Getting in Touch with the Netroots (pt.7)

Final ses­sion of Net­roots (for me with my flight home this after­noon, every­one else looks to be get­ting down with the offi­cial part-ay tonight by Dai­lyKos), and its about a core issue, immi­gra­tion reform. It’s great that we have a ses­sion about this top­ic, which is so impor­tant to the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty, but I’m a lit­tle bummed to see that, while it has a pret­ty good turnout, its not burst­ing at the seams. This is the only ses­sion I could find that dealt explic­it­ly with immi­gra­tion reform (there have def­i­nite­ly been oth­ers that touched upon it) and I had real­ly hoped that more of the Nation would come out about this.

Any­ways, the pan­el has rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Break­through, Amer­i­ca’s Voice, FIRM and SEIU. Thus far, its been most­ly con­text-set­ting and talk­ing about what each orga­ni­za­tion is doing in the area. Nico­la from fIRM shared that what got their orga­ni­za­tion into online orga­niz­ing was actu­al­ly sto­ry­telling. After the New Bed­ford raids, they need­ed a way to get the sto­ries out to peo­ple since the media was­n’t pay­ing any atten­tion. Now they’re work­ing to build social net­work­ing tools that are more respon­sive and are able to “go offline.” Joaquin from SEIU showed advo­ca­cy efforts SEIU has under­tak­en to high­light the plight of DREAM Act stu­dents fac­ing depor­ta­tion.

Since this is my final post from Net­roots, I’ll bring togeth­er some of my obser­va­tions and thoughts from the week­end. Being here at Net­roots and see­ing the groundswell of sup­port and resources that exist in the pro­gres­sive move­ment is def­i­nite­ly an amaz­ing thing. It can feel, some­times, that we’re the lit­tle guy and we’re out­gunned and out-resourced by “the oth­er side” which obvi­ous­ly shifts debate to debate and issue to issue. Its not that Net­roots has shown me that we’re drown­ing in easy, acces­si­ble resources. Instead, it showed me how pro­gres­sives have and con­tin­ue to fight against entrenched elites using what­ev­er’s avail­able and chang­ing the rules of the game. Its that spir­it of “nev­er say die” that I will take back with me. A lot of the peo­ple here aren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly involved and active in the same issues, there is def­i­nite­ly inter­est and will to work togeth­er to make things hap­pen in each oth­ers’ areas. Ulti­mate­ly, we have to use what­ev­er tools are out there to make things like immi­gra­tion or health­care reform, strength­en­ing civ­il rights, fight­ing racial pro­fil­ing hap­pen. Peo­ple all over Amer­i­ca are suf­fer­ing right now and it’s up to us to bring these issues up and bring about progress.

Getting in Touch with the Netroots (pt.6)

Hey y’all, after a great ses­sion with Valerie Jar­rett (you can check out all the action at Net­roots here), I’m at “Artic­u­lat­ing a The­o­ry of Change.” In this ses­sion (with New Orga­niz­ing Insti­tute and Pro­gres­sive Change Cam­paign Com­mit­tee), we’ve been talk­ing about how artic­u­lat­ing a the­o­ry of change plays a role in online orga­niz­ing. Most peo­ple’s expo­sure to online orga­niz­ing is get­ting emails that say, “do this now.” Well, how does artic­u­lat­ing a the­o­ry of change that is com­pelling and acces­si­ble help make that ask more effec­tive? Some­thing I am always fas­ci­nat­ed by, espe­cial­ly in the con­text of the work that SAALT does, is to find uni­fy­ing the­o­ries-of-change that go beyond “do this to let so-and-so know that peo­ple care about what­ev­er issue” to real­ly show how doing these actions come togeth­er to cre­ate a bet­ter soci­ety and world. Because the ask changes, but the the­o­ry of change, in a macro sense, should stay the same. We come togeth­er around cer­tain val­ues and online orga­niz­ing is all about bring­ing peo­ple togeth­er to take actions towards a world that is clos­er to those val­ues.

Eco­nom­ic town­hall with Corzine next, then the immi­gra­tion reform ses­sion, more to come!

Getting in Touch with the Netroots (pt.3)

Third ses­sion of the day and it’s Who’s Being Left Out of Online Orga­niz­ing. This pan­el was all about who’s not part of all these shiny, awe­some online spaces we’ve been talk­ing about all day at Net­roots. The pan­el’s actu­al­ly still going on, but I thought I’d put out some quick obser­va­tions:

-What does it mean to be left out? Left out of what? If its “the dis­course” or “democ­ra­cy”, then the online orga­niz­ing is sim­ply a tac­tic. If its only about online polit­i­cal spaces, maybe we’re miss­ing the point.

-We need to meet peo­ple where they are. It’s not just a mat­ter of whether cer­tain pop­u­la­tions pre­fer MySpace or Face­book, its whether SMS or text mes­sages are what peo­ple actu­al­ly use. We’ve seen inno­v­a­tive ways that cer­tain pro­gres­sive cam­paigns have sought to inte­grate things like cell phones which is used in real­ly inter­est­ing, sub­tly dif­fer­ent ways by com­mu­ni­ties of col­or and women.

-Some­one shared an anec­dote that dur­ing the past elec­tion, a cer­tain can­di­date’s cam­paign suc­cess­ful­ly used online orga­niz­ing tools only when they were tar­get­ed towards offline actions (donat­ing mon­ey, call­ing some­one, etc). Can we have a con­ver­sa­tion about online advo­ca­cy that isn’t miss­ing the essen­tial whole of what par­tic­i­pa­tion and orga­niz­ing means.

-Cost and access came up over and over dur­ing the pan­el, whether its along racial, gen­der, geo­graph­ic or age lines. Ulti­mate­ly, if we want to break open the doors of the inter­net to those miss­ing from the cir­cles of pow­er and agency, maybe phil­an­thropic advo­ca­cy needs to be on our radar so that work gets fund­ed.

Pres. Bill Clin­ton keynot­ing tonight!

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!

Getting in Touch with the Netroots (pt.1)

So I am at the Net­roots Nation con­fer­ence in gor­geous Pitts­burgh (where its an incred­i­bly pleas­ant 81 degrees which is a nice change from the swamp that DC has been for the last few days) . The con­fer­ence brings togeth­er pro­gres­sive activists and advo­cates, many of whom are par­tic­u­lar­ly tech­no­log­i­cal­ly-ori­ent­ed. I thought since the con­fer­ence is all about blog­ging and SAALT has a blog, what a nat­ur­al fit!

After a short flight and a very long bus ride into the city, I bare­ly made the Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Cau­cus ses­sion. There were about 10 peo­ple in the ses­sion and we spent most of the time iden­ti­fy­ing how we could work in issues like health­care and Cen­sus 2010 in the Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty. I heard a lot of great ideas, from bring­ing Asian Amer­i­can caus­es to main­stream online spaces to crit­i­cal­ly ana­lyz­ing how to use tech­nol­o­gy to reach audi­ences like school kids to get to non-tech­no­log­i­cal­ly con­nect­ed old­er Asians.

While it was great to be able to share the space with fel­low Asian Amer­i­can activists and blog­gers, I some­times won­der whether these sep­a­rate con­ver­sa­tions some­times hold us back from cast­ing these actu­al­ly main­stream, impor­tant issues as broad­ly as they could be. Any­ways, I’ll keep post­ing as much as pos­si­ble from beau­ti­ful Pitts­burgh!