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, July 13th, 2019

LIVE from Philadelphia: Pressley, Haaland, Omar, Tlaib take the stage at Netroots Nation

Good morn­ing! Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from our team at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute con­tin­ue to par­tic­i­pate in train­ings, dis­cus­sions and ple­nary ses­sions at Net­roots Nation 2019 in Philadel­phia, Penn­syl­va­nia.

This third morn­ing of the con­ven­tion was anchored by a ple­nary ses­sion, appro­pri­ate­ly titled Mak­ing Her­Sto­ry: The women who are shift­ing the bal­ance of pow­er in Wash­ing­ton [the Dis­trict of Colum­bia; our nation’s cap­i­tal.]

Dr. Stephanie Kel­ton, for­mer Chief Econ­o­mist on the U.S. Sen­ate Bud­get Com­mu­ni­ty and an eco­nom­ic advi­sor to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, opened the ses­sion by say­ing that Democ­rats are chang­ing polit­i­cal dis­course and mak­ing strides she did­n’t think she would see in her life­time.

“This com­mu­ni­ty has bold aspi­ra­tions to take this coun­try in a direc­tion we know we can go and become the Amer­i­ca that we are all striv­ing to become,” she said.

Rev­erend angel Kyo­do williams then returned to the stage to help every­one find their spir­i­tu­al bear­ings pri­or to the intro­duc­tion of the next set of speak­ers.

Next up was Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Sum­mer Lee, the first black woman elect­ed to rep­re­sent South­west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia and a mem­ber of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Social­ists of Amer­i­ca. Lee defeat­ed a nine-year Demo­c­ra­t­ic incum­bent, Paul Cos­ta, in 2018 with six­ty-sev­en per­cent of the vote. Pri­or to run­ning for office, Lee spent many years as an activist, notably work­ing on the Fight for 15.

She said many peo­ple asked her if she was run­ning to rep­re­sent Penn­syl­va­ni­a’s 34th dis­trict because of Don­ald Trump, to which she respond­ed that she ran to tack­le the sys­tem that cre­at­ed Don­ald Trump, and she was tired of wait­ing for some­one to effec­tive­ly rep­re­sent her com­mu­ni­ty.

She went on to explain that the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty needs to make sure it is the big tent that it claims to be. “It’s a big tent that seems to get small­er when loud, proud, pro­gres­sive black women show up,” she said. “A lot of peo­ple of col­or feel left behind by this move­ment. We have to move to focus­ing on the peo­ple who are oppressed by the sys­tems that cre­at­ed Don­ald Trump.”

Lee con­clud­ed her remarks by encour­ag­ing pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions and activists to lift up peo­ple of col­or up who are run­ning for office by active­ly work­ing on their cam­paigns, instead of sim­ply pay­ing lip ser­vice to the idea of diver­si­ty.

Next up was Rep­resenta­tive Movi­ta Johnson-Har­rell, whose dis­trict encom­pass­es part of Philadel­phia. She explained that while she may not seem like a typ­i­cal elect­ed offi­cial, her back­ground makes her unique­ly qual­i­fied to rep­re­sent her dis­trict. Many gen­er­a­tions of her fam­i­ly have lived in pover­ty, strug­gled with sub­stance abuse, and suf­fered from domes­tic vio­lence.

She spoke mov­ing­ly of her son, who was killed by gun vio­lence, and reit­er­at­ed her pledge to fight “until her last breath” to com­bat this pub­lic health cri­sis.

John­son-Har­rell not­ed that she was first Mus­lim woman elect­ed to the Penn­syl­va­nia House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and she knows she will not be the last.

“If you are not at the table, then you are on the menu,” she said, repeat­ing a mantra that is catch­ing on in pro­gres­sive cir­cles across the Unit­ed States.

“Wher­ev­er you are, make sure you claim your authen­tic­i­ty and stand proud, but make room for your sis­ters and broth­ers who don’t look like you.”

The vaunt­ed Bar­bara Lee then took the stage. Lee is a vet­er­an Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive whose con­stituen­cy includes Oak­land and Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia.

She began by speak­ing about the last time she attend­ed Net­roots Nation two years ago, when there were no women in Penn­syl­va­ni­a’s Leg­is­la­ture. Dur­ing that same con­fer­ence two years ago, Lee recount­ed how she kept hear­ing the phrase “stay woke”, which became a per­son­al ral­ly­ing cry for her.

Lee said that it’s impor­tant to con­tin­ue to “stay woke” in these dark and trou­bling times, where mis­in­for­ma­tion is every­where. “Equal­i­ty and the preser­va­tion of our plan­et is not a rad­i­cal goal and it should not offend any­one,” she argued.

“We’re not just spin­ning our wheels right now [in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives], we are show­ing peo­ple who we are and why pro­gres­sive poli­cies win with the Amer­i­can peo­ple [even if the bills will not pass Mitch McConnel­l’s Sen­ate].”

She then tout­ed a num­ber of the bills that have advanced out of the Demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-con­trolled House since Jan­u­ary, includ­ing the crit­i­cal elec­toral reforms includ­ed in H.R. 1, pro­tect­ing net neu­tral­i­ty, imple­ment­ing uni­ver­sal back­ground checks on gun pur­chas­es, and equal pay for women.

There is still work to do, she observed.

Lee asked for the move­men­t’s sup­port as the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives acts to defend repro­duc­tive rights, research pos­si­ble repa­ra­tions for descen­dants of slaves, and move towards legal­iz­ing and decrim­i­nal­iz­ing mar­i­jua­na.

She end­ed by say­ing we need to stand up to injus­tices every­where and asked the more than three thou­sand atten­dees of Net­roots Nation if they were all in.

Lee left the stage with chants of “All in!” from the crowd.

She the Peo­ple founder Aimee Alli­son walked out moments lat­er to intro­duce the last seg­ment of the ple­nary ses­sion which was a pan­el made up of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Deb Halaand, Rashi­da Tlaib, Ayan­na Press­ley and Ilhan Omar.

The squad at Netroots Nation 2019

Aimee Alli­son, Ilhan Omar, Ayan­na Press­ley, Rashi­da Tlaib, and Deb Haa­land onstage at Net­roots Nation 2019 (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Alli­son said that these four trail­blaz­ing women rep­re­sent­ed not just four con­gres­sion­al votes, but also for mil­lions of peo­ple, they rep­re­sent gen­er­a­tions of the strug­gle for rep­re­sen­ta­tion. “They rep­re­sent the best of Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy and yet, they have faced attacks all year from the right wing and Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty lead­er­ship,” she said before wel­com­ing them to the stage.

Alli­son began the pan­el by ask­ing the quar­tet about these attacks, includ­ing Nan­cy Pelosi’s recent com­ments. Tlaib said that in their roles, they have to be authen­tic and defend the com­mu­ni­ties they were elect­ed to pro­tect.

“I have to be unwa­ver­ing,” she said. “That’s what peo­ple sent me to Con­gress to do. I have to nev­er back down. I have the third poor­est con­gres­sion­al dis­trict in the coun­try, and that is what con­tin­ues to inspire me and move me for­ward.”

Omar agreed and con­tin­ued by explain­ing there is a con­stant strug­gle with those woh have pow­er and over the shar­ing of that pow­er. “We have to con­tin­ue to resist and insist on poli­cies that push our coun­try for­ward,” she said.

The dis­cus­sion then tran­si­tioned to the cri­sis at our south­ern bor­der — where fam­i­lies are being cru­el­ly and unjust­ly torn apart by the Trump regime — and what the rep­re­sen­ta­tives wit­nessed when they trav­eled to deten­tion cen­ters.

Press­ley said that “this is a time to be inten­tion­al with our move­ment and our coali­tion build­ing.” She explained that these camps should be thought of as a “pilot pro­gram” that reveals what Trump and his cronies (like Stephen Miller) have in mind for the coun­try’s incar­cer­at­ed pop­u­la­tion. If the regime can get away with pri­va­cy and human rights vio­la­tion at the bor­der, it will scale up.

Halaand drew com­par­isons to the dis­en­fran­chise­ment of Native Amer­i­cans, say­ing “these issues have been hap­pen­ing for a long time. You have more con­trol over peo­ple when you sep­a­rate them. It did­n’t work then, and it is not work­ing now.”

Omar, pick­ing up on her col­leagues’ ear­li­er com­ments, remarked that instead of com­ing to the table, pro­gres­sives should shake the table. “We nev­er need to ask for per­mis­sion or wait for per­mis­sion to lead,” she said. “Every sin­gle vote we take and agen­da we push forth is about mak­ing sure no one is being left behind.”

Tlaib drew per­haps the largest applause of the ple­nary ses­sion when she declared in response to a ques­tion from Alli­son that Don­ald Trump would be impeached.

“We’re going to impeach!” she told atten­dees.

The squad (as Omar, Press­ley, and Tlaib, plus Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez have become col­lec­tive­ly known as) left the stage with Alli­son and Haa­land to a sus­tained stand­ing ova­tion, paus­ing first for a pho­to.

Lat­er today, atten­dees of Net­roots Nation 2019 will hear from four pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates: Kirsten Gilli­brand, Julian Cas­tro, Eliz­a­beth War­ren, and Jay Inslee. That ses­sion will close out this year’s con­ven­tion.

NPI will con­tin­ue to offer cov­er­age of Net­roots Nation through­out the day right here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, as well as on In Brief.

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