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September 19, 2021

Netroots – Day 2

Day 2 started late for me. After a couple nights with virtually no sleep, I didn’t make it in for the Morning News Dump. But I did make it to the lunchtime speakers’ panel, and it was absolutely riveting.

The program begins at 5:51

There were three speakers who all appeared for a panel discussion after their individual addresses.

First up was Darcy Burner, one of my most favorite progressives on the planet. She had run for Congress in 2008, and is running again in Washington’s 1st congressional district this year.

Probably the most impressive thing about Burner is her ability to step back and see the big picture, and once it’s in focus, she unleashes the hounds of critical and strategic thinking skills, and comes up with insightful analysis, and calls to action. She reverse engineers big problems like nobody’s business, and is able to communicate in a way that sets the room on fire. You can practically hear the neurons firing around the room.

So, what is one of the critical issues in this year’s election? Turnout, she says. I agree. The most engaged of the progressive community are here in Providence, and even at this bastion of progressive thought and activism, there is a certain somberness. The fire in the belly last year seems to have been at least in part replaced by sober introspection – a measured assessment of where we’ve been, and where we are going. And if that’s the mood here, it’s easy to see that the less engaged people out there will need to be poked and prodded a bit to shake them from apathy, disappointment, and disillusionment.

Burner flashes a pie chart on the screen that represents voters in her district, and points out the tiny 1 percent sliver that represents regular swing voters that we seem to spend so much time worrying about. The more interesting slices of the pie are big chunks like the 22 percent that are Democrats and irregular voters, the 26 percent who are not registered, and the 19 percent who don’t vote.

As the room contemplates the enormity of those other slices of the potential voter pie, Burner points out that these statistics come from her district in a state that has one of the highest voter turnouts in the nation. If we were looking at a comparable chart from Texas, she says, these numbers would be about half.

What group in addition to those other large slices of the pie will actually make a difference? Women.

Working as a software developer, Burner explained how she sees an analogy with politics. Lotus was a better product than Microsoft Office, she explains. So you would think that the better product would sell better. But that wasn’t the case. After getting a job with Microsoft, she began to understand why that was the case. It was all about the power behind the product, not the quality of the product.

Same thing with politics. We as progressives tend to assume that because we have the better policies, that we will be more successful. Not so, because politics too, is about the power not the product itself.

So what kind of power are we dealing with, and how do we use it?


Economic power – We use the power of the purse to make sure we do not lend economic support to anything which feeds the machine of the likes of the Koch brothers.

Political power – Get out the vote. Find the irregular, apathetic, and non-voters, and convert them. We also must vote women who support women into office.

Power of the courts – Proactively go into the Fortune 50, and sue the bejesus out of them for violating equal pay laws.

Cultural power – Change minds. During the civil rights movement, To Kill a Mockingbird changed an enormous number of minds. On issues of LGBT rights, Ellen DeGenerus, and many others have changed the culture. Now everyone on TV has a gay best friend.

She then tied this to the war on women by engineering a remarkable moment. “If you are a woman in this room who has had an abortion, and is willing to come out about it, please stand up.” It’s not something you hear every day, and a smattering of women across the darkened ballroom stood, uncomfortably. “Now, if you are willing to stand up for all women who have had abortions, please stand.” And everyone I could see, stood silently. The moment hung in the room, and made a powerful statement. If every woman who had an abortion had been comfortable standing, one third of the women in the room would have stood up. But both the women who stood, and the women who were afraid to stand knew that everyone in the room was with them. This is how we change minds. She then talked about the fear that the LGBT community has felt in the past, and how the power of those who chose to come out to family and friends has made it easier for everyone else, and has changed the conversation of the culture, and changed minds.

Moral power. The use of protest to undermine consent in an unjust system. Think of Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King. It took the culture time to catch up to them. We need to protest for the Equal Rights Amendment. 80% of people erroneously think that the Constitution already guarantees equal rights for women.

Network power – Email, television, newspapers, magazines, door-to-door, texting, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, radio… All these are ways that we can communicate, share, network, and pass on the ideas we want to permeate the consciousness of those around us.  The goal is to build networks that can communicate about women’s isues and politics to at least a million women.

Next up was Mazie Hirono, running for Senate in Hawaii.

She is running against a Blue Dog Democrat in the primary, and against Republican Linda Lingle (who seconded Sarah Palin’s nomination as Vice President) in the general election.

When she was only 8 years, she and her mother fled an abusive father, and sailed to America in steerage. She spoke about how grateful she was for her mother’s courage, and the risk she took in starting a new life. Neither knew English, and when her mother got a job, she worried that if she ever got sick and couldn’t work, there would be no more money.

“I know what it’s like for struggling families, and I know aabout strong women,” she said.

“I believe the Senate could stand more diversity and I bring quadruple diversity – I am a woman, I would be the first Asian woman ever, I am an immigrant, I am a Buddhist. People say, ‘yes, but are you gay?’ and I say, ‘Nobody’s perfect.’” The audience erupted in laughter.

And the last of the speakers was the most well-known woman on the roster, and the rock star of candidates at Netroots – Elizabeth Warren, who is running for Teddy Kennedy’s senate seat that has been regrettably occupied by Scott Brown. Of Brown and his ilk, Warren had this to say, “They want to give the richest and most powerful, more money and more power. Their vision boils down to a single sentence – ‘I got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’”


“Progressives believe that we must invest together in the things we cannot do alone. Republicans claim they believe in markets, but a market without rules is not a market. It’s the place where the most powerful come to hammer on the least powerful. Markets are like football. Every game needs rules, and a referee with a whistle to enforce those rules. Without a referee it’s not a football game – its’ a mugging.”


Warren touched on the theme that is the hallmark of her campaign, addressing Mitt Romney –

“Corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they love, they cry, they dance, they live and they die. Learn the difference.”

“We don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people. We are progressives and we stand up for people. We stand for jobs, and putting people to work building transportation and clean energy. We stand for unions, and collective bargaining. We stand for equal pay for equal work, for marriage equality, for civil rights and justice. We stand for small businesses. And we stand for accountability and a level playing field, so no one steals your purse on Main Street or your pension on Wall Street.

“Real people are getting hammered, and they are counting on me to stand up for them. And let me be clear – I am not backing down… I need the people of Netroots Nation. We are all counting on you for your help. I want something more than winning an election – I want to change the national conversation. It is up to us to put the wind in our own sails.”

Moderator Amanda Terkel asked the panel why they think only 3 in 10 women believe there is a war on women’s health care, and reproductive rights. I was surprised by that statistic, considering so much legislation across the nation which has been specifically targeted at limiting women’s access to reproductive health services, birth control, access to abortion, and their paychecks.

I came to the same conclusion that Darcy Burner articulated – they simply believe it can’t be true. This is 2012. Our mothers, and grandmothers, and great-grandmothers fought so hard for these rights, and many women today have never known a life where they had to fight bitterly for these things. The notion that a systematic chipping away at the rights of women could possibly be happening is simply unfathomable.

It is also, in the case of birth control, clothed in religious liberty for employers,”  Burner noted. “We need to be able to clearly call out their pretend talking points for what they are.”

There is a new law in Afghanistan that requires a certain number of women to hold seats in parliament, and the people have actually elected more than that minimum number of women. There are more women in parliament in Afghanistan than we have in our own congress. We have only 17 percent, and that must change if the majority of Americans are to be represented fairly.

I scooted up closer to the stage to get a picture of Elizabeth Warren and Darcy Burner in the same frame, and allowed my mind to wonder what it might be like some day in the future if there was a Warren-Burner ticket on the ballot in a presidential election year.  How might that change the country? How might it do for girls what Barack Obama’s presidency has done for boys and girls of color? When will the glass ceiling in the executive branch finally be shattered?

By the time the panel discussion was over, I felt more hopeful than I had been, I felt energized, and proud of these strong, intelligent, passionate, fearless women on the stage before me. We need more like them, and we need to support them.

Darcy Burner for Congress

Mazie Hirono for Senate

Elizabeth Warren for Senate

The speeches and panel discussion are well worth the watch. More from Netroots Nation 2012 soon!



13 Responses to “Netroots – Day 2”
  1. Irishgirl says:

    Any kind of ideologue is dangerous, and those on the left who lack rudimentary understanding of the legislative process or presidential power are as hazardous to America as teabaggers, religious extremists, or the Koch brothers. Sitting out an election to protest a Centrist President who failed to provide multi-colored unicorns and everlasting lollypops for free is about as ignorant as voting to ban contraception or instituting mandatory membership in the KKK, or the Mormon Church. It sounds extreme, but not as extreme as sitting out an election to teach the President and Democrats a lesson, because losing an election, although painful for Democrats, will provide Republicans the means to transform America into a theocracy wholly funded and controlled by corporate fascists. The effects on the people and democracy will be devastating and ideologues on the left will have played an important role in destroying America.

  2. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    To all the female members of the species who will read this screed my apologies in advance for having the audacity to opinionate about things I cannot know.

    I want to talk about two things not unrelated, first the situation of women in general in US society and second the situation of women politicians in US society, I will strive for brevity.

    I find it apalling and unconsionable that women do not get equal pay for equal work. I find it apalling and truly kafkaesque that women’s health and reproductive choices are a matter of legislative concern. And I find it apalling and Orwellian that some women are willing to subscribe to the dogma of the mysoginistic druids who hide their avarice and greed behind patent falsehoods. To my fellow males I can only say isn’t it about time you grew up? Many of them will never understand that. More’s the pity.

    Women as politicians are at an extreme disadvantage because simply put, they are not as easy to corrupt, to bribe, to buy off. I think, (and this is where I speculate beyond any possible experience) that women as a rule are more prone to having a bit of foresight into the consequences of things. The difference may indeed be slight, but even slight differences can have large effects.

    For brevity I have sacrificed depth, I know there are plenty of exceptions and arguments that can be made that would militate against my point of view, and there is the one obvious point I did not even address – that women like Elizabeth Warren directly threaten door knobs like Scott Brown because they are blatently and obviously so much smarter.

    LIke so many things in this modern world, I just don’t get it. Perhaps I am slow. But in my view utility alone would demand that all people be summoned to the task of trying to figure out how we can sustain what we have learned and preserve that upon which we are utterly dependent.

    Anyway, that is my dollars worth of soap box wisdom. See you on speaker’s corner some day…

  3. JimInWA says:

    Darcy sez: “Lotus was a better product than Microsoft Office”. To this day, I use my 1990-ish version of Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS as my chosen spreadsheet. I can use the ‘others’ if I need balls and whistles and shiny stuff. Jeanne, you’re right. Darcy is a real class act. I once sat about 6 feet from her during a meeting in 2007. Reading her face and manner all tell you she’s for real. Especially the teary eyes when she spoke of her brother in Iraq.

  4. Kath the Scrappy says:

    Great recap AKM! Thank you!!!

  5. moose pucky says:

    Thanks for sharing. Two antlers up for smart, savvy, caring, charming women like Darcy Burner, Mazie Hirono, and Elizabeth Warren. It’s enough to give one hope.

  6. AKblue says:

    The question remains: how do we enlighten the willfully ignorant? Reason, facts, and science don’t make a dent in their thinking. Democrats need to study how to make their arguments in a way that is compatible with their way of thinking. Carl Rove, ALEC, etc., have made a science of brainwashing their followers and we have to figure out a way of getting through that.

  7. COalmostNative says:

    Thanks AKM and Alaska Pi-

    This is sobering and inspiring.

  8. Alaska Pi says:

    “80% of people erroneously think that the Constitution already guarantees equal rights for women.”
    For crying out loud!
    Where do they think that guarantee is stashed in the document?

    At this point we have only various civil rights established by Congressional law and up for grabs every few years and a Constitutional right to vote.
    We live with the very worst kind of “tolerance”- the kind which can be rescinded with the stroke of a pen- and 80% of Americans think we live with Constitutional guarantees??!

    Only 3 in 10 American women think there is a war on women’s health care and reproductive rights ??!
    Wake up , ladies, please!
    Both of my grandmothers had 6 kids before they were allowed to vote and it took forever to change notions that women should quit working when they got married (and certainly if they had kids ) alone- let alone that they should be able to choose when and if they wanted 6 or more kids.
    It can go away in a blink of an eye folks.
    I gotta go. I’m gonna pop.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      I’m not calmed down yet but:
      1-correction- one Grand had a mere 5 children when women got the vote.
      2- poor women could always work- they were throwaway people – as were their kids . Things didn’t start to change there until enough others stood for child labor laws and shorter workdays/weeks just as the abortion example above .
      We do not want to fight those/these battles again but we will.There are still too many which haven’t been touched to go back over old ground but we will not give up ground- we will not.

      • leenie17 says:

        “Things didn’t start to change there until enough others stood for child labor laws and shorter workdays/weeks just as the abortion example above .”

        And that’s exactly why the GOP is fighting so hard to eliminate the unions: the unity of large groups of people that created the power to effect change, and the money the unions give to support Democrats.

        I was a child in the 60s so I don’t remember the civil rights movement, but I do remember the days of the women’s movement in the late 60s and early 70s. Never did I imagine I would be witnessing the need for that same fight all over again in 2012.

    • OtterQueen says:

      During Bush the Stupider’s first term, I was disturbed by what seemed to be a quiet assault on women’s autonomy by his administration and the Republican party in general. I had never been much concerned with politics until I sensed this subtle but insidious wearing down of women’s rights. For the first time, I was motivated to register to vote in 2004 (for all the good that did). If I noticed it back then, how can so many people be completely unaware of what’s going on now?

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