Take Back America Conference: We’re Mad as Hell and Not Going to Take it Anymore
Last week I attended the Take Back America conference of progressive activists from around country the in DC. I was one of twenty-odd elected state officials from the heartland to rub elbows with over a thousand organizers, labor union folks, civil rights activists, environmentalists and just plain ordinary citizens who are mad as hell and not going to take it any more. They’re pushing back against the Bush administration on the streets (there were lots of young people there who had organized the giant immigration rallies in April), over the airwaves, and on the internet. The conference was sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future (www/ourfuture.org), which is directed by Bob Borosage and Roger Hickey. With Bush’s popularity dropping daily, the news from Iraq getting worse and worse, ethics scandals and a new interest in the environment spurred by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, there a sense that the tide was finally turning.
The war in Iraq was a hot topic, of course, addressed by several Congressional leaders and Democratic presidential hopefuls who came to court, including John Kerry, Hilary Clinton, Russ Feingold, Barak Obama, and Tom Vilsack. Even more important was the debate over what should be the unifying theme for the Democrats going into the next elections.
Many thought that the idea of a “common good,” which is the polar opposite of the society Republicans want to create fit the bill. Others thought that the term “golden rule Democrat” was a good offset to the so-called “moral values” trumpeted by the Christian right. Still others (including Barak Obama), felt it was enough to ask “Had Enough?”
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Among the throngs of young leaders at the conference, there were two that particularly impressed me. Eli Pariser is the head of MoveOn.org, which is now 3 million strong. He is truly amazing. He is able to connect this administration’s addiction to big money that wills most of the poor policy choices with which we are now saddled. Steven Bradberry, lead organizer for ACORN in devastated New Orleans, seized the moment and during a period when no help was arriving, helped ordinary citizens obtain affordable housing, organized voters in far flung cities and enacted reforms that will change the face of the city. Other kids were talking, blogging, and writing about the huge amount of debt that with which the current policies are saddling them, not to mention looming environmental problems. The 20-somethings are making the connections between campaign contributions from Sallie Mae to the Bush crowd and higher interest rates for student loans, which will affect them for years to come.
Here are few quotes that stuck in my mind:
“We have to start bringing the troops home now.”
--- Sen. Harry Reed.
“Over half of those names on the Vietnam wall are names of soldiers who died after the leadership knew we would never win and we needed to get out.”
--- John Kerry
“When are you guys going to stand up? We must take strong stands.”
--- Sen. Russ Feingold
“It’s the timidity, the smallness of our politics that’s holding us back.”
--- Barak Obama
“The truth is the bottom line in a democracy, and we are being lied to.”
--- John Kerry