Progressives may have taken a hit in 2016, but if the sentiment at Netroots Nation 2017 is an arbiter of things to come, 2018 could be great. The caveat is whether candidates will be bold and do the grassroots work necessary to mitigate the money flowing to establishment corporatist candidates on all sides.
There were more young candidates (along with many not-so-young candidates) who displayed a passion for serving than I have ever seen or spoken to at any Netroots Nation over the last eight years or so. It is clear some are unlikely to win, but the fact that they are willing to run and ensure that progressive policies get a hearing, even in solidly red districts, is fundamental to laying the groundwork for future access to these communities. Our ideas can only reach a larger audience if we are willing to go beyond our silos, our echo chamber, and our immediate sphere of influence.
It was not only about candidates running, however. It was about a vibrancy and empowerment that were palpable throughout the exhibits and the plenaries. It was about the reaction to legitimate protests on issues of importance to particular segments of the progressive community. It was about the community launching a protest to protect a woman’s right to choose in an oppressive state.
I interviewed three Democratic candidates and one Republican candidate all running as unabashed progressives in support of single-payer Medicare for all, as well as many more of our values as expressed in the Brand New Congress platform and the Democratic Party platform. You can watch the interviews below.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democratic candidate in the Bronx, New York, exuded confidence, freshness, and a desire to activate folks in New York’s 14th Congressional district. She paid her dues as a grassroots organizer, including her activities at Standing Rock. She grew up in a working-class neighborhood and went through the ups and downs characteristic of what many millennials went through during their formative years.
Adrienne Bell (TX-14)
Adrienne Bell is a community organizer, activist, and teacher in the Houston area. She was very active in the campaign to turn Texas blue with OFA and Battleground Texas. She knows it is time to be a part of the solution by serving.
Richard Dien Winfield (GA-10)
Richard Dien Winfield is a professor of philosophy running in Georgia’s very red district 10th Congressional district. He is intent promoting a very progressive message in a district where he believes it would make a difference. He does not intend to put a polite facade on his message.
Robb Ryerse (AR-3)
Robb Ryerse is a progressive Republican. He says he is a Democrat, but in speaking with him, party definitions became fluid.
Khalid Kamau is the first Black Lives Matter organizer to win an elected office. He’s turned protests into a development of community-oriented policy making. He is determined to change the policing paradigm at the local level in his city of South Fulton, Georgia. He wants citizens to know that it is not enough to get elected: they must also be continuous participants in making lives better through support and engagement with their elected politicians.
Of course, there were protests at Netroots Nation 2017. However, dissent was handled much better this time around, unlike at the convention in Phoenix. Arizona. For example, protests erupted against Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Evans, as seen below.
The protest drowned out Evans’ speech. Many of the women did not believe that she should have been given a platform at the most progressive conference in the nation when most of her education stances are suspect.
Georgia activist Anoa Changa explained the genesis of the grievance.
Anoa Changa explained the concept of POC invisibility in these spaces. Her passionate commentary needs to be explored deeply by the progressive movement.
But Netroots Nations wasn’t only about politicians: the issues rang out loudly, too.
Morris Pearl wants it known that many business owners want to pay their fair share of taxes in a progressive manner. His organization Patriotic Millionaires is working hard to eliminate loopholes like carried interest, and much more. He shares his thoughts in the video below.
National Education Association vice president Rebecca Pringle talked about being ready to fight Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Public Citizen’s Angela Bradbery said the organization is ready to sue the Trump administration at every necessary turn.
We even had representation from the cannabis lobby. The Green Rush Team said they want to ensure the democratization of this relatively new industry. They want the businesses to reflect the users of these products.
Lastly, Netroots attendees participated in a protest in solidarity with those who were counter-protesting in Charlottesville, Virginia.