I just returned yesterday from the 2nd Annual YearlyKos Convention. So I've had a couple days to digest everything that occurred while I was there. Out of the thousands of moments that transpired, there are a handful that I think bear recounting for their possible impact in the future.
First, this is the last YearlyKos Convention, at least by this name. Next year's gathering will be named Netroots Nation. I'd been given a heads up that this was happening and I think it's incredibly appropriate. Markos Moulitsas was incredibly generous to loan the DailyKos brand to get this project off the ground, but the event is less about Kos and bloggers, per se, than it is about building an entirely new progressive movement -- one that is a collaboration between bloggers, readers, progressive organizations, grassroots organizers, political activists, and anybody else who cares enough to do something to move our country in a progressive direction. I'm glad that the new name will reflect the vast alliance that exists to build this people powered movement.
The Washington Post ran a piece yesterday by Jose Antonio Vargas about the lack of diversity at YearlyKos. It's true. The make-up of the progressive blogosphere is mostly white and mostly men. However, we're collectively working to fix that. KidOakland, a frequent and popular diarist at DailyKos raised enough money to recruit 17 upcoming minority bloggers to attend the conference. He plans to continue his effort to increase minority representation. I intend to do my own effort to increase LGBT representation next year. After all, the event is only two years old and there is a long way we can go in improving lots of things about it.
Hillary Clinton was the subject of lots of speculation. She is notoriously unpopular with the progressive blogosphere. She is the subject of endless posts that are critical of pretty much everything about her. There was an initial situation which caused confusion about whether she would attend a breakout schedule in addition to the Presidential Forum. When it was all said and done, she packed the room. Many people expected there to be boos. (There was a moment of booing, but it was when she proclaimed that she was a Cubs fan. She followed it up with "Hey, I've still got the t-shirt that says 'No Lights at Wrigley', so it was a nice recovery.) Having been an intern at the White House and having encountered her on numerous occasions, I expected her to win many people over. The end result is that she showed herself to be self deprecating, incredibly knowledgeable, and willing to take on some of her harshest critics in the Party. Overall, I'd say she comes out a winner.
The other winner for the weekend would be John Edwards. He solidified his populist credentials by lashing out against Lobbyist cash to campaigns. His challenge to other candidates to stop taking it put Hillary in a very uncomfortable position to defend Washington Lobbyists. I do have to say, however, that I thought this was a disingenuous position for Edwards because I thought he accepted Political Action Committee money. However, his campaign staff has confirmed that he does NOT take PAC money either. While I don't believe taking either kind of money amounts to being a sellout, I think he hit a nerve that many at YK responded to. I've heard about it today on some of the news networks, so he make get some mileage out of it.
I'd have to call the Netroots Movement the biggest winner of the event. I realize that the millions of us who are proud to be a part of this movement achieved a major moment of legitimacy Friday when the Democratic Presidential candidates filed on stage one by one. It was quite a sight to see and incredibly moving for most in the room. The nostalgia, however, quickly turned into a robust exchange of ideas and policy. What transpired was the liveliest exchange between the candidates. Of course, what else would you expect from a bunch of bloggers?
While the official events of the conference were varied and educational, the best action was in the hallways, bars, and atrium between the hotel and the connecting McCormick Convention Center. It was here that acquaintances were made, faces were connected with names, and ideas were hatched to further the goals of the progressive netroots movement.
There is a big question lingering my my mind. In a short time, the Netroots Movement has come to fruition. During the maturation of other movements, there is always a time of frustration between competing factions and philosophy about the direction of the movement. This will be forced upon us as well. I believe that it will be met with enthusiasm and grace. If it isn't, it threatens to destroy something that is very much needed in American political discourse.
I don't think that will happen, but in the meantime, I'll continue to do what I can to advance this movement and help it grow.