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Fear and Hustling at Netroots Nation

I made the Hunter S. Thompson joke as we circled the Strip in the airport shuttle. If not for the connection to the Good Doctor, Las Vegas would seem an incongruous place for a left-leaning convention. The place pumps enough energy into glittering, flashing neon lights to warm half the globe, and feminist bloggers enjoying cocktails served by scantily clad waitresses just, well, doesn’t seem right, no matter how pro-sex we feminists are. I was in town for a brief two and a half days for Netroots Nation, the convention formerly known as Yearly Kos and maybe a little misnamed. I expected lots of panels about media, about writing and Web tools, and instead I got candidate after candidate for office. Of course, I also got Van Jones. I got some new friends. I got a panel on new Civil Rights movements that featured the fabulous Tim Wise driving home the point that economic insecurity is a racial justice issue; that the social safety net was dismantled in the U.S. when it became coded as handouts to black and brown people instead of something that we might all use when we’re down on our luck. And yes, dear readers, I got a little drunk. Luck is, of course, the theme in Vegas, and I suppose that made it more appropriate as well that we were there. Hoping, naturally, for a little luck of our own come November, that a Democratic-controlled Congress has passed enough legislation that people don’t hate that Democrats can hang on to majorities in both houses. But had we really traveled across the country just to listen to stump speeches and not one, but two versions of the apocryphal Franklin Delano Roosevelt “Make me do it” story?  (One, told by Nancy Pelosi, starring Frances Perkins, first female Secretary of Labor, and the other according to Al Franken starring A. Philip Randolph.) Mostly, I was a little stunned at the disingenuousness of politicians coming to a fairly politically sophisticated audience to give rote speeches. I sat next to award-winning investigative journalists, longtime media critics, activists who fight in the trenches day after day for immigrant rights, racial justice, LGBT equality. Were we supposed to cheer Democrats, this year? (Read the rest of this piece at