Jen’s Occasional Hungover Feminist Report: Take Back Something Edition

By request, here’s a round-up of my posts from Take Back America this week. I’m definitely glad I went, got to see some old friends, did a little netroots networking, and got some free food and drink. But overall, as I said a few times, the conference was frustrating.
It’s upsetting to see progressive people (when we’re alone together) get so bogged down in winning that they don’t talk about who is always losing. And it’s disappointing that issues like equality and justice are addressed for people in the Middle East, but not people in the Mid-West.
If the democratic party wants to be the party of progressive politics, it needs to recognize that “single issues” are about creating freedom for all of us, and are central to the fight. Maybe you can win elections against conservative republicans by using their tactics, but what have you really won? And, who still loses?
Here’s a list of all the posts I did from the conference:

Take Back America: Sitting in the girls’ room

The first small group session I’m attending at Take Back America is called Women Rising: The Issues That Count. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the room is half full and of 75 participants, only 7 are men. So, women are rising among ourselves, I guess.

Basically a poll briefing and review of how politicians tend to ignore and take for granted what they think of as “women’s issues.”
Take Back America: In my underwear

Frankly, this kind of session is what exhausts me about living in DC for almost 10 years. It’s mostly speechifying, and not a lot of actual discussion. We got a few works from Brown about poverty, but in general, this session is all about the game of politics, not the real lives of people not in this ballroom whose lives are changed, and sometimes ended by this “game.”

Uh, no comment about the title. I was really tired.
Take Back America: Fully Clothed This Morning, Thank You

There was a town-hall discussion going on when I got here, and they got to the point of my eternal struggle with progressive politics. How do we win together without marginalizing issues? The reason progressives don’t fall in line like conservatives is because we’re progressives. Duh. Other opinions matter.

In which I lament what will become the overriding issue of the whole conference for me.
Take Back America: Mike Gravel is Crazy Like a Fox

The first presidential candidate to speak to day is Mike Gravel, everyone’s favorite crazy guy. Ralph Nader is introducing him, bold choice. There was cheering and booing. The woman next to me is muttering about him under her breath. Gravel comes on to “Power to the People� amid more Ralph-related cheering, and newly enthusiastic booing.

The first of 6 speeches by democratic presidential candidates. Gravel was totally overshadowed by the Nader drama, and the fact that they lost Bill Richardson during this speech.
Take Back America: Bill Richardson and the Richardson 3?

I think Bill Richardson has more experience than all of the presidential candidates combined, so it is sad that he’s “second tier� like Gravel, and thus relegated to the early morning session. He’s also part of the diversity trifecta among the democratic candidates with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, which is pretty cool.

Thank goodness they located Richardson, because his speech was good. And his tie was crooked. And, I’m aware the title of this post is extra lame, but I only had one other idea and it was worse.
Take Back America: Poverty and Politics

My favorite quote of the whole conference so far is “No one will pay attention to you if you don’t make noise.” Damn skippy.

Changed from Race, Poverty and Politics, this was an interesting session, about how America “rediscovered” race and poverty after hurricane Katrina.
Take Back America: Obama Mania

I’ll be honest, it’s hard to not get swept up in the excitement and energy. But, I’m a cynical bitch, so I can manage. Obama’s music is “Think.� He also did a good job of working the phrase “take back america� into his speech. He mentioned one of the things that inspired him, images of the civil rights movement, “young people, straight backed, clear eyed.�

After this session I had a conversation about Obama’s speech, and one of the things I find appealing about him is his thoughtfulness, but I’m not sure that’s generally a successful trait in a candidate.
Take Back America: Edwards has the biggest banner

I’m not sure what his song is, it wasn’t familiar. Shockingly, he’s talking about Iraq. And some other issues, especially heathcare and poverty here and around the world.

Edwards’ talk about poverty is the most compelling thing about him, I think. He’s done a lot of work in it, and you can tell how important the issue is.
Take Back America: Best Panel, No Question

The most important take-away for me? A reminder that voting is important, but it happens on one day of the year. To make the changes you want, you have to think about what you’re going to do the other 264 days.

I believe I’ve already spent plenty of time talking about how much I enjoyed the Hip Hop Artists and Activists panel. Mainly because it was the first session where I felt like people were sharing instead of showing off. I guess it’s easier when you’re not really invited to speak in the first place.
Take Back America: Hillary Clinton Clinches the French Canadian Vote (oops)

She starts off with the information that Bush is planning to veto the stem cell research bill today. Asshole. That’s what I call him, not what she said. But, you can tell she was thinking it.

I just can’t stop thinking about Celine Dion. And now, trying desperately to see onion rings as vagina-like. I really am trying, Ann.
Take Back America: Dennis Kucinich Likes Peace, Don’t You?

He wants to create a cabinet level department of Peace and Non-Violence, including dealing with domestic violence and child abuse. This isn’t just a political matter, it’s a spiritual principle.

No more snark from me about Kucinich. A cabinet level peace department would be nice. So are fluffy clouds and lollipops. Oops, slipped out. Sorry.

Join the Conversation

  • ikkin

    Yeah. This is off-topic, but:

  • RLaing

    Your point about the focus on ‘winning’ is spot on, but it is not just ‘progressives’ who do it, if that’s any comfort.
    I swear, at least half of the nitwits out there who still support George’s war do it for no better reason than the high they expect to get when they ‘win’. They have no clear idea what that means, and don’t seem to care very much. Certainly they’re not so interested in the inevitable victory that they’re willing to go out and you know, fight for it.
    I suppose that as long as these types of people are evenly distributed across any and all political movements, they don’t matter much, and you can think of them simply as useful and necessary tools for getting a job done, without getting too excited over the fact that their commitment to any sort of ideal seems rather shallow.

  • Elise

    If the democratic party wants to be the party of progressive politics, it needs to recognize that “single issues” are about creating freedom for all of us, and are central to the fight. Maybe you can win elections against conservative republicans by using their tactics, but what have you really won? And, who still loses?

    And that’s precisely the issue. The Democrats occasionally flirt with appearing to be the party of progressive politics, to ensure that they continue to get votes from the constituencies that can be almost guaranteed not to vote Republican. It’s when things go beyond the appearing stage that problems arise.
    The Democrats took back the House and the Senate on a massive wave of opposition both to the war against Iraq and to the Bush administration itself. When 51% of respondents in one poll declared that impeachment should be “a priority” for the new Congress (even more supported impeachment being on the agenda at all), Nancy Pelosi announced that impeachment was not going to happen on her watch.
    Similarly, after ignoring information available to anyone not limited in their reading to the US press and supporting the invasion of Iraq, Democrat legislators started to claim that they had been hoodwinked by the Bush administration, who, one must assume, had barred their research staff from researching such publicly available matters as the Niger deception. Having aroused the support of people appalled at these deceptions (regardless of when they learned of them), the Democrats went about finding ways to appear anti-war without actually doing anything that might lead to relinquishing control of Iraq. After the midterms, they even sold bills that put withdrawal from Iraq at Bush’s sole discretion as withdrawal bills.
    There’s no surprise here, really, neither in the fact that the Democrats want to appear to be a progressive, anti-war party, nor in the fact that they’re not. While the Democrats and Republicans get their votes from different places and different segments of society, they share the same essential constituency: the business class. Both their money and their media image come overhwelmingly from large, corporate sources that have no interest whatsoever in a truly progressive agenda that would ultimately take away much of their power.
    These are not allies. The Democrats may occasionally be pressured into enacting some mildly progressive reforms, but they are not a progressive party. The vast majority of the population has not had party representation in this country since the last of the “third” (technically, second) parties died out in the first half of the twentieth century. The Democrats talk a decent game occasionally, but if we stake our hopes on them, we’ll forever be in the position of a supplicant. The only way to end dependency on the fickle Democratic leadership is to start a party that actually does seek to implement progressive policy.

  • RLaing

    Fire Dog Lake had a good article on the subject of the previous post. Her essential point was that there are actually three parties in U.S. politics: Conservative, Liberal and Corporate. The Corporate party has two wings: the Democratic, which pretends to care what Liberals think, and Republican, which pretends to care what Conservatives think. Social policy which doesn’t affect profits is welcome to go wherever it likes.
    The infantile nature of U.S. politics, with its focus on style and image is arguably appropriate: real policy is decided in closed-door meeting by businessmen, while the public only gets to choose the individual who will implement those policies.
    This is how the ‘left’ wound up with Kerry in the last election, whose position on the war was pretty much the same as that of Bush. Now we have Hillary, who is objectively pro-torture, does not regret her vote for war, and blames Iraqis for the turmoil in their country.
    Speaking of the war, there are only two anti-war movements that matter, one in the U.S. and the other in Iraq. The one in the U.S. consists of Americans failing to show up at recruiting stations to volunteer to fight the war. Almost every American belongs to this movement, whatever might be coming out of their mouths or appearing on their blogs. The rest is bad theater, neither useful nor entertaining.
    The anti-war movement in Iraq consists of killing and crippling Americans, and without it, there would not be any anti-war movement in the ‘Home of the Brave’ to speak of.

  • Elise

    The anti-war movement in Iraq consists of killing and crippling Americans, and without it, there would not be any anti-war movement in the ‘Home of the Brave’ to speak of.

    The US anti-war movement had reached historically unprecedented levels before what you call the “Iraqi anti-war movement” was even in existence. As someone who was a part of it, I can tell you that the focus was not so much on the physical harm that would be done to the soldiers sent to conquer Iraq; it was widely assumed that Iraq would not be able to defend itself successfully and that conquest was a foregone conclusion.
    Of course, the harm to those sent to fight the war is an important issue,but the focus in the anti-war movement (especially pre-war) was on the harm done to the country being criminally invaded, and rightly so.
    One might also add the tens of thousands of US servicemembers who are “missing movement” or otherwise refusing to show up when their units deploy to Iraq. I believe the most recent numbers were that 60,000 active-duty servicemembers just didn’t show up when it was time to ship out. Some of them have relocated to Canada and applied for political asylum there. Given the great personal risk involved, I think it’s important not to overlook these servicemembers’ contribution.

  • RLaing

    I’m not talking about street theater. I’m talking about changes in the society that place real obstacles in the way of continuing the war. The failure of U.S. citizens to volunteer to fight the war fall into that category. U.S. soldiers who refuse to redeploy are also doing something concrete.
    Money, the only other thing the war party needs (besides bodies), it takes by force.
    Unfortunately, the structure of the society is such that just about everything else can be ignored, and it is. Apart from the Dennis and Ron ‘fringe’, there are no candidates out there talking explicitly about abandoning the whole criminal enterprise, and if they’re not spelling it out, they don’t plan to do it. The Democrats actually gave Bush more money than he asked for! And protests? Be honest: what really changes after you spend an afternoon now and again in a parade?