Getting in Touch with the Netroots (pt.2)

Sec­ond ses­sion of the day: Blog­ging the Eco­nom­ic Bat­tles. It was a great ses­sion with pan­elists from OurFuture.org. The pan­elists broad­ly dealt with three issues: the cur­rent health­care debate, the bogey­man of deficits and neg­a­tive trig­ger words. There were a cou­ple of real­ly inter­est­ing obser­va­tions that I took from the pan­el.

1. one of the msot neg­a­tive aspects of the cur­rent polar­ized nature of the debate is that it shifts per­cep­tions such that the cen­trist or just-left-of-cen­ter posi­tions get cast as the far-left when the rhetoric of the far-right is so “wingnut”-y as some pan­elists and audi­ence mem­bers not­ed.

2. as pro­gres­sives, we have to reframe the debate from its cur­rent­ly defen­sive posi­tion. In ref­er­ence to the bogey­man of bud­get deficits, one of the pan­elists, Dig­by, not­ed that when asked how deficits per­son­al­ly affect them, most peo­ple have no answer. Now ask them how health­care affects them, they have a ready answer. We need to remind peo­ple that gov­ern­ment does great things for them. Don’t believe it? Get off the inter­state! We need to stop just fight­ing this notion that things like deficits are poi­son, we need to start from a place where peo­ple have to acknowl­edge that the gov­ern­ment does cer­tain things real­ly well and we should­n’t have to act like that isn’t a patent truth. Get­ting gov­ern­ment out of one’s Med­ic­aid would be hard, would­n’t it?

3. Not refram­ing the debate and get­ting out of our defen­sive posi­tion keeps us back as a coun­try from tru­ly speak­ing and fight­ing for every per­son, espe­cial­ly those who are most dis­em­pow­ered by the cur­rent sys­tem’s inequities. We can’t fig­ure out how to address Rust Belt work­ers in Penn­syl­va­nia when we’re trapped in a black-and-white par­a­digm where “trade” is good no mat­ter what and “pro­tec­tion­ism” is bad no mat­ter what it actu­al­ly refers to.

4. The abil­i­ty to bal­ance the debate is in our hands. The sto­ries of how, say, the health­care sys­tem is fail­ing peo­ple is in our back­yards. If we want to counter over-heat­ed rhetoric that los­es sight of the actu­al stakes, show them the real sto­ries you know. I found a great exam­ple of exact­ly this in a sto­ry from the Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor from a pro­fes­sor in the town where I went to col­lege (from the rival school, no less). Now its a main­stream media out­let, but tech­no­log­i­cal advances have made it pos­si­ble for us to get our voic­es out there in ways I could­n’t have imag­ined years ago, no one’s going to do it but us!

Any­ways, just some thoughts, but I took away a real man­date to take up our own roles to counter the neg­a­tiv­i­ty we find in the dis­course. Stay tuned for more ses­sions!