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OUT OF THIS CACOPHONOUS, confused milieu comes a single actual demand from the crowd: Acknowledge us as legitimate. And so the politicians take their cue. Bill Richardson declares, “The blogosphere is the last free medium in this country.” John Edwards confides, “You are so important in making this democracy work.” Wesley Clark thanks “you Kossacks” for bringing “intelligence to this debate.” A representative of the NEA gushes, “Our members spend their lives getting students to think and speak for themselves everyday and I know that’s what you in this room do as well.” Congressional candidate Eric Massa compares DailyKos posters to Thomas Paine and roared that those who challenge them are “insulting the people who made this country great over 200 years ago by exercising citizen journalism and bringing about the greatest democracy and democratic revolution this world has ever seen.”
Even Hillary Clinton, who would be mercilessly booed a couple hours later, opened her YearlyKos break-out session by thanking Kossacks for “being so involved in helping us create a modern progressive movement in America,” insisted she not only read blogs but tried to “find a way” to work some of the better ideas she read “into an argument I’m making or legislation I’m drafting,” and finally mused, “I only wish we had this active and fighting a blogosphere 15 years ago.”
Gina Cooper prattled on at a press conference about how important it was for the candidates to accept the “net roots” as a real constituency. There was never any discussion, however, over who was really being co-opted here. Was it the candidates, who lavishly praised Kossacks, but did not shift their positions towards them in any fundamental way? Or was it the Kossacks themselves, who so desperately seeking respectability, started holding press conferences and carrying themselves like any other interest group?
Everyone wanted to stake his claim. Even Sidney Blumenthal waxed philosophic about how the DailyKos “phenomenon” reminded him of “the earliest days when I first got into journalism in the early 1970s,” back before the alternative press was “monetized and commercialized.” Actually, truth be told, Blumenthal suggested, he did it even better. “There were no computers. There were no blogs. There was no Internet. But we were a genuine force journalistically, socially, and politically.” With typical modesty, Blumenthal explained how he and his friends carried “a light into dark corners, but by doing so we intended to change the perception of the reality we were showing. So we were generating a reality by our journalism.”
Generating reality? This was the raison d’etre Kossacks had been seeking!
THE THREE TRACTOR-TRAILER TRUCKS were parked on the massive concrete terrace of Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center in such a way as to form a mini-amphitheater. Lake Michigan opened up as a backdrop. Slogans such as “The Rights Which Labor Has Won, Labor Must Fight to Protect!” adorn truck sides, but so too does the disclaimer, “Private Carrier Not for Hire.” These, it seems, are the equivalent of a birthday party pony in our host’s arsenal.
Around the outskirts of the amphitheater, long lines of people slowly snake their way past four grilling stations. Free hamburgers, hot dogs, and drinks abound. Light reggae mingles with the smoky scent of summer food. Let’s start a union/Calling every human. Revelers spread far and wide until their host begins to badger. “We can’t start the program until everyone moves over here,” he says, but even when they come closer he isn’t satisfied. “Come on, everybody, scoot in.” He shoots a look back at the photographers and videographers lined up on a riser. He gets a thumb’s up. He motions for a lackey to straighten the blue and yellow fabric draping hung along the podium platform. Finished, she jumps on stage to smooth out a doublewide column of union workers, rearranging some by height, turning others just so, putting American flags in the hands of still others.
“Wave it,” she instructs, not unkindly.
The engine of a truck cordoned off to the side begins to rumble, and the host asks, with a mischievous grin, “Anybody seen Markos? Anybody seen Jimmy Hoffa?” Loudspeakers blare the opening strains of AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” The truck lurches forward. Photographers scramble for better angles. The truck rolls perhaps 50 feet and then off jumps Markos Moulitsas. Teamsters president James P. Hoffa is not far behind.
“Here I am, a skinny nerd on a computer, and I get to drive in on one of those,” Moulitsas enthuses. “I’m 12 again.”
Welcome to the Teamsters Cookout at YearlyKos 2007. The photographers and videographers in their embroidered Teamsters shirts follow Moulitsas’s every move. The Teamsters arrayed behind him smile winningly. The crowd, as is its frequent wont, adores.
“It is critical to our people-powered movement that we reach people wherever they may be,” Moulitsas, in dark jeans and a blazer, shouts. “Whether it’s online or whether it’s people who are working getting their hands dirty everyday. My hands are pretty clean but a lot of people get their hands dirty. They’re not at a computer. We need those people!”
LABOR’S ATTEMPTED COURTSHIP of the netroots at YearlyKos 2006 was not nearly as successful as it was this time. They’ve gone from behaving like awkward kissing cousins to impassioned newlyweds. Last year not more than 35 people showed up to the “Labor and Power” panel. When one of the speakers asked the crowd who among them was involved with a union, virtually every hand shot up. “We can’t win unless you win and you can’t without us,” Chris Chafe of Unite Here said, but everyone recognized the room was all “we’s” and no “you’s.” “I don’t think most of the folks at this conference appreciate just how big [unionized labor] is,” activist/professor Joel Rogers groused.
Not long after the conference In These Times quoted the panel’s moderator Nathan Newman thusly, “The labor movement actually took YearlyKos very seriously, contributing money to help subsidize costs and sending top leaders to attend the sessions…. I know that the labor leaders were a bit frustrated that their interest in the blogosphere was not reciprocated.”
So where was the disconnect?
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?