Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tuesday progressive panels in Big Tent at Denver

There’s a tremendous amount of progressive stuff going on around the convention in Denver and much is pointed at the bloggers. The Big Tent, where the bloggers are concentrated, has an upstairs hall where panels lay plans and speculate hopefully about the new world around the corner in an Obama administration.

Here are some notes from Tuesday afternoon’s panels under the rubric of Take Back America (check out

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-IL, beat the drum hard for universal health care, pointing out it was the main complaint she heard canvassing voters in the ultimately successful drive to put a Democrat in the Illinois seat held by former Speaker Dennis Hastert. The result, she said disproved the old nostrum that politicians didn’t care about the issue because “no politician ever has lost for being against universal health care.”

“Sixty people a day die for lack of health insurance,” she said.

Barack Obama must be backed by a movement of people demanding universal health care to make it happen, she said.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee of California said the modest progress in Congress on the Iraq war issue is entirely due to relentless pressure from the progressive community, which must strive to become the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn, outlined three main tasks for MoveOn, which was well represented in the audience:
  • Keep telling the story of the Iraq war, how it started and why it may be ending, never giving up on the judgment that it was “fundamentally wrong.”
  • Elect Obama.
  • After victory in November, keep pushing.
  • In a Q-A session afterward, I had the first question, asking him to explain why he hadn’t mentioned Afghanistan in the context of this country’s foreign problems. Pariser said Afghanistan simply didn’t have a broad mandate from MoveOn members, and it was something to keep under consideration.

    Asked about media reform, Pariser said this was a huge concern among MoveOn members, who object to the increasing concentration of media ownership and are passionate about net neutrality.

    Former U.S. Rep. David Bonior made a strong plea for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which makes it easier to form unions.

    Arianna Huffington, co-founder of Huffington Post, declared that the American public is shifting in its political views. “This is a progressive country now,” she said.

    Talking about building progressive infrastructure, she said new media had several important tasks, among them:
  • “Define the new center.”
  • “Build communities around it.”
  • Media should have a light side as well as serious analysis and comment, to attract those who want to follow celebrities and to help people live without stress.

    Her big mission: “Relentlessly pursue the truth about John McCain.”

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