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A Good Start

What’s that old joke. . ."What do you call 100 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?" 

"A good start."

Sorry, Christie.

I want to take a step back from the reporting of specific events, personalities, gossip and happenings here at YearlyKos to talk about what I see going on here, and by extension, going on with you who are paying attention to this weekend’s happenings here in Vegas.

Byron York wrote today about a portion of our FDL caucus meeting yesterday, when people asked about how to combat the perception that netroots people are crazy, as they step up to talk about their values in suppport of the common good.  Byron has his perspective convering this conference, and I don’t begrudge him that.  But he didn’t report what we said when that question came up.  It’s the same thing Barbara Boxer just said in her lunchtime keynote to the convention.  The message is this: 

Don’t worry about what people think about you.  You have passion and a vital perspective to bring to the national conversation.  You believe in America, its promise, its principles and in values like fairness, truth-telling, accountability, opportunity and investment in our communities.  It’s not about what others think we are. It’s about who we are, and more importantly, what we believe in.

I say all this because I think the most powerful element of this conference is essentially subliminal.  The most powerful thing about this conference is not its content but the fact of all of us coming together to see each other, that we know, up front and personal, we all exist.  Bodies and smiles are more tangible and compelling than pixels and page views. 

Byron is partly right when he points out that this is a movement finding itself, coming to terms with its rapid growth onto the national stage:  with that rapid growth comes some anxiety.  My mother, many years ago, stuffed envelopes as a volunteer in the New York offices of the National Review back in the days when William F. Buckley was just trying to put the magazine on the map, worried it would fold.  Fast forward:  ours is a new movement and a new age (and Mom has come around, too).  The anxiety York describes below the surface of our movement is in fact real but entirely appropriate to our stage of growth and communal development.  It takes a while to build a grassroots movement into a redwood forest, as in the picture above.  But we’re off to a helluva good start.  And after all, there’s a lot less anxiety in the movement now than there was six months ago, as we’ve begun to flex more political power with success (see Ned Lamont, Jon Tester).

As I read the comments here and elsewhere about this conference, it seems to me the most compelling thing for all of you, vicariously, is to participate in the sense that we are real.  We’re not going away.  We can put a conference together like this through volunteer effort (how awesome is retired Tennessee teacher and YearlyKos organizer, Gina Cooper?).  Yes, we’re making connections here that will transcend our efforts here this weekend, but frankly I’ve been so swept up with so much activity I’m disappointed I’ve been unable to meet personally so many people I know only through their email addresses or screen names.  There’s so much to continue to do together, but once again, this conference is a damn good start.

This conference is all about coming together to take action, building a movement that makes a difference.  So I’d like now to turn this discussion around:  what would you like to do that perhaps you have not already done to make your own good start?  Can you tell some people you know, who may not be involved in politics, about this conference?  What would you tell them?  Let’s hear your ideas about making a few more good starts in the comments.

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Pachacutec did not, as is commonly believed, die in 1471. To escape the tragic sight of his successors screwing up the Inca Empire he’d built, he fled east into the Amazon rain forest, where he began chewing lots of funky roots to get higher than Hunter Thompson ever dared. Oddly, these roots gave him not only a killer buzz, but also prolonged his life beyond what any other mortal has known, excluding Novakula. Whatever his doubts of the utility of living long enough to see old friends pop up in museums as mummies, or witness the bizarrely compelling spectacle of Katherine Harris, he’s learned a thing or two along the way. For one thing, he’s learned the importance of not letting morons run a country, having watched the Inca Empire suffer many civil wars requiring the eventual ruler to gain support from the priests and the national military. He now works during fleeting sober moments to build a vibrant progressive movement sufficiently strong and sustainable to drive a pointed stake through the heart of American “conservatism” forever. He enjoys a gay marriage, classic jazz and roots for the New York Mets.