The last installment of three reports submitted by author, activist and former talk-show host Jeff Golden on his experience at the Yearly Kos convention. Thanks Jeff, for your eyes, ears and the posts below.
Saturday, the bloggers say, was a watershed moment in their mission to democratize politics. Mike Gravel, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Dennis Kucinich filed into the large meeting room and sat down for just shy of two hours of questions. All seven of them declined an invitation to speak to the Democratic Leadership Council , Bill Clinton’s invention and launching pad, last weekend. Do the math.
All seven paid tribute to the blogosphere. For the first time, they said in various ways, there’s a real possibility to bring in enough grassroots people to force the political elite to loosen their death-grip on the system. In a breakout session afterwards with about 50 people, Bill Richardson, whose candor can be hard to resist said “Yeah, we were all sucking up to you out there--- we kind of have to now.”
The forum was mostly fun to watch. John Edwards asked for everyone’s pledge to swear off of “Washington lobbyist” money and got a few takers. When asked Hillary flatly said she would make no such promise---she wants to represent everyone, she said, and lobbyists are people, too. That, and a general claim that lobbyists really don’t influence all that much, laid her wide open, and Obama and Edwards moved in for a vicious one-two pounding.
Afterwards the candidates split up into smaller room. I went to the Edwards session. He seems on fire, with an ultra-populist riff about taking privilege away from PHRMA, the insurance, oil, banking industries, the whole pack of plutocrats. “What America needs is someone who’s stood up against these guys and has beaten them, and I’ve done that over and over and over and over again. He got the wildest and most excited response. Watching him bounce in the room, with people lunging to touch him, listening to his cadence rise and his tone intensify, seeing that shock of hair waving back and forth, you couldn’t help but think (if you’re old enough) of RFK. I’d have to say he’s in the A-tier now.
The day ended with a huge outdoor barbeque hosted by the Teamsters. Teamster Prez Jim Hoffa (Jr) and blog Czar Marcos embraced on stage and talked about the unstoppable new Alliance of the old (Teamster) and new (blogger) Democratic party. Lots of hugs, backslapping, whooping and hollering. I got about 10 minutes with Hoffa over an overcooked hamburger afterwards and asked how we were going to deal with the old disagreement on environmental issues, since the Teamsters seem to support every dam or pipeline or drilling project that the enviros hate. “Yeah,” he said through a wad of burger, “that’s a tough one.” He went on to say some not very clear things that seemed to amount to the view that environmentalists need to get a life.
Is the next year going to be boring? Not if you’re political.