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This past weekend's wildly successful YearlyKos Convention proved beyond a doubt that the Progressive Movement has dramatically changed the landscape of American media, politics and culture. As such, the Progressive Movement is now poised to revive an American future suffocated by the hostile takeover of the Radical Right.
But what is the foundation of this new movement? What is the core principle or core value driving events like YearlyKos--a core idea that speaks with such power to an ever-increasing cross-section of Americans?
The answer is: trust.
Trust at the core
With few exceptions, of the remarkable things about the media coverage of the YearlyKos Convention has been the inability of journalists to capture in writing the significance of the event for those who attended. They missed it.
Take a look at this clip from Maureen Dowd's op-ed Bloggers Double Down , for example, which is representative of the type of approach that journalists took to the event:
I tracked down the cult leader, wading through a sea of Kossacks, who were sitting on the floor in the hall with their laptops or at tables where they blogged, BlackBerried, texted and cellphoned -- sometimes contacting someone only a few feet away. They were paler and more earnest than your typical Vegas visitors, but the mood was like a masquerade. This was the first time many of the bloggers had met, and they delighted in discovering whether their online companions were, as one woman told me, male, female, black, white, old, young or "in a wheelchair."
Let me just say that I am a big fan of Maureen Dowd, maybe even a groupie. And I was more than a little chuffed to see her sitting at the table next to me when I attended the "pundit training" workshop she also mentioned in her article. But as I read Dowd's description of YearlyKos, I wondered how two people could be sitting just a few feet away from each other yet be so far apart.
Maureen Dowd's description of "the mood" being "like a masquerade" is not mean-spirited or hurtful or in anyway worthy of condemnation. It is just not an accurate description of the "mood" in the room.
The attendees at YearlyKos were not just happy to put names with faces, but were deeply moved to be for the first time standing in a new community built entirely on trust.
"To be here is to be a part of something that we have built," is not an exact quote, but is my synthesis of what I heard and what I was told by just about everyone at the YearlyKos convention. "We did this," is another.
During Harry Reid's evening address to the convention, and during Joe Wilson's remarks, and during Wes Clark's remarks, and during just about every event--formal or informal--in the entire conference, attendees were expressing the same thought, the same idea, over and over and over again: America is suffering from fear, and we have built a movement based on trust to make things better.
Why, I wonder, did this simple basic idea not appear in the established media coverage that was welcomed to YearlyKos and treated with such open respect and admiration throughout the weekend?
Journalists, it seems, are not quite ready or not quite able to write about the real story of our movement--which, at its core, is not about ice-sculptures at parties thrown by political candidates or about press training given to convention volunteers. The real story is how successful this movement has been having been built on a foundation and theme of trust.
Who we are and what we can expect
Having read that passage from a leading journalist who attended the YearlyKos Convention and attempted to describe what it was about, consider this quote from Gina Cooper, Executive Director of YearlyKos:
I said in my closing remarks Saturday evening that this convention was built on a foundation of trust. Markos set it out when he first created the structure of our community where we riff raff are trusted to create our own content and manage our own community. In return, the community trusted us by investing and showing up. And speaking of trustâ€¦now that Hyperbolic Pants Explosion's camera has been returned nothing at this convention was stolen. I mean, of course, we're not like that. But can you imagine any other event with over a thousand random people from anywhere and everywhere coming together and nothing being stolen? I mean, yes, that's how it should be, but we all know that how things "should" be and how they "are" are two totally different things. So a minor detail, yes. But once again an example of who we are and what we can expect even on the smallest of levels.
Gina Cooper carried this conference from its initial conception in 2005 clear through to the follow up remarks just now emerging on the blogs. Notice how amazingly different Gina's description reads when compared to Maureen Dowd. For Gina, the mood of the convention was not about discovery of people's true identity, but about this ambiguous, wonderful idea of "trust."
trust took many forms at the YearyKos convention. Initially, Gina explains, trust took the form of Markos allowing the convention to be planned with his brand, yet entirely without his supervision. But as the convention took off, trust took the form of people not worrying about the good intentions of others--assuming that the best interests of oneself were also the best interests of everyone else in the room.
Gina's statement is the best description I have found about what YearlyKos was about: "who we are and what we can expect even on the smallest of levels."
Who are we? The YearlyKos Convention demonstrated that we are the vanguard of a new Progressive movement built on trust. We are the "Trust or Bust" movement in an America that has been taken over by a hostile right-wing movement built on fear and deceit. America is getting busy rejecting that right-wing movement and the YearlyKos Convention was the first clear, successful manifestation of the alternative.
Despite all the deceit, despite all the fear, despite all the propaganda, the corruption, the human rights abuse, the assaults on our Constitution, the cronyism, the irresponsible spending--despite all this--Gina Cooper and her team created a place where Americans could stand together and embrace a community built on trust. We are not any of those negative things that right-wing movement has foisted on America in the past decade. We are none of those things and to show to ourselves, the nation, and the world how much we believe in the power of our national ideals, we are all here in this room together. We are the beginning of a new Progressive movement built on trust.
The powerful emotion of trust
At many points in the course of the YearlyKos Convention, I found myself literally choked up with emotion, looking around me to see the room filled with tears of emotion.
Why were so many people brought to the verge of tears at YearlyKos? Because YearlyKos confirmed what all of us suspected, but had yet to really feel: that we are not alone--that there are millions and millions of people in America that we can trust, and who share our same vision of America.
This is the real power of the new Progressive movement--a foundation of trust and mutual recognition amongst ordinary Americans.
Because of that foundation of trust, the YearlyKos convention was able to function at the level of a political and media platform for a variety of constituencies. And this is not just feel-good talk.
At the YearlyKos Religious Service convened by the Street Prophets blog on Sunday, PastorDan offered the following insight about the new Progressive Movement:
It is the pursuit of that life, together, that has brought us here to Las Vegas. The netroots are nothing if not a new kind of community. That is the fundamental importance of what we do here this weekend. Five years ago, it would have been exponentially more difficult for us to find one another. Yet, here we are, seeking a new way of ordering the common life of our nation.
Friends, that is powerful. That is a threat to the powers-that-be. There are some people who make their living by creating hardship and distress for other people. There are people who get off on persecuting other people, who are so hard-hearted that they don't feel the need to respond to a little famine. Oh, they might say they're concerned with nakedness, especially on TV, but they don't mind seem to mind when a poor man stands naked before power or a poor woman dies alone, naked and afraid after a botched coathanger abortion. And they sure don't seem to hold back from sending other people's sons into peril, or applying the sword to those who can't afford the finest of legal assistance. A group such as ours, using new means to rewrite the rules of the game is a threat to their power, their privilege, their priority. A new way of life has the potential to upset all of that, and they know it. And so they will continue to mock, belittle, and hamper the netroots and progressive religion alike, because of what we represent.
So many people in the media have challenged the attendees of YearlyKos to prove that they are a political movement by "building" on the event to raise money, win elections and put into place new policies. All of this is important--all of it.
But the power of the YearlyKos Convention lies at a much deeper level--at the level of what Gina Cooper calls "who we are" or what Matt Stoller calls the "strong culture" of our movement or what PastorDan calls "the fundamental importance of what we do."
We are the community of trust
The greatest achievement of the YearlyKos convention is at this level of demonstrating--vividly and in the strong light of print and broadcast media--"who we are" and "what we do."
And what we do and who we are is a Progressive Movement built on trust.
In the face of the most divisive, deceptive and fear-mongering regime to ever achieve total power in the United States government: we are the community of trust that will restore this nation.
In the face of a brutal war, launched on false premises and so badly executed that even like-minded Progressives are sincerely stumped by how best to end it: we are the community of trust that will restore this nation.
In the face of a culture of corporate and government corruption so rife with greed and selfishness that it shames us at home and abroad: we are the community of trust that will restore this nation.
In the face of a healthcare system crippled by inertia such that children go without care and the elderly choose between medicine and food: we are the community of trust that will restore this nation.
In the face of an out-dated oil industry that destroys this planet with filth and violence in search of limitless profit: we are the community of trust that will restore this nation.
In the face of falsely pious hate that seeks to exclude our loved ones from the promise of The Constitution based on a crude and hurtful reading of the Bible: we are the community of trust that will restore this nation.
In the face of an obese political system that gorges itself on corporate money and refuses to open political system to every American with good ideas: we are the community of trust that will restore this nation.
In the face of a public education system that could be the best in the world were it not being ripped apart by for political gain: we are the community of trust that will restore this nation.
In the face of anger, in the face of fear, in the face of hate--in the face of a radical right-wing movement that perverts American ideals and leaves ordinary people without hope or will to act: we are the community of trust that will restore this nation.
"Trust or bust"
Over the next two years there will be many issues, many candidates, many victories and many losses. But whatever happens, whatever changes for good or for bad we encounter, we must all do our best to remain true to the accomplishments of YearlyKos--those accomplishments articulated so well by Gina Cooper, Matt Stoller and PastorDan.
We are not the representatives of a particular issue or platform, although we will give shape to those very soon.
We are, instead, the face of a new way of being in this country. And that "way of being" that "culture" is inspiring.
So, when people ask us over the next few weeks--and they will ask us--if we think YearlyKos will lead to real results in the 2006 and 2008 elections--we should not hesitate to say "Yes!" But we should also take the opportunity to tell people what YearlyKos was really.
Tell people that YearlyKos was about "So much more than just elections."
It was about a new movement in America that will sweep away the politics of fear and deceit with a new Progressive optimism of "trust or bust."
And that idea is so inspiring, so moving, and so authentic--that everyone in America will want to be a part of it in some way.