Many thanks to Pajamas Media for sending me as a representative of the press to cover YearlyKos. Not only was my sojourn among the netroots instructive, but the trip supplied enough blog fodder to keep me writing for a week – if I so choose.
Don’t worry. I have no intention of being that boring. However, allow me to share some of my pithy observations and razor sharp insights into what was going on both above and below the surface.
The number one thing I learned was that liberals are people too. This may not seem an earth shattering observation. After all, we’ve suspected for years that lefties shared many of our genes and that they may, at some point in their evolution, have even used stone tools and decorated their bodies with various kinds of artwork.
I can assure you that they are at least as similar to us as chimpanzees – except chimps are cuter and don’t constantly interrupt you when you’re speaking and trying to make a point. However, all that aside, liberals are pretty normal. They have a different sense of humor of course. And they may not laugh as much as conservatives although I wonder who will be doing the chuckling on election day 2008?
They have their radicals. So do conservatives. Both manifestations of extremism are humorless, boring, and smelly. Radicals are so intent to push their ideas on the rest of us that they’ve forgotten their way to the bathtub. And where conservative radicals tend to be younger (age being a leavening factor among conservatives) lefty radicals tend to be older. Also, liberal extremists may have a few years on their conservative counterparts but they try to look young and act young anyway. Lots of near seniors were present with body piercings and tattoos. And I swear some of them were wearing “earth shoes” and Jesus sandals.
Political red meat tossed to the attendees by speakers, panelists, discussion leaders, and presidential candidates was pretty harsh stuff. If I didn’t know any better, I would say that our republic has less than a year and a half to live – unless we elect all Democrats and throw many if not all Republicans in jail. Or behead them, or something. John Edwards, by the way, must be prevented at all costs from becoming President. First of all, the obvious reason that America governed by this metrosexual priss would be an invitation to every terrorist, thug nation, and rogue beauty consultant to descend upon this country en masse and make our lives a living hell. Not only terrorist attacks as a regular occurrence but just think of the damage to our masculinity.
John Edwards will be tougher on rich people than he will be on al-Qaeda. That might make us all feel better, seeing people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet reduced to paupery and forced to sell old copies of Windows ME and junk bonds in the street. Will it make us safer? I report. You decide.
I actually wouldn’t mind seeing Dennis Kucinich as President. We’ve never had a gnome as chief executive before and at the very least, it would be a novel experiment in discovering if psychoses are contagious.
Mike Gravel might make things interesting for a few years. His ideas of what constitutes global warming would be slightly skewed as a result of spending all that time in Alaska. Minneapolis would seem a veritable tropical retreat while Chicago might seem equatorial in climate.
Would someone please wake Chris Dodd up and tell him he can go home now?
As for the rest of them – Richardson, Obama, and Hillary – any of them would probably be alright. At least until Republicans regain their equilibrium. Then again, they only allow a President to serve two terms, right? Might want to make plans for that GOP Victory Dance in 2028 or so given our past experience on the back benches of government.
One observation I would never have dared put in a piece for PJ Media or anywhere else I write is that for a movement and party that prides itself on inclusion, the gathering appeared very white. There were definitely more people of color than there would be at a conservative or Republican event. But as I scanned the faces of attendees to the Presidential Leadership Forum where almost all YKos was gathered, my rough estimate was 75% white – perhaps larger.
I read nothing untoward into this figure. The conference had no control over the color of those signing up (unlike the Democratic convention that mandates racial diversity in precise amounts to the decimal point). And it can hardly be called hypocritical when attendance was voluntary. I’m also sure they didn’t turn anyone away because of race.
And yet, there it is. Does that say something about the netroots? About America? Or is it inconsequential?
The fact that is that if it had been a GOP event and that high percentage of whites were in attendance, we’d never hear the end of it. So perhaps the netroots will grant conservatives a little leeway in their criticism next time, right?
Lastly, I will sound this warning to the GOP and conservatives a lot between now and next summer. Ignore or make sport of the netroots at your own peril. Underestimate them and you will get the holy living crap kicked out of you in 2008. These people are organizing far beyond blogs and blog readers. And that organization extends almost down to the precinct level as I’m sure next year’s Netroots Convention will show (they’ve decided to rename the shindig in order to move it away from one guy’s blog).
They are determined, well funded, optimistic, committed, and excited. The GOP is uncertain, underfunded, hopeful but pessimistic, dispirited, and seemingly leaderless, rudderless, and without an agenda.
Who do you think is in better shape going into next year’s contest?
I’m not the only one who noticed how white the gathering was:
For all the talk about the increasing influence of this growing group—“We are a community . . . a movement . . . an institution,” Cooper said in a speech Saturday night—what gets scant attention is its demography. While the Huffington Post and Fire Dog Lake, both founded by women, are two of the most widely read blogs, the rock stars are mostly men, and many women bloggers complain of sexism and harassment in the blogosphere.
Walking around McCormick Place during the weekend, it became clear that only a handful of the 1,500 conventioneers—bloggers, policy experts, party activists—are African American, Latino or Asian. Of about 100 scheduled panels and workshops, less than a half-dozen dealt directly with women or minority issues.
All snark aside, this says more about America than it does about progressives, conservatives, or either party.
In order to come to YKos and participate, you have to be able to:
1. Afford air fare from wherever you are coming.
2. Afford to stay in a hotel like the Hyatt for two nights (won’t find anything cheaper in the city – not with the special group rate Ykos got).
3. Afford to be able to take off 2 or 3 days from work.
4. Afford to feed yourself at Chicago prices (largest restaurant tax in US)
Minorities who may have wanted to attend might not have been able to afford the trip as easily as their white counterparts.
It’s that simple.