Why I Loved My First Netroots Nation Convention

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The excitement and energy of my first Netroots Nation is still with me this morning, and I can't let it slip away without writing about it. So here it goes…

When I got off the plane in Pittsburgh, I just wanted to not waste my first Netroots Nation convention. Though I've written for Burnt Orange Report for over four years, this was my first time reaching out to the broader community in a personal way (I was backpacking in Glacier during last year's in my hometown of Austin). I didn't know how much more there was to desire from my experience.

But after my four days in Pittsburgh, I know how amazing the experience can be. As I stepped off my flight home on Sunday morning, and as I sit here now the day after, I find myself wanting so many things:

I want to go back to Pittsburgh. I want to wake up in our “Texas House” — where most of the Burnt Orange Report staff and fellow friends were staying — and take the 77D bus across town to the convention center. I want to have so much fun all day long that I feel sad when I finally have to get a cab back home. I want to stay in that space that held me the last four days, and never let go.

I want to go to a panel. I want to learn more about the work everyone is doing. I want to hear Charlie Cook and Nate Silver and the Pollster.com team talk about trend lines and context. I want to engage in a professional discussion about redistricting. I want to put a megaphone to the entire Momocrats panel and broadcast their message of parent-focused communication to the entire Democratic Party. I want to learn about field work, and ROI, and environmental policy, and the No On 1 campaign in Maine, and everything else. I want to embrace the knowledge and empowerment that comes from listening and learning to some of the most open, honest, and intelligent experts I've met.

I want to put faces to the names behind the screens, and let those faces become my friends. I want to feel inspired by two of our party's best communicators — President Bill Clinton and Dr. Howard Dean — and listen to them talk about the importance of framing the health care debate as a “people vs. insurance companies” conversation. I want to meet Markos Moulitsas Zúñiga and Chris Bowers again, even if it is just briefly and if I just feel like a fanboy while I talk to them. I want to meet the folks from DFA, and Media Matters, and Calitics, and Left in the West, and North Decoder, and e.politics, and Pandagon, and the Women's Campaign Forum, and EnviroKnow, and the dozens and dozens of new friends that I got to spend my weekend with. I want to fulfill the true promise of the internet — strengthening nodes in our networks, to improve the openness of our democracy.

I want to hit baseballs at PNC park, and have drinks in the Warhol museum. I want to enjoy the wildness of Karaoke night and the Altar, and enjoy the quietness of texting with a new friend. I want to go where everybody knows my name…and if they don't, they want to smile and get to know me for who I am, and not how I can help them with their work. I'm terrible at schmoozing, but I never felt like I was schmoozing this weekend. Not once. I always felt like I was making friends, and to have that kind of environment around a large convention with people who (since it was my first one) were mostly online acquaintances is a special, special thing.

I want Las Vegas to be next weekend!

In the coming days, I hope to write about some of the major ideas that were discussed at the convention — most importantly for us in Texas, about redistricting and what we need to achieve in order to maximize our electoral opportunities in 2010. Right now, though — more than anything else — I want to thank everyone that made Netroots Nation possible. I learned new things, made new friends, and had one of the best weekends of my life.

To all who made that happened — my forever thanks. Now it's time to get back to putting all those ideas from Netroots Nation into action.

P.S. To all my Netroots Nation friends — you can always follow me on Twitter at @PhillipMartin if you want to stay in touch!


About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.


  1. Upbeat Nihilist on

    Glad you loved NN and the Burg as much as I did.
    Such a cool town and convention center.   I'd like to push the Austin convention center to start a green program like they have at DL Lawrence.

    Time to start harrassing people to buy tickets for Las Vegas.   Love to have a big Austin contingent next year.


  2. Yeah Phil!
    It's always so cool to hear this. It really is a shared experience–the joy of one's first NN–and hearing folks express this feeling every year only strengthens it.

    One of the best comments I heard early in the convention was from someone who said that it felt like last year's Netroots in Austin had only last weekend. So, I guess we can all just look forward to next weekend in Las Vegas. 🙂

  3. last year
    Was more fun than I can possibly describe. Glad you had fun this year. I swear, I'm going to campaign much, much harder next year. I'm going to be watching panels that I wanted to attend for weeks. And I so wish I had been able to be there to pack the boxes for NFTT. May we not need to do that again next year, but I want to be there if we do.

    Must either get a scholarship or a better-paying job so I can go next year.

  4. Redistricting
    I am glad that redistricting will be one of your priorities.

    I hope that includes promoting a non-partisan approach.

    While we wait for the next Texas legislature to convene, there is a federal law that has been proposed called

    Fairness And Independence in Redistricting (FAIR)Act to mandates that each state set up a non-partisan redistricting board. I hope you can help inspire your audience to contact their legislators and lobby for support.

    Other than Publicly Financed Campaigns it is hard to image a reform that would do more to increase the fairness, wisdom and pragmatism of public policy.

    Welcome home.

  5. Why Las Vegas?
    Las Vegas, is, by almost any standard, one of the least sustainable cities ever created.  Why would a bunch of progressive thinkers want to support such and endeavor?  And I don't think cheap hotel rooms is a good enough reason, btw.    

    • My thoughts
      There's the new City Center:

      Energy efficient features at the Las Vegas CityCenter, which is touting itself as one the world's largest sustainable real estate developments, should save the equivalent of energy used at 7,700 homes compared to standard Las Vegas developments, reports Fast Company. Based on the number of sustainable measures implemented throughout all stages of the project, the MGM Mirage and Infinity World Development Corp. venture is seeking LEED Silver or Gold certification.

      The discussion for solar power also always centers around TX and Las Vegas — why not go there and have that conversation? Why not show up in a city, agree to a convention, and then do an extensive carbon offset program like we did in Pittsburgh?

      Why not go somewhere and force someone to take action? We could just go to San Francisco and pretend that everything is great, or we can go somewhere and force it to be better. I think that's (at least part) of why the Las Vegas choice is good…in addition to the 5-year history .

  6. no way
    I wouldn't survive more than a few weeks if netroots nation was every week.  How was the texas house situation?  That sounded like a blast.

    • We probably should have thrown a party…
      As it was, it ended up just being a place where myself, the BOR crew, Ramey Ko and Sarah McDonald (fellow Texans, all) were able to crash when we got home late. But we did have some solid bonding time the first couple nights, including driving around in a cab for 15 minutes trying to find an open liquor store so we could play a Monopoly-themed drinking game. 🙂

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