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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Guest Commentary: Attending the YearlyKos Convention

Commentary by Bill Ritter


Attending the YearlyKos Convention here in Chicago has been a real eye opener. For four days, fifteen hundred bloggers, political activists and journalists traveling from all over the country learned from each other and exchanged ideas about the Netroots, a national on-line internet community which is dedicated to returning democracy to the people. Gathering at the magnificent McCormick Place Convention Center they worked and discussed how bloggers are changing the face of American politics both nationally and locally spawning the “Dawn of a New Politics.”

The YearlyKos is the annual gathering of bloggers who use the DailyKos founded by Markos Moulitsas as a way to fight back against the Republican right-wingers who have dominated politics in our country for the past 25 years.

Topics covered were: Out of Iraq Now, holding Congress accountable; discussing the growing connection between the rank & file military and progressives; capitalism & progressives; A return to the Gilded Age—two Americas—one poor and one incredibly rich; the separation of church & state; ending poverty now; a new progressive foreign policy; a fair and just immigration policy; global warming; true universal health care for all; ending the influence of big money in politics; the resurgence of unions; protecting the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights; and the corruption of the Bush/Cheney administration.

One of the main topics was the age of corporate media giants spinning and omitting the news and the urgent need for a New Kind of News Organization to combat this threat to our liberty. With media ownership primarily in the hands of five major corporations our nation’s ability to get uncensored news and commentary is being threatened. Bloggers are clearly in the forefront of this effort.

The convention was kicked off with a rousing speech by Democratic Party National Chairman Howard Dean. He chronicled and attributed many 2006 election successes to the Netroots and “you-tube” communities who many times were way ahead of traditional media reporters both reporting and commenting on what mattered in the campaigns.

Friday morning, former General Wesley Clark outlined the stupidity of the Bush/Cheney administration starting a needless and unnecessary war in Iraq which has now spent 500 billion dollars of the US treasury, killed nearly 4,000 and seriously wounded 30,000 American soldiers and killed and wounded nearly 1 million Iraqis all the while Osama bin Laben is still free and Al Queda is growing in strength.

Saturday afternoon presidential candidates John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel faced the conventioneers and answered questions from a panel as well as the audience. Without a doubt, the respect shown by these candidates underscores the power the grassroots on-line community has become.

Following the forum the candidates individually attended separate break-out sessions attended by the media, bloggers, convention goers and answered questions from audience. It was a one on one and a thrilling experience. I attended the John Edwards session and he answered one tough question after another with sincerity. The Netroots community is interested in results, holding candidates to their promises and how these candidates intend to fulfill their promises.

One of the highlights of the convention was the Band of Brothers & Sisters (former military officers who ran for congress in 2006 & will again in 2008) coming together to reaffirm their efforts to challenge those in congress who support the disastrous military policies of the Bush/Cheney administration. California’s retired Lt. Col. Charlie Brown was joined by his brothers and sisters as they continue to work to restore common sense and integrity to the use of American military power. Charlie was congratulated by hundreds of conventioneers who recognized him and supported him. The Netroots community was fundamental to Charlie’s near defeat of John Doolittle in the last election and will play an essential role in his 2008 campaign. I met people from all over the country and throughout California who were vested in helping Charlie defeat the corrupt John Doolittle.

A final note, fascinating to me were many of the bloggers attending were mini-celebrities in their own right with followings by not only fellow bloggers, but journalists too.

Clearly the focus of the YearlyKos Convention was taking our country back and overcoming a sense of powerlessness which so many Americans feel and have felt for many years. It was a hopeful feeling and a great way to end the convention.