Netroots Nation 2015: A few thoughts

By Craig McDermott, crossposted from Random Musings

and a few pictures (of course 🙂 )…

 

This week, Netroots Nation 2015, a conference of progressive activists from all over the country, took place in downtown Phoenix.

Thousands of people journeyed to the Phoenix Convention Center to share their stories, knowledge, and (hard-won) wisdom with each other over an exhausting but exhilarating three-plus days.

The most-noted high points of the conference were the appearance of progressive icons Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for an address on Friday and a “town hall” with presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland on Saturday.

There was also an emphasis on immigration actions, including a massive march and rally, protesting Joe Arpaio and his nativist policies.

Warren addressing (and “wow-ing”) the conference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both of the above pics are of the town hall crowd while Sanders was speaking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, the best part of the conference was in meeting people who are fighting the same battles as we are here in Arizona (it turns out that Kansas can make a strong argument that the politics there are as thoroughly insane as they are here) and also learning from them about successes and yes, failure, in their fights to help make the world a little better.

Now, I can’t talk about *all* of the trainings/panels/caucuses/event – at any one time, there would be 7-12 (or more) going on, and it was impossible to be in more than one place at a time, but here are a few impressions –


Best panel:

#EpicFail: A Look at GOTV Failures (So You Don’t Repeat Them)

Organizers, from the grass roots level to national organizations and campaigns, talked about GOTV ideas that sounded brilliant as proposals, but were viewed as something other than “brilliant” after they were implemented.  Like an initiative to help register voters that cost $250K, registered a whopping six voters, and saw only two of those six actually vote.

Oops.

There were others, some painfully funny, some just painful.

There were three main lessons from this –

1. No matter how brilliant an idea may seem, have someone (or more than one someone) with no vested interest in it examine it, looking for flaws or unintended side effects.

2. Don’t lose sight of the your intended audience; doing something that just turns off parts of the base (say, with incessant email blasts) is counterproductive.  One of the primary tenets of professional medicine is “First Do No Harm”.

As it turns out, that’s a good thing to remember in many fields of endeavor.

3. A fail doesn’t really become “epic” unless you don’t learn the lesson.

 

Biggest disappointment:

It seemed that all of the sessions were focused on “preaching to the choir” and how to be better at that.

My biggest pet peeve in politics is not the people that I disagree with (of course, they are wrong 🙂 , but that’s just politics.  Seriously, if you are freaked out by disagreement, stay away from politics.  It’s all about disagreement.).

Nope, my biggest pet peeve are the people I refer to as “proudly apathetic” about politics.

We all know these people and may have been them at some point.  They’re the people who dismiss politics as being beneath them, and not worthy of attention.

They may be registered to vote but for 23 months out of a typical 24-month election cycle, can’t be bothered to pay attention to what their elected officials are saying and doing.

Can’t say that the omission was much of a surprise – the conference is attended by people who are politically active and engaged and are used to dealing with people who are already at least engaged.

However, in my opinion, in Arizona (and elsewhere) the most significant reason for the election is eligible voters (registered or not) who don’t vote. 

Those are the people who have to be reached by folks who are looking to improve society (or at least, their little part of it). 

 

Best event:

What ensues when you get a bunch of political geeks together, mix in some trivia, and stir in some alcohol to taste?

Fun. 

 

Some of the assembled Pub Quiz contestants, before the contest started.  See that cluster of people at the back of the picture on the left side?  That’s the bar (putting the Pub” in “Pub Quiz” 🙂 )

 

Best non-conference related entertainment:

Four days of riding the light rail (most of which was pretty boring).

While going home on Wednesday, two drunks got on the LR, sat across from each other and started trying to throw Fritos into each other‘s mouth.

They missed.  A lot.

– On Friday evening, there were three women who were returning to Tempe when they noticed it was raining.  One of them took out a pair of jeans and proceeded to wrap them around her head – apparently, she had just had something done to her hair and couldn’t allow it to get wet.

Locals rate for attending Netroots Nation: $195.0

A day pass for riding the light rail: $4.00

Seeing someone walk off of the train and down the street essentially wearing their jeans as a hat while not drunk or otherwise intoxicated (I think): Priceless. 

Also on Friday, a kid (by that, I mean that he looked like he was in his late teens or early 20s), was standing in the train car (it was an SRO trip).  He then leaned against the nearest wall.  Which had an emergency intercom box on it.

If he had jumped any higher when the train operator got on the intercom and instructed him to stop hitting the call button, he’d be a cinch to make the US Olympic team.

 

Other takes on NN15:

Pamela Powers Hannley wrote on a “Black Lives Matter Matter” demonstration during the “town hall with Sanders and O’Malley here and here. 

MSNBC coverage of the Arpaio protest, written by Nisha Chittal, here. 

More MSNBC coverage of NN15 in general, written by Chittal and Yasmin Aslam, here. 

AZRepublic coverage of Warren’s speech, written by Dan Nowicki, here.

 

Random pictures from NN15:

Is anyone really surprised that an event with “Netroots” in the name had a lot people with laptops, tablets, and more?
(l-r) Brad Baumann, former ED of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA): Lily Eskelsen García, President of the National Education Association; Arshad Hasan, ED of ProgressNow. Panel: Education in the 2016 Presidential Campaign
From Wednesday: Thousands of “swag bags” after being filled

 

An interview on the main floor of the conference

 

Rep. Mark Takano
Before the start of the meeting of the Arizona Caucus

 

From the panel: A New 50 State Strategy: Reversing the Democratic Collapse in the States (l-r) Michael Sargeant, ED of the DLCC; E.J. Juarez, ED of Progressive Majority Washington; Nina Turner, former state senator (OH) and wearer of many community activist hats; and Monica Perez, former legislative candidate in Arizona and community activist

 

From: 2020 War Room: Update from the Fight to End GOP Gerrymandering, Arizona State Senator Martin Quezada

 

 
From: 2020 War Room: Update from the Fight to End GOP Gerrymandering, Arizona State Rep. Charlene Fernandez

 

Renowned author and former AZRepublic columnist, Jon Talton
Guess where next year’s conference will be held?
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), introducing Sen. Elizabeth Warren

 

3 responses to “Netroots Nation 2015: A few thoughts

  1. Loved the Jon Talton panel on AZ. I learned a lot.

    • Same here. One of the things that is lacking in Arizona politics is a sense of history, and he helps to provide some. Too bad he has to live in Seattle to make a living in his chosen profession… 🙁

  2. “…of course, they are wrong :o) , but that’s just politics.”

    Thank you for espousing a very refreshing, balanced and healthy attitude about politics. It speaks well of you that you recognize that, while politics are important and serious, it is equally important to keep a sense of humor and maintain a balanced perspective about it all. I think too many of us lose that in our desire to prevail.