A lot has changed for Texas — and for Burnt Orange Report — since last year's Netroots Nation.
As you may recall, last year's event took place in San Jose, and wrapped up a few days before Wendy Davis would begin her 13-hour stand that has already changed the electoral trajectory of Texas.
This was actually my seventh Netroots Nation. I missed the first one because I wasn't yet reading DailyKos — but I saw Joan McCarter on CSPAN's televised portion late one night, checked out the website, and soon started commenting, posting diaries, and eventually blogging about the 2008 primary in Texas, all of which would eventually lead to my joining the Burnt Orange Report staff.
It was this spirit of bringing in new people while strengthening bonds within the existing progressive online community that I was most struck by this weekend.
More below the jump.Each year at Netroots Nation there are new faces. For the past few years, those new faces have included plenty of Burnt Orange Report staff writers. That is how it should be — our movement needs to be growing and bringing in new people. Keep in mind, last year was the first Netroots with Battleground Texas in existence. Progress Texas is still only a few years old.
This year, I met digital media staffers from non-profits I've never heard of, local activists from Michigan and across the Midwest, filmmakers and graphic designers, folks from existing organizations expanding their digital presence, and many a Twitter friend who I'd never seen in real life before.
The new faces and organizations are exciting. Netroots Nation offers a tremendous three-day onslaught of trainings and professional development all in one place, which gives digital organizers a great opportunity grow their skills. I sure learned a lot over the weekend, as I do every year.
It is also, as BOR's Genevieve Cato posted about earlier, an emotional, even visceral reminder that we are all locked in this progressive fight together, whether our work is focused on a local or national level, on a specific issue or demographic, for one campaign or a long-standing political organization.
I see our movement asking tougher questions about ourselves, from pay discrepancies within Democratic and progressive campaigns to the challenges of “Internetting while female” and what men and women can do to stand up to sexism online. I also see an active and overt emphasis on intersectionality and elevating the voices of LGBT folks, people of color, and women within the conference. Is the progressive netroots perfect? No, because no collection of humans is. Are we asking tough questions and trying to be better? Yes. Is there more that can be done to be welcoming and a safe space for everyone? Absolutely, and I have confidence that we're going in that direction.
On a local level, there is so much more interest in Texas than there has been in years past. It's worth briefly reflecting on the changes to our state and to our blog.
The Texas Legislature held two special sessions that engaged hundreds of thousands of progressive Texans at home and across the country, laid tremendous groundwork for political organizing, and enabled Wendy Davis to launch her campaign for Governor — and Leticia her bid for Lite Gov.
Digital media literally brought Wendy's stand into offices and homes around the country, and generated an interest and enthusiasm that continues on the ground today, marked by the 2 million phone calls and ever-growing number of door-knocks, small-dollar donors, and supporters of the campaign.
Here at BOR, since last year's Netroots we've grown the staff to its largest and most diverse yet, and seen our traffic more than double — growth that has been sustained since the end of the special sessions. We're really honored to be a major progressive voice in Texas and a source of information for a growing national progressive audience. For our readers here in Texas and across the country, we're committed to continuing to bring you coverage of the news of the day from a progressive point of view, and providing a platform for progressive issues and leaders here.
Last but not least, I'm really glad we had the chance to go to Detroit and participate in a protest against water shut-offs that are harming the most vulnerable residents.
Detroit is worth saving. There is a tremendous energy in the city. The palpable hometown pride tells me that Detroiters won't give up on their home, so neither should we. I was thankful to spend an extra two days exploring the city before the conference and on every corner I saw a glimmer of creativity or entrepreneurship that portends good things for Detroit's future. Electing a Democratic governor in Mark Schauer this fall would be a great step forward, as would sending Gary Peters to the US Senate to fight for Michigan's middle class.
All in all, it was a great trip. It always is. Seeing new and old faces, exploring a new place, and reminding myself that we're all in this fight together is galvanizing — and provides a major jolt of energy to carry on to November and beyond.