NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Friday, August 19th, 2022

Netroots Nation 2022 — Day One — Opening Keynote: All Eyes on Pennsyvania

Net­roots Nation 2022 kicked off Thurs­day with a live­ly keynote speech from a long list of elect­eds, advo­cates and activists in Penn­syl­va­nia pol­i­tics. These speak­ers includ­ed state Sen­a­tor Lind­sey Williams, state Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Sara Innamora­to, state Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mal­colm Keny­at­ta, state Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Sum­mer Lee, Pitts­burgh May­or Ed Gainey, Philadel­phia City Coun­cilmem­ber Helen Gym, The Impact Seat Foun­da­tion’s CEO — Cheryl Con­tee, 1Hood Medi­a’s CEO and Polit­i­cal Direc­tor — Jasiri X & Khari Mosley, respec­tive­ly, and a found­ing prin­ci­pal of the Black Male Vot­er Project — W. Mon­dale Robin­son.

Mr. Robin­son start­ed the keynote by address­ing an issue that was echoed by sev­er­al speak­ers through­out the night: the “hit” Democ­rats are pro­ject­ed to take in the 2022 midterms. Robin­son chal­lenged vot­ers to rethink what is pos­si­ble in this midterm cycle and rec­og­nize the foun­da­tion that has been laid by grass­roots orga­ni­za­tions.

The Unit­ed States has nev­er had an elec­torate as diverse or young as we do now. Young vot­ers have assert­ed them­selves in 2018 and 2020, gift­ing us with some of the biggest gains in pro­gres­sive his­to­ry. Robin­son said, “We must for­get and unlearn all the bull­shit we know about midterm elec­tions.” He fur­ther said that the medi­a’s empha­siz­ing repeat­ed­ly the idea that Democ­rats are des­tined to lose in the 2022 Con­gres­sion­al elec­tions is noth­ing short of “buy­ing into a con­spir­a­cy.”

Speech­es through­out the night high­light­ed the recent sig­nif­i­cant gains by pro­gres­sive forces with­in the state of Penn­syl­va­nia, includ­ing the elec­tion of Pitts­burgh’s first Black may­or, Ed Gainey.

1Hood Media CEO Jasiri X attrib­ut­es these achieve­ments to Black vot­ers and advo­cates, form­ing coali­tions for the under­rep­re­sent­ed peo­ple of Pitts­burgh to ral­ly behind. Jasiri described 1Hood Medi­a’s mis­sion to be orga­niz­ing for nation­al elec­tions with eyes on local elec­tions. 1Hood Media rec­og­nized the open judi­cial seats com­ing up for elec­tion in Penn­syl­va­nia in 2021 and saw this as a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to make Penn­syl­va­nia pol­i­tics bet­ter rep­re­sent the con­stituents. As a result, five of the nine judi­cial seats were won by pro­gres­sive judges, all of whom were women, three being women of col­or. This is just one exam­ple of effec­tive orga­niz­ing at the nation­al and local lev­el in Penn­syl­va­nia, spear­head­ed by Black-led move­ments and coali­tions.

May­or Gainey fol­lowed by high­light­ing his admin­is­tra­tion as the most diverse to ever gov­ern Pitts­burgh. He also stressed the impor­tance that 17% of his team come from neigh­bor­hoods sur­round­ing the city, many of which still face the con­se­quences of seg­re­ga­tion. Gainey said that he remains com­mit­ted to includ­ing these under­served com­mu­ni­ties in the con­ver­sa­tion.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lee also focused on this issue, not­ing that under­rep­re­sent­ed com­mu­ni­ties are not giv­en the resources or the encour­age­ment to run for office them­selves, fur­ther per­pet­u­at­ing their lack of rep­re­sen­ta­tion: “We looked up in Pitts­burgh and got tired of not see­ing our­selves rep­re­sent­ed. We got tired of being told to vote, vote, vote, but nev­er to run.” City Coun­cil mem­bers and State Leg­is­la­tures, pri­mar­i­ly white men, were “hold­ing seats in com­mu­ni­ties that didn’t look any­thing like them.”

Lee addressed the close call she faced in her pri­ma­ry elec­tion in Penn­syl­va­ni­a’s 12th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict, but also assert­ed her faith in the work her cam­paign has accom­plished at the com­mu­ni­ty lev­el. Echo­ing W. Mon­dale Robinson’s open­ing words, Lee argued that we need to stop talk­ing about what’s at stake this Novem­ber and instead address the bar­ri­ers that exist in every elec­tion cycle.

Lee also believes that pro­gres­sives need to be hon­est and real about the peo­ple of both par­ties that are stand­ing in the way. Final­ly, she said that the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty “can­not serve two mas­ters” and “can­not be the par­ty of the peo­ple and be the par­ty of corporations.”

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