Netroots Nation: 'Largest' Progressive Conference Features Empty Seats, Racialism, Molotov Cocktail T-Shirts
Netroots Nation bills itself as “the largest annual conference for progressives.” This year’s conference was plagued with nearly empty events, racial incitement and wild radicalism far outside of the American mainstream, including items for sale with threats of violence.
This year's conference just wrapped in New Orleans. Keynote addresses were delivered at Netroots Nation by Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Cynthia Nixon, and self-described democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. These speakers, and the conference’s legion of panelists, pushed an unrelenting new era of racially-focused activism and organizing.
The problem was, much of the time there was nobody there to hear it.
The conference was plagued by nearly empty events. "This is What Democracy Should Look Like" was a panel featuring Atima Omara, A’shanti Gholar, and Carol McDonald. With seating for more than 200 at the event, barely 20 Netroots attendees came to hear.
Perhaps they were playing slot cars or skee ball. Netroots organizers provided the progressive attendees with a variety of amusements, some harkening back to childhood toys like electric slot cars and Ms. Pac Man. Organizers neglected to cover up the offending gender identifying "Ms." in the video game.
Participants were entertained in the concourse by a Mexican Mariachi. Naturally, the band didn't bring their culturally offensive sombreros. It was a musical safe space at Netroots 2018.
Bathrooms at the convention lost all gender branding. Both males and females used the convention hall bathrooms without regard to gender.
Among the topics at Netroots Nation were race, mobilization, race, voting rights, race, and cultural oppression by the dominant patriarchy. On voting rights, much attention was devoted to the "myth" of voter fraud and the need to retool the language associated with talking about voter fraud. Voter suppression — a term that never appears in any federal law and is used by the Left to group legal activity with illegal activity — was the hot topic at a voting rights seminar (that was again attended by very few people).
The panelists talked about a long-term strategy to rebrand their agenda as promoting "free and fair elections" by states adopting vote by mail, a month of early voting, felon voting, and mandatory voter registration of anyone on a government list. "Go talk to the kids" was another message, describing tactics to get into grade schools and turn children into activists who promote get-out-the-vote programs for Democrats. Also high on the agenda was early voting registration posing as high school civics programs that push 16- and 17-year-olds into the voter registration pipeline as early as possible so they may be contacted by progressive organizing efforts.
Kat Calvin of "Spread the Vote" encouraged activists to resist the urge to leave blue states to organize in red states, explaining that the goal in blue states should be 100 percent voter turnout. Abandon red states was Calvin's message. Other activists were highly focused on turning Florida blue through approval of a felon voting referendum, Amendment 4, on November's ballot. Progressives view giving the right of felons to vote as the key to flipping several purple states blue and red states to purple. They openly said, probably correctly, that Amendment 4 is the way to turn Florida blue. To them, it was all about creating angry racial bloc voters. Some Republicans have joined with their efforts.
In the vendor section at Netroots, books like Abolish Restaurants were available for sale alongside the more comprehensive Abolish Work. There was no sign of the bestsellers Abolish Famine or Abolish Chaos. Netroots attendees don't necessarily explore their favorite subjects in a comprehensive way.
Other targets at Netroots included Barbie. Girls are Not Chicks, the coloring book, was available for sale to make young girls angry and bitter as early as possible. Shirley took her Barbie down to a toy swap and traded it in for something less destructive is one coloring page showing a girl in a wheelchair holding a hammer. Toy swaps are part of the recycling ethic, where parents, rather than giving away old toys to friends, throwing them in the trash, or heaven forbid passing them down to a succession of younger siblings or cousins, meet and swap toys.
The other priority at Netroots Nation was to defeat Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee for Georgia governor. Kemp, the current secretary of state of Georgia, has been a staunch and effective advocate for election integrity. This, naturally, annoys the gang that prefers that nobody look at aliens voting in American elections or other forms of voter fraud. Kemp's opponent, Stacey Abrams, was the talk of the conference. Netroots Nation speakers painted Stacy Abrams as the face and future of the New American Majority strategy. Panelists believe a long-standing investment in the registration of minority voters led to her thus-far successful candidacy. Progressives appear to be staking the validity of their strategy on Abrams’ campaign, with one speaker claiming that an Abrams victory will be the way to convince national party leadership to back the progressive agenda.
The conference was characterized by a heavy dose of race-is-everything messaging. Despite the "race heavy" agenda, it still wasn't enough for some. During the closing keynote addresses, members of the activist group “Black Ass Caucus” took the stage in protest. In a 15-minute speech, the Caucus excoriated Netroots Nation and its white attendees for perceived slights, while demanding that minority leaders and panelists be given more control over conference programming. When the Caucus asked conference-goers to boycott next year’s Netroots Nation if demands were not met, the audience uniformly rose to its feet in agreement.
And what progressive gathering would be complete without a nostalgic reflection on the Left's heritage. For $20 you could buy a t-shirt with a Molotov cocktail. And strange new pals — Teamsters and pot.
Here are some other shots from Netroots Nation 2018. "Rise Up, the Game of People and Power" — ages 10 and up (with a flag of course). A woeful fundraising effort. More DeVoss-obsessed art. And the new equity frontier.