Monday, May 18, 2009

Netroots Nation from the Shadows

I must preface this by saying I was in costume, hidden in the shadows and completely undetected, so for those of you worried about my ninja guise being unmasked fear not...thank American Apparel.

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the Netroots Nation Salon in Chicago. The salon actually took place north of Chicago in the Rogers Park neighborhood joint, the No Exit Café. Along the walls Che Guevara posters and photos hung crookedly. The place reminded me of a lost era where worn wooden floors were a sign of customer traffic not deterioration. I entered as the panelists took to the stage with host Matt Filipowicz welcoming each one WWE announcer style. It was a rowdy start. The crowd was for the most part over 30 and white which was discouraging, however what I expected. Considering the locale of the venue and normal café-goers I did have a smidge of hope it would be a diverse crowd. *Sigh* We did fill the place to the brim, but that should be the case every time.

The panel included four respected voices on progressive issues, seated left to right:

Veronica Arreola, Viva La Feminista
Greg Palast, BBC, author of Armed Madhouse
Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland, Before The Storm
Matthew Filipowicz, Huffington Post,
Ed Yohnka, ACLU-IL, Director of Communications And Public Policy

It began with Filipowicz discussing the current political scope offering his wit to the rage of America. Wing-nuts, torture, Obama oh my! He then was followed by each panelist giving their scope of certain issues, but the question at hand was “How do we set a fire under the feet of Obama?”

For sake of brevity in order:

Palast: I have no clue. The economy is important. Obama is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Appeal to both and you will win. It starts from the ground up. Detroit UAW are fugged. Obama is one cool dude, with juicy pecs.

Yohnka: Torture. Photos. Liberty and justice for all. No one who knows Obama is surprised by Obama. Cautious, central and conservative politician. Pose the questions to his face. Real issues, real people.

Perlstein: FDR history lesson. Past President’s psyche. Obama psyche. What’s facing Obama. Not sure what gets Obama’s goat. 350 million people in the world give him a reason to move.

Arreola: I am a woman and a minority and a mom. 1 out of 4 really? Hillary at least I knew when she would fail me. Obama I don’t trust him. Feminist, racial and people issues. Everybody issues. Obama is a politician.

It was interesting to see such individuals cascade their thoughts about the panel and try to develop (on site) a way to “push the progressive agenda.” Each offered different takes on the questions while postulating about our place in history. However none seemed to really have a definitive answer. Obama's personality was a topic of concern because of policy issues (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Torture photos, and single payer healthcare) that deserve immediate attention. Palast argued that the economy and those losing their homes were of gravest concern, while Yohnka countered stating “we can walk and chew gum at the same time. “ It was a rather poignant response that garnered cheers from the audience.

The crowd that did participate in the open question and answer session with the panel mostly made statements. All had concerns about the state of America whether it was the financial sector (crooks and liars), the past administration (crooks and liars) and the current administration (liars not yet crooks). It was interesting how many scattered thoughts could be squeezed into one statement. The panel happened to hop on some of these with more earnest desire than others, but it made for solid discussion.

One point that surfaced through the myriad of discussion was Mayor Mao Daley. Here we were in Chicago gathered together for progressive issues, while we have the Mao of Chicago and his police state. Arreola noted that every time Daley comes up for re-election with a shrug of their shoulders to the corruption her friends check his box. It was the Aha! moment of the night as she and Yohnka pointed out the truth of Mao Daley and his rule.

The idea that it is just as important to push the progressive agenda locally as it is federally was quite the revelation. And it offered perhaps the best answer to the question, Obama is from Illinois. Obama lives in Chicago. If his city, our city, is pushing the progressive agenda aggressively with fervor and intelligence insisting on the change he so aptly campaigned upon, he will have no choice but to listen. The calm, cool and calculated Obama will have to act and act accordingly. Change can be and mean many things, after the salon it was clear change starts with the we and not the he.

For more information regarding the panelists, who I merely highlighted here, there are links on each of their names. I can not do their reputations any justice their works do not already account.

Conclusion: When's the next one Nation of Nets?

I am Frank Chow and I approved this message.


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