Dispatch from the Desert 2: The good fight goes on

Carla Axtman

It's Day 2 of Netroots Nation in Las Vegas. As I mentioned in my first dispatch yesterday, there's a serious cranky thread winding its way through the conference. But as I've begun to take in more events and chat with more folks, there's also a very real recognition that the fight against rightwing authoritarianism and anti-government memes will never be over.

If I had to boil it down to a short sentiment: sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug. Right now, there's a whole bunch of "bug feeling" going on--but it seems as if most believe it's going to be short-lived.

Last evening's keynote address was delivered in parts by a number of speakers. However the last two especially stand out as particularly interesting. MSNBC and radio host Ed Schultz delivered an angrier edged speech, like a coach pissed off at his team at half time--giving them the business from the locker room. Schultz focused a lot on how the Obama Administration has failed to use progressive media outlets and messaging to frame their policy agenda--and its contributing greatly to the larger problems Team Obama is having with their message in the traditional media.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer followed Schultz (after a brief and very funny speech by Markos Moulitsas Zúñiga, founder of the Daily Kos blog, the initial inspiration for Netroots Nation). Schweitzer's style was just as energetic as Schultz, but much more uplifting and inspiring. Schweitzer reminded us of the effectiveness of progressive policy--and why this good public policy matters at the local, state and federal level. For me, Schweitzer's speech was the more effective. It reinforced for me the importance of continuing to blog--and the key contribution bloggers can have in discussions around both good and bad public policy. And policymakers, for that matter.

I chatted about Netroots Nation this morning with Carl and Christine on KPOJ--which gives a bit more of an Oregon flavor to what's happening here. Check it out.

More to come.

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    Carla, I appreciate the meta blogging. Lots of the coverage has been about speakers and so on, which, honestly, is less interesting to those of us outside the conference room. But your insight about the mood of the group and what direction you thinks this is sending them--that I am very interested in. Keep it comin'.

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    Hi Folks,

    Interesting that I, a resident of Las Vegas, look to BO for reporting on the conference. Absolutely nothing in the local dailies. Perhaps this weekend we'll see some coverage.

    best regards

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    I am pleased that Schweitzer provided a more positive outlook. I am tired of listening to people like Ed Schultz who come across as angry as the Tea Party folks or Rush. Just because he screams from the left doesn't make his message of anger any easier to take.

    I for one am delighted with Obama and what he has accomplished. Do I agree with every policy or message? Of course not, but so many on the left seem to have the memory of a gnat about what a huge change we have gone through since Obama came into office. It shows up in so many ways and not just on the big policy issues. Did he solve all our problems in the first year and get the entire Progressive agend through exactly the way we want it? No, but he is neither God nor a dictator, just a good man who happens to be trying to do the right thing as President and fulfill as many of his promises as he can.

    I hope you hear more from the Schweitzer's at the meeting and less from the critics.

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      John Calhoun posted, "...just a good man who happens to be trying to do the right thing as President and fulfill as many promises as he can."

      Piffle. That statement amounts to nothing. I met a lot of Americans who thought GW Bush was a good man who was trying to do the right thing.

      And so, the federal justice dept., under Obama, tried to get nonviolent environmental protester Ted Glick's sentence tripled, having given the reason of prior offenses- ah, but those also were nonviolent "crimes".

      Meanwhile, any action out of the federal justice dept. as regards denial of habeus corpus and torture, as practiced under the previous admin. (and reports are, is still going on to some degree)? Of course not.

      Could we say the "good man" has the priorities mixed up, at least?

      But there are lots of legit complaints against Obama. 700 dead Pakistani civilians, killed by drones, in 2009, with the estimated take of terrorists being FIVE, argues against his "good man" standing, too.

      Want more complaints? Of course not.

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      Thanks, John. My perspective exactly on the Obama first year and half. The left wing tea-baggers will never be happy with governance. It's too messy and requires too much maturity. And average people are moved by optimism and inspiration much more than anger. As much as I despised the policies of Ronald Reagan and despite the fact the vast majority of Americans also disagreed with his policy positions (soc. sec., medicare, environmental protection, taxation), Ronald Reagan was liked and people voted for him because of his optimism. The "piffle" speakers will never win elections.

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        Bill Ryan posted, "The 'piffle' speakers will never win elections."

        Okay, I'll buy that. Sure. Nixon, in the wake of having dropped more aerial ordnance upon civilians than any other head of state in history, won 49 states in 1972. Reagan, in the midst of financing terrorist wars against civilians in Central America, won 49 states in 1984.

        But, you're right- Reagan did make a whole lot of ignorant doofuses feel good about themselves. Hurray!

        So, Bill Ryan what's your point? What does success in American electoral politics have to do with righteous policy? Not much, I'd say.

        Are you not concerned with righteous policy?

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          I'll respond to this since it relates to our discussion below. "Righteous policy?" I think we've had WAY too much of that under Bush. This is a democracy. We shouldn't be trying to govern according to someone's moral or religious law. I'm a pacifist and a Buddhist and I'd go to jail before I'd fight in a war. So what? Since in the democracy I inhabit only 1% of the people agree with me, if I want to participate, I have to accept that the choices on the table are other than those I deem "righteous."

          And so it goes.

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    Stephen, compared to whom? Name an actual president whose actual performance you wouldn't also excoriate. If you compare Obama to a gauzy Hollywood image of perfection, then yes, he's failing miserably. If you compare him to other actual presidents, not so much:

    health care legislation financial reform government bailouts

    These three items secure his place as one of the most accomplished first-term president in US history. Add a host of other accomplishments and it's been astonishing.

    Should lefties hold his feet to the fire about things like drone strikes and secrecy--absolutely. When FDR jailed Japanese Americans, it was an atrocity all good citizens should have opposed. But let's not conflate things: Obama's failures do not constitute the whole of his presidency. I'm tired of naive liberals who thought he would be better.

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      Jeff, the U.S. has been an empire since the 1890s. Read a book by Wiiliam Blum called "Rogue State". I will excoriate imperial foreign policy.

      As for health care, would FDR/Truman/Kenndey/LBJ have countenanced as the main factor of the legislastion subsidization of private insurance at market rates?

      As for financial reform, we get a consumer protection agency that is part of the Federal Reserve and it looks like we're going to get Timmy Geithner's hand-picked lackey to run it. We know what needed to be done- restore Glass-Steagall.

      I damned tired of Democrats who have some need to mollify self-esteem by trumping up these sellouts as if they were accomplishments!

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      Stephen, you're totally dodging my critique of your criticism. Which was: all presidents are imperial, so by your criteria, they're all failures (which is fine, but let's put it in context).

      I extended the argument to show what he HAS accomplished, and with that you take misplaced exception:

      "As for health care, would FDR/Truman/Kenndey/LBJ have countenanced as the main factor of the legislastion subsidization of private insurance at market rates?"

      Who knows? Flip the question--would Obama, during the great progressive era you cite, have had to make these concession? Obviously not. Different times, different political realities. If you honestly believe a better bill was possible, break it down for me: how was it getting past Ben Nelson?

      I approve more of the criticisms of Obama's actual acts than the criticizing him for not passing fantasy legislation.

      Ding him--and hard--for his foreign policy. He's responsible for that. He is not, however, responsible for failing to pass fantasy lefty legislation that was never remotely politically possible.

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    Err, sorry, there should be line breaks in my list, like

    health care legislation
    financial reform
    government [bank] bailout

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      Jeff, What about Obama's deal with Big Pharma where he agreed to oppose reimportation of medications and limit Big Pharma's loss of projected revenue to $80 bil. over ten years?

      I think Obama had 4 GOP on board for that amendment- the Dorgan amendment. Why not just support reimportation and likely get to 60 votes, what with 4 GOP supporting? Why did Obama make that deal?

      Not to mention I think Obama didn't use the bully pulpit to press for progressive legislation. And single-payer advocates had to beg and plead to even gain admittance to any policy discussion.

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        And single-payer advocates had to beg and plead to even gain admittance to any policy discussion.

        Mostly because they couldn't identify even 10 Senators that were open to voting for single-payer, much less 20, 30, 40, 51, or 60.

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    As for calling all the presidents over the last 115 years failures: Of course some of had some significant foreign policy successes. But all have had significant failures which would today be understood to be violations of international law (not that acknowledging that would in stop them from doing it).

    I just find it amazing that the U.S. continues to think carrying out operations in other countries that, if they were carried out inside and against this country, would be news almost on a par with Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

    And the U.S. says it thinks this is the way to peace and stability! (but maybe the U.S. doesn't really think that- maybe this is where Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine/Disaster Capitalism is intentionally brought to bear).

    The way to peace and stability is strict adherence to international law and realization that other nation states have as much right to sovereign protection as does the U.S.

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    should read "...amazing that the U.S. continues to carry out operations that if they were carried out inside and against this country"

    Thanks for the responses, Jeff. As a pacifist, I assume you're working within the Dem Party to forward an end to the endless and counterproductive wars.

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    Carla, are NetRoots a one-trick pony so engorged with hatred of GWBII that they lack the staying power 3-5 years out?

    What was your take on the convention of liberal bloggers? How did they react to Pelosi and Obama begging for more time? What was the collective thought regarding the Sherrod firing?

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    I would really like to hear more about the response to Obama and Pelosi's "begging for more time." What did they actually say and how was it received?

    On the other line developing here, I can definitely understand Steven Michael Amy's anger, I just don't know how to rally the troops around it, and hence, its productivity.

    Kari is right that the Single Payer Option was a lonely drinker at the Senate bar, but I think there is another dimension to the situation. The bill simply doesn't solve the problem of run away growth. It's a bit like the guys in the wheelhouse of the Titanic turning the ship a little and claiming a victory, even as it still steams towards the iceberg. We pay 40% more than any other industrialized country for our healthcare. It is literally destroying us financially. We cannot compete in a global environment until we get to single payer. I agree that it wasn't possible this go 'round, but do you honestly believe the administration got that across to the public? Do you believe they even made the case? There is an educational dimension to this battle that was not engaged. The administration simply won't stand on principle or muster the courage to speak the obvious even when it is desperately needed in this realm. I think, but it's more a gut thing, that if they had the courage to speak up for their beliefs and try to change the paradigm of national thought they would be met with more understanding on the left, even if it didn't result in a better direct legislative outcome. Not in lieu of actual legislative change mind you, but in addition to it. Take what you can get today– but move the whole game down field also. Certainly this was not even considered. That "bully pulpit" is lookin' a lil dusty abouts now!

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