Divining Darcy

Carla Axtman

Having returned to Oregon after four days of Netroots Nation-ing in Texas, I'm glad to be back to the temperate climate and proper coffee. I'm not a hothouse flower and I didn't care much for the morning brew they swill.

Even without the comforts of home, I found the experience most worthwhile. The panel discussions were excellent and the networking opportunities were bountiful. I was able to reconnect with dear friends, too--finding myself up until the wee hours of the morning wrapped up in giddy laughter with some of my favorite people.

And this year, Netroots Nation afforded me the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with Darcy Burner, candidate for Congress from Washington's 8th Congressional District.

A few of my very good blog friends from the Seattle area are friendly with Darcy. Hanging out with them meant attending several events as part of the Darcy "posse". Given her status within the netroots community--it was a little like being in the eye of the storm. As we'd walk down the hall on the way to an event, you could see people pointing with hushed whispers saying,"There's Darcy Burner!" It was sort of like being with a small-scale rock entourage. Not that I've ever been with a rock entourage, you understand. But its not that far off from my imagination's conjourings.

Darcy is the netroots rock star: smart, wonky, techy and approachable. I observed an unwavering patience with her very devoted fans who were a constant presence. The same questions were asked of her over and over again which she answered every time with a grace and even manner that I'm certain I don't possess. Bloggers can be a whacky, sometimes fringy bunch. But she hugged and smiled and thanked each individual, appearing to make them feel special and personally recognized.

Being a politician is a grueling, difficult job under the best of circumstances. The scrutiny surrounding a candidate is insanely ridiculous--I can't imagine the stress of having to live one's life under that microscope. Darcy has taken on a special challenge: running in a district that has never voted for a Democrat for Congress. This is a woman willing to traverse the road less traveled.

Lately, Darcy's had it tougher than most: her Seattle-area home recently burned to the ground.

Yet she remains on the surface a woman with a steely resolve that appears conjoined with a zen-like quality.

As I watched her speak to both large and small crowds about the issues of the day (most noteably the war in Iraq and the economy), her very feminine gestures and voice mix with the harsh rhetorical flourishes of a citizen angry at the direction her country has taken. Her sound never moves with an edge--but the words themselves are a blade--cutting up the policies of the Bush Administration (and her Republican opponent, Dave Reichert) with precision.

As I listened, I pondered the notion of how difficult it is to be a woman in politics. It definitely feels to me like a mostly male endeavor. Expectations for a woman often seem to be contradictory: be feminine but kick the asses of the bad guys. Use tough rhetoric--but not so tough as to be bitchy--or so nonbitchy as to seem unable to kick the asses of the bad guys. Be smart but stay off your high horse.

And then there's the people who have a general dislike of the idea of women being in leadership positions or places of authority. Yeah--it happens even among groups of progressives. In some quarters we still have a ways to go before the feminine gender rises to the same perceptive equality as our male counterparts.

Darcy just dives right into that fray where I don't think I could tread.

She seems unmoved by those who work to place such roadblocks in her path. Her focus doesn't appear to waver and she maintains a resolve, at least on the surface, of a leader who is ready to accept the challenge of rebuilding our nation. She speaks about the job of the Congresswoman she hopes to be with reverence and excitement in clipped sentences and with small, feminine hand gestures.

I've heard that some find her cold and too well-rehearsed..lacking a genuine quality. I suppose I could see how a very cursory and ultra-surface glance at Burner could engender such a response. But that's not the woman who sat across the table from me Friday night--sipping a margarita and opining about parenting. Nor is it the candidate I saw with a group of DFA folks speaking passionately about turning our country around.

Its also not the woman that so many of my good friends describe to me when they talk of their devotion to her candidacy.

I don't know if Darcy's tether with the netroots community will be what finally gives that district Democratic representation. The newspapers in the region seem to view the situation with a jaundiced eye (sound familiar?). I'd love to see her win and not just for the sake of the country.

I think it would be amazing to see her stick it to the jackasses who've thought otherwise and acted accordingly.

Which may also go a long way to explaining my support of Jeff Merkley, too. But that's a story for a different day.

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    Well, any woman who has become an executive at Microsoft - a notoriously testosterone-driven company in a testosterone-driven industry - is a woman who knows how to survive and thrive in the political environment.

    I chatted with Darcy a bit, too, and found her gracious and upbeat -- which I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be if my house had burned down.

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    Great article.

    You could have saved the harshing on Austin coffee, however. It's not like they grow it on the back side of Mt. Hood. :)

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    Echo John... Great blog post.

    Having known Carla longer than the regulars here and perhaps longer than all but a few lurkers, I find her observations and thoughts on Darcy Burner wading into a male-dominated world of politics fascinating to read. Mostly because Carla herself defies those same norms so... utterly (and brilliantly) just by unapologetically being herself.

    That she was this impressed with Darcy Burner says a great deal about Darcy Burner, IMHO. Ditto for Jeff Merkley. But, as she says, that's a story for a different day.

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)

    I have a total schoolboy crush on Darcy Burner. She'll make a great US Representative from the Northwest.

  • Chris #12 (unverified)

    I don't mean to hijack the thread, but I wonder if anyone that was there has comments on some of the critiques of Netroots Nation.

    For example: ronnie cummins article


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