Sunday, August 13, 2017

Netroots Nation 2017 and protesting against Charlottesville rightwing terrorism

I'm just winding up an interesting and enjoyable long weekend at the annual Netroots Nation convention in Atlanta. The pressure from the grassroots on the Democratic Party to be more forceful in standing up for its own claimed programs and principles was very evident and encouraging to see and experience. And the murderous white supremacist rally in Charlottesville added a extra sense of immediacy to resisting Trumpism and pressing the Democratic Party to become a more progressive presence in US politics. After Al Gore's closing plenary presentation, organizers had arranged for a march from the downtown conference hotel to the Statehouse in protest of white supremacy and in solidarity with the victims of the rightwing white terrorist attack there.

The local paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, gave particular attention to the ways in which Georgia state politics made its presence felt at the conference in a front-page article today by Greg Bluestein that doesn't seem to be online at this writing, "Liberal activists display divide among Democrats") 08/13/2017) but also highlighted the reform vibe of the event:
The nation's leading liberal activists came to Atlanta for the Netroots Nation conference spoiling to sharpen their fight with President Donald Trump. But they proved just as willing to poke, prod and pummel their fellow Democrats.
He obviously means that mainly metaphorically, though he does mention that "a minor scuffle broke out in the audience" when some attendees were loudly protesting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Evans. The two main candidates in the Democratic gubernatorial contest are both named Stacey, the other being Stacey Abrams, who spoke at the opening plenary on Thursday. Evans is white, Abrams is black, which is some kind of factor in the contest. But part of the rap on Stacey Evans, in particular, is that she has supported some school privatization efforts.

This hour-long segment from TYT Network features three of the anti-Evans protesters, Jordan [Chariton] From Netroots Nation: Protests vs. Establishment 08/12/2017. I believe at least one of the three people interviewed here and maybe all three also spoke at the mini-rally at the Statehouse on Saturday:

More from Bluestein's print report:

Primary challenger to long-serving Democrats were treated like stars. Panels instructed the 3,000 or so activists how to wrest control of their local parties.

Others encouraged them to challenge establishment Democrats, whether they be on local school boards or in Congress, if they aren't liberal enough.

If anything was clear, the internal Democratic fissures sharpened by Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign have solidified, if not deepened, since Trump's election. In panels and in side conversations, organizers talked about forcing Democrats toward more liberal policies, such as single-payer health care and free college tuition.
I didn't attend the last two years' Netroots Nation conventions. But comparing my impressions this year to those from 2014 and earlier, my impression was similar.

Jordan Chariton in the video above gives a different perspective, arguing that Netroots Nation attendees are a more Establishment group than those at the People's Summit earlier this year. But he also explains that there are plenty of progressive people here, it's just they tend to be part of more organized groups that normally support the Democratic Party. And I think that's a fair assessment. Netroots Nation tends to attract people who are comfortable with working within the Democratic Party. But not the Blue Dog variety. Not a lot of Joe Manchin fans at NN gatherings. Whereas the People's Summit drew more people who were new to politics and/or attracted to left groups who keep their distance from the Democrats, and tended to attract younger participants on the average. (I haven't attended the People's Summit.)

I selected panels to attend that addressed foreign policy issues - there weren't many of those! - and panels that addressed Islamophobia, which is a key ideology for the radical right in the US and in Europe. Just after the news of the car attack in Charlottesville broke, I attended the panel organized by Dave Neiwert, who is himself an authority on the far right in the US, titled "The White Face of Domestic Terrorism: How Islamophobia Distorts the Reality of Terrorist Violence in America." It also featured anti-terrorism expert Daryl Johnson and Rabiah Ahmed of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).

That was immediately followed by the closing plenary session, where Al Gore did a presentation in interview format, mostly dealing with the climate crisis. At the end, he addressed the Charlottesville disgrace, repeatedly referring to the white supremacists as alt-right, KKK and Nazis. Political junkies gravitate toward quibbles over labels. But as Dave Neiwert and his panel explained, actual Nazis, i.e., Hitler-worshipers and those who explicitly admire the Third Reich, are a distinctive segment of the far right which form part of the "alt-right" spectrum. But the latter also includes other currents, including the "Men's Rights Movement."

Bluestein also covered Gore's speech (In Atlanta, Gore urges Trump to ‘try again’ with response to Charlottesville attacks AJC Online 08/2/2017):

Trump condemned the protests that resulted in at least three deaths and prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency, but he didn’t criticize the white nationalist rally, which featured anti-Semitic chants and neo-Nazi slogans. Instead, he called for unity among “all races, creeds and colors.”

Gore said Trump should “give more thought to what it means to have a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi movement marching and creating this kind of hatred.”

“The country would be better served if the president would come back before the people,” he said, “and think of a more thoughtful and appropriate statement about how we can understand what’s going on in America – and how we can go forward.”
The quickly-organized march after the plenary session was impressive. Apparently there were about 500 people, pretty much all from the NN conference. Delores Huerta, the famous farmworkers' leader who worked closely with Cesar Chavez who had also spoken at the convention, led the procession to the Statehouse. Whoever the people were directly involved in organizing the march, they did an impressively good job of setting up the march, getting official permissions quickly, and keeping the marchers focused and walking in orderly groups. Huerta also spoke at the small rally at the Capitol. But that part of the event was not so well planned. The organizers never noticed, it seemed, that the loudspeaker connected to her mike wasn't working, so that most people couldn't hear what she said. That was followed by several other speakers, apparently from the same group that had organized the protest against Stacey Evans. There wasn't a clear theme to the presentations.

But that's a quibble. It was an impressive march. They used some chants familiar to me. But there were ones new to me, too, my own favorite being, "No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!" In a different context, I might have thought that was too sectarian sounding and maybe obscure for such an event. But unfortunately, on Friday it clearly addressing a white terrorist attack very much in the national news at that very moment.

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