the fight for a bet­ter future.

Fol­low­ing the video, Net­roots Nation Board Chair Arshad Hasan returned to the stafe with Sara Robin­son to share thoughts from and about the late Joel Sil­ber­man of Democ­ra­cy Part­ners, a leg­end in the net­roots com­mu­ni­ty who served as the board chair of one of the two orga­ni­za­tions that orga­nizes Net­roots Nation.

This was fol­lowed by an announce­ment of the estab­lish­ment of the Joel Sil­ber­man Schol­ar­ship Fund. There is a web­site with all the details at joelsilbermanfund.org, where you can learn more and make a con­tri­bu­tion if you wish.

Next up was the may­or of Brad­dock, Penn­syl­va­nia, John Fet­ter­man, who is the Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date for Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor in the Key­stone State.

Mr. Fet­ter­man shared how his pro­gres­sive lead­er­ship has pos­i­tive­ly impact­ed Brad­dock, which has strug­gled for many years with pover­ty and vio­lent crime.

Talk­ing about com­ing togeth­er, Mr. Fet­ter­man described his whole­heart­ed sup­port for Hillary Clin­ton in the 2016 race, despite hav­ing been a Bernie Sanders sup­port­er pri­or to the 2016 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion. It was the just, moral, and appro­pri­ate thing to do, Fet­ter­man told the con­ven­tion.

After Fet­ter­man, Net­roots Nation heard from Gina Ortiz-Jones, a ground­break­ing con­gres­sion­al can­di­date from Texas’ 23rd Dis­trict.

Ortiz-Jones shared her back­ground as the daugh­ter of a Fil­ipino woman who came to Amer­i­ca to make a bet­ter future, start­ing as a domes­tic helper. She knew her chil­dren could live their best life in Amer­i­ca, Jones explained.

She described how crit­i­cal invest­ments in pub­lic hous­ing and meal pro­grams helped her make it to the USAF Acad­e­my on a four-year schol­ar­ship. She lat­er served her coun­try in Iraq and and around the world and lat­er worked in the White House dur­ing Barack Obama’s admin­is­tra­tion. Her sto­ry under­scores how the essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices that sup­port­ed her ear­ly on in her life were invest­ments.

As men­tioned, Ortiz-Jones is a ground­break­ing can­di­date. Her can­di­da­cy marks a num­ber of firsts for Texas and her dis­trict, includ­ing her Fil­ip­ina her­itage, being female, being an Iraq War vet­er­an, and being open about being out.

Next up was Amie Alli­son, Direc­tor of Democ­ra­cy in Col­or, who addressed the need to con­tin­ue to seek eco­nom­ic and racial jus­tice — par­tic­u­lar­ly for women of col­or.

Democ­rats spent 75% of their 2016 war chest chas­ing white, swing vot­ers. And Trump won. That play­book is dead. New oppor­tu­ni­ties are emerg­ing. Women of col­or are enter­ing races and reach­ing out to vot­ers who have large­ly been ignored. Those can­di­dates deserve the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s sup­port, Alli­son said.

She high­light­ed the cam­paign of Sta­cy Abrams in Geor­gia, who addressed last year’s Net­roots Nation in Atlanta, empha­siz­ing the impor­tance of mul­ti-racial coali­tions. Women of col­or like Stacey are show­ing that the key to win­ning in many dis­tricts is get­ting non-vot­ers to vote more than court­ing poten­tial swing vot­ers.

SheThePeople.org is the group sup­port­ing this strat­e­gy and can­di­dates like Stacey Abrams. Women of col­or are lead­ing the way.

Clos­ing out the pro­gram was Chock­we Antar Lumum­ba, activist and may­or of Jack­son, Mis­sis­sip­pi. (Sen­a­tor Cory Book­er was orig­i­nal­ly sup­posed to par­tic­i­pate in the open­ing pro­gram, but his address has been resched­uled for tomor­row).

Lumum­ba start­ed with a strong state­ment about pro­gres­sivism and rad­i­cal­ism.

“We need to be as rad­i­cal as the cir­cum­stances dic­tate we should be,” he said.

Because the def­i­n­i­tion of “rad­i­cal” is “some­one who seeks change.”

“We claim this rad­i­cal agen­da. We wear it as a badge of hon­or.”

Lumum­ba focused on income inequal­i­ty and pover­ty as he con­tin­ued his remarks, point­ing out that we often approach these issues from the per­spec­tive of look­ing for some­thing that has gone wrong, rather than rec­og­niz­ing that it’s often the sys­tem work­ing as it was intend­ed by the peo­ple who designed it.

The son of two orga­niz­ers, Lumum­ba dis­cussed the impor­tance of com­mu­ni­ty, local polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion, and self-deter­mi­na­tion. Peo­ple need the pow­er to gov­ern them­selves, he said. In Jack­son, they have cre­at­ed “people’s assem­blies” where peo­ple can address their lead­ers and get beyond polit­i­cal mono­logue.

Lumum­ba described a “sol­i­dar­i­ty econ­o­my” that allows peo­ple to live with dig­ni­ty, where peo­ple do not go through cycles of fail­ure. Our mis­sion should be to lift peo­ple up instead of allow­ing them to live in pover­ty.

A big symp­tom of a bro­ken sys­tem is the sheer size of our crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, which has over-incar­cer­at­ed peo­ple, spend­ing mil­lions on all the peo­ple required to keep that sys­tem run­ning. And the sta­tis­tics show this is not mak­ing us safer.

This sys­tem must be fixed, he declared.

“Each gen­er­a­tion must dis­cov­er its mis­sion, ful­fill it or betray it, in rel­a­tive opac­i­ty.”

– Frantz Fanon

The ener­gy of young peo­ple today must play a role in orga­niz­ing and get­ting Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates elect­ed, espe­cial­ly in the Deep South, Lumum­ba told the con­ven­tion. The young peo­ple of Park­land, Flori­da exem­pli­fy the kind of change we need to see, fight­ing for sen­si­ble gun safe­ty laws every­where.

“As a black man, I long for the day when I have as many rights as a gun does,” he said to sus­tained applause.

Lumum­ba closed with a call to be sin­cere in our mis­sion to touch the lives of indi­vid­u­als and effec­tu­ate the change they want to see.

If progress can be obtained in Jack­son, in one of the red­dest states in the coun­try, it can be obtained any­where, he said.

With that, the keynote wrapped up. Day One of Net­roots Nation 2018 (with the excep­tion of tonight’s off-site spe­cial events) is in the books. We invite you to join us again tomor­row as our live cov­er­age of the con­ven­tion con­tin­ues.

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