Random Netroots Nation Musings [Part 2]

[ Posted Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 – 17:03 UTC ]

[Note: Part 1 of this article ran Tuesday.]

[UPDATE: This article has been updated. The incorrect information in the third paragraph has been corrected. We apologize for the error.]

Before we get to the main subject today -- the Netroots Nation speeches and presentations -- we've got to briefly revisit what we talked about in Part 1 of this article, because we forgot a few things. Such is the nature of conventions, and their aftermath.

Two of the booths on the exhibition floor deserve mention here. The first was the Bubble Genius booth which had many fine products (see them on their website) which my readers may find amusing, such as voodoo dolls of various public Republican figures, which are stuffed with elephant dung (hence the name: "Poo Doo Dolls"). These guys had the funniest products available at the convention, and I'm a sucker for political humor, so I would be remiss if I hadn't mentioned them.

The second was a booth which was easily the most-unrelated group (in subject matter) to the convention itself, but which also was the booth I had the most interesting conversations of any I visited. The group was the Space Frontier Foundation, who advocate for space exploration and research (which, as I said, is only tenuously related, at best, to the conference's theme). But since I am also a sucker for science fiction and the possibilities for tomorrow, I had a nice long chat with the guys in the booth about the exciting times we live in as related to private enterprise making it into space (as opposed to governmental programs such as NASA). If you're further interested in the subject, I encourage you to check their site out.


Onstage At Netroots Nation

With that out of the way, let's get to a quick rundown on my impressions of some of the speakers and presenters at Netroots Nation. Impressions of all of the speakers and presenters would be impossible, because during much of the conference eight things are happening at once, in eight different rooms. At times, however, we all got together (mostly at mealtimes) to hear keynote speakers address everyone from the main stage.

The list of Democratic luminaries appearing in front of everyone was extensive. But the most interesting was, without doubt, Dan Pfeiffer's question-and-answer session. Pfeiffer is Barack Obama's White House Communications Director, and he knew he was "entering the lion's den" in some ways by appearing before Netroots Nation. In other words, by appearing before the crowd, Pfeiffer knew he was casting himself in the role of "human piñata." I heard some entering the hall saying "lightly barbequed Pfeiffer" was what was on the breakfast menu, for instance.

But both Pfeiffer and the moderator did an admirable job, I have to say. The moderator walked a fine line between serving up the questions (from the audience and online) in a crowd-pleasing snarky way, and giving the White House respect for showing up to answer questions at all. Pfeiffer, for his part, weathered the occasional booing, and did the job he was sent to do -- defend the president's record, point out where progress had indeed been made, and invite everyone to keep the pressure on Obama so he could get more of the progressive agenda passed through Congress in the future. While Pfeiffer's answers didn't completely please everyone, the session was a high point of the conference just for the fact that everyone had a good time airing their complaints to a member of Obama's inner circle.

As far as the people giving speeches (as opposed to Q-and-A sessions), there were many who stood out. Howard Dean, for instance, who wasn't at the last Netroots Nation due to medical problems. Russ Feingold's speech had everyone on their feet. My favorite was seeing Debbie Wasserman Schultz speak, as she is someone who never minces words (plus, I got to shake her hand later, and congratulate her on becoming chair of the Democratic National Committee). Home-state Senator Al Franken was on hand, and also delivered a powerful speech on the theme "We all do better when we all do better." House members Jared Polis and Donna Edwards were a well-timed back-and-forth duo, during one of the presentations targeted to a single issue.

In peripheral events to the main conference, seeing Representatives Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva kick off a tour designed to draw attention to America's jobs crisis was quite moving, and having Alan Grayson speak at the event drove the point home even better. Meeting with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse was inspiring, because I left the meeting convinced that there is at least one Democratic senator who won't cave any time soon on Social Security. Attending a fundraiser for Senator Al Franken gave us the opportunity to hear The Daily Show head writer (and Minnesota native) Lizz Winstead speak, which is always hilarious. My wife bought me a collection of Tom Tomorrow cartoons, and got it signed over at the Daily Kos booth, which was great (I always wondered what he looked like).

But in terms of grading everyone on oratory delivered, there was one who stood above the pack -- Van Jones. I had missed Jones speaking at last year's Netroots Nation, but did notice that his was the speech more people were talking about than any other out in the hallways. So I made it a point to catch him this time around, and I was glad I did. Just on sheer speaking ability, Van Jones is amazing. Both in the message he delivered, and in the delivery itself, Jones showed me why he is so well-liked on the Left. The man knows how to give a speech, and knows how to fire up a crowd of Lefties.


For anyone who has read this far, congratulations. Normally, when I see articles like this about some event I haven't been to, they bore the socks off me (and I skip them immediately). But I semi-promised that this year I would share a few musings and experiences with you, Dear Reader, so there you go.

I should mention that almost the entire conference is available online at the Netroots Nation site, where you can download and watch videos of most of the speeches and sessions (assuming you've made it this far in the article, it's pretty safe to assume you might want to see some of the things I'm talking about).

Finally, I leave you with a secret, just in case you ever find yourself attending a Netroots Nation convention: if you want to guess which state will host Netroots Nation next year, look for a senator attending who is not from the state you're currently in.

Until next year....


-- Chris Weigant

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


9 Comments on “Random Netroots Nation Musings [Part 2]”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    How many nations do the netroots have?

    Sorry. That wasn't even funny. Ahem.

    Seriously, I will read both parts and take a look at the videos, too ... when I have more time.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    You see ... this is why we need an edit/delete function around here. :)

  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Elizabeth -

    More than you'd think! There was an "international caucus" there that neither one of us was able to get to, but next year we'll definitely check it out. Lots of Western European nations were represented, and I had one Australian voice a question in one of the breakout sessions I attended. So, like I say, more than you might think!

    I did not personally interact with any Canadians, but I bet they were there and just too polite to come up and introduce themselves. After all, we were within a couple hundred miles of the border, dontchaknow...



    PS. By bizarre coincidence, when we returned home I saw on one of our local TV stations a rerun of Fargo which has a lot of scenes in Minneapolis itself. So, as they say, there ya go.

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Darn tootened ...

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    The man knows how to give a speech, and knows how to fire up a crowd of Lefties.

    Yea, but the guy also believes that Bush ordered the 9/11 attacks.. :^/

    As we have seen with Obama, the ability to give a good speech is only indicative of an ability to give a good speech..


  6. [6] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Thanks for the update, CW! Don't know if I'm in the minority, but I enjoy these updates. Conferences like these are a great way to be exposed to the new and the up-and-coming.

    Have to admit I'm a bit jealous of your being able to go (and shaking hands with Debbie Wasserman Schultz - who almost has me willing to donate to the DNC again :)

    How many nations do the netroots have?
    Sorry. That wasn't even funny. Ahem.

    @Liz- I thought it was funny.


  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Thanks! :)

  8. [8] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Dang, you know what?

    You guys are right. It should either have been "Netroots Nation's Musings" or "Netroots Nation Musings".

    Now I gotta go back and fix it....



  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, it's nice to know that somebody has an edit function around here. :)

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