Netroots Rising: Telling the Stories We Know

Two years ago I met Lowell Feld.

I was working with Jerome Armstrong at Mark Warner's Forward Together PAC, testing the national waters for a very successful Virginia Governor. Part of my job was reaching out to bloggers in key states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Naturally we needed to have the strong support of bloggers from Warner's home state of Virginia.

It didn't take long to figure out that getting Lowell Feld of RaisingKaine on board the Warner train was crucial.

Lowell had other things on his mind though. He was busy helping Jim Webb win a contentious U.S. Senate primary and didn't really want to discuss the 2008 Presidential campaign. As much as he liked Mark Warner, he had other things on his plate.

Over the remainder of 2006, as Mark Warner focused on helping elect Democrats, I stayed in close touch with Lowell. He had joined Webb as a full-time staffer, leaving behind a secure government job for the stormy seas of the campaign trail. When the poll numbers weren't what he wanted to see, he vented to me and I tried to use my decade's experience on the campaign trail to give him perspective.

When "Macaca" hit, we IM'd back and forth trying to figure out how to turn George Allen's blunder into a perfect storm for the Webb campaign.

After the nail-biter of an election we celebrated the victory and began talking about what was next for the two of us. In particular, we discussed possible ways in which we might be able to keep contributing to the netroots movement which had helped revitalize the Democratic Party -- and, more broadly, our democracy -- over the past few years.

We looked back with awe at the amazing campaign cycle we'd just been through, one which saw Democrats win majorities in both houses of Congress against long odds, and one which saw not at least half a dozen scrappy, underfunded candidates -- including Jim Webb -- beat BOTH the Democratic establishment in the primaries and the GOP in the general.

We knew something amazing had happened. And, because we had been behind the scenes working the internet for Democrats, we had a nuts-and-bolts perspective on what really made the big wins of 2006 possible. We were both pretty sure it wasn't Rahm Emmanuel's "move to the center." We were also both sure that wouldn't have happened without the explosion of citizen activism called the "netroots".

Somehow, the idea of writing a book to tell the story of the grassroots movement that made the difference for Democrats in 2006 came up. We'd both been involved since the beginning (2003) -- me as a Howard Dean activist in Texas, Lowell as a part of Wes Clark's netroots campaign and as founder of the Virginia political blog Raising Kaine (in January 2005).

Lowell hooked us up with a book deal and the next six months were a flurry of research, interviews, digging up old notes and emails and writing. We couldn't tell all the important stories -- honestly we couldn't even tell a small fraction of the important stories -- but we tried to tell the stories we knew the best and one or two others where we had access to great sources.

The book we wrote, Netroots Rising, is officially released tomorrow. As a supplement to the book, we'll be posting some of the many excellent interviews we did during our research for the book. We also plan to conduct new interviews and to write about some of the great stories that we didn't have room for in the book that will be posted on the Netroots Rising site.

SusanG at DailyKos was kind enough to give us a very good review on Daily Kos today. She neatly summarized a key part of the book, something that we worked very hard to pull off:

...Feld and Wilcox are able to objectively examine what goes right and what goes wrong when professional staff, grassroots volunteers and netroots enthusiasts come together. It's a new frontier, one fraught with possibilities for failure, jealousy and misunderstanding, but these two netroots veterans manage to keep a level-headed balance between realistic expectations and inspirational goals. While they consistently take pride in the success of their wired part of the movement, they recognize that in order to fulfill its full potential, an integration between institutionalized politics and people-powered movements must occur, and that blogs--in all their gradations of variety, activism and different shades of serving as media--are still in an exciting phase of evolution.

This project is just beginning. We've made huge leaps since 2002 -- when there was effectively no way for non-wealthy individuals with no inside connections to impact the political system -- to now, when many of us have found ways to come together online and off to make many small impacts that cumulatively can be very large. There is an enormous amount of work remaining, but we wanted to tell some of the stories of 2002-2006 while the memories were fresh.  

There's more...

Until Proven Otherwise, I'll Assume Tom Delay Practices Polygamy

Yesterday on Mike Gallgher's right-wing radio show, Tom Delay made a presumption about Barack Obama (via ThinkProgress):


GALLAGHER: There are reports of dissent within the Obama camp, that they don't want to have a Clinton on the ticket. Listen, if their pride gets in the way, because I'm with ya, I think that they ought to recognize what she could do for them. But if they reject her, I think John McCain -- that's going to be good news for Sen. McCain.

DELAY: Oh I think it's good news for Sen. McCain, the other weakness that he [Obama] has is that nobody knows him. And if McCain does not define him as what he is -- hey, I have said publicly, and I will again, that unless he proves me wrong, he is a Marxist.

GALLAGHER: Yeah, that's, we hear that everyday. Congressman, every day someone will say to me, and I've said it, it's as if this were a guy who's desperately trying to cover up what seems to be the kind of old school Marxist, radical liberal failed ideology.

DELAY: Absolutely.

GALLAGHER: That's what he is.

DELAY: No doubt about it.

GALLAGHER: And John McCain, it's incumbent upon John McCain to point that out because if he doesn't, people are going to get enamored with this guy the way they did.

Huh.

Delay, you'll remember, is the disgraced former Speaker Majority Leader who still faces charges of money laundering and conspiracy to launder money.

And so, unless he proves me wrong, I'm just going to assume Tom Delay practices polygamy. Hunter is even less charitable.

On a more serious note, reading Delay's quote really brought a smile to my face, because it's fun to watch GOP desperation. As a GOP surrogate, Delay probably ranks near the weakest. And I can't imagine charges of "Marxism" have much traction - Delay should have just gone all out and called him a Communist Muslim. From Mexico. No...Iran.

There's more...

DeLay Still Faces Serious Legal Woes

Thought that the fact that you hadn't heard Tom DeLay's name in a while indicated that he was no longer under scrutiny for his improprieties? Think again.

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed payroll records from the House for Ed Buckham, former chief of staff to ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

The subpoena, issued by a grand jury in Washington, D.C., is the first formal notification that Buckham is the focus of a federal corruption probe by the Justice Department. The subpoena was sent to Daniel Beard, chief administrative officer for the House, and formally read into the Congressional Record this afternoon, although Buckham was not mentioned in the official notification.

Buckham served as DeLay's chief of staff before leaving to become a lobbyist. He had extensive dealings with now imprisoned GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and a former buiness associate Tony Rudy - also a former DeLay aide - has already pleaded guilty to accepting payments from Abramoff's clients while working for DeLay. The gifts, including payments to Rudy's wife, were in exchange for helping Abramoff and his clients with legislative matters, according to Rudy's plea agreement with DOJ.

Rudy also pleaded guilty to violating the one-year ban for former senior aides to approach their former bosses as lobbyists. It is unclear if the Justice Department is pursuing the same allegation against Buckham. Neil Volz, ex-chief of staff to imprisoned former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), pleaded guilty to same charge as well.

Buckham, an ordained minister, remained very close to DeLay after he left the Texas Republican's staff, advising DeLay on numerous political and legislative matters.

In recent months, a number of ex-DeLay staffers have been subpoenaed - or voluntarily came in for questioning - by the Justice Dept. to discuss the day-to-day operations of DeLay's office, including the role Buckham played once he left DeLay's staff, according to several sources familiar with the investigation.

News like this -- along with news like the Ted Stevens sting and the apparent retirement of Jerry Weller due to ethical concerns -- underscore the reality that the Republican Party still has a long way to go before it cleans up its act. While Republicans up on Capitol Hill spend their time complaining about things like earmarks, the fact is that whatever problems there are with pork are symptoms rather than causes of the problems. Marc Ambinder yesterday quite aptly called it "the pay-to-play nexus of corporate lobbyists" within the Republican Party.

Clearly the broader trends -- recruitment and fundraising and the like -- point to a real advantage for the Democrats in the race for control of Congress in 2008. But the fact that the Republican Party has not been successful whatsoever at ridding itself of the institutional corruption within its midst ("the pay-to-play nexus of corporate lobbyists," as it were) -- heck it's not even clear that it has tried to do so at all -- is going to make it especially difficult for it to pull out a win next fall.

There's more...

Dan Grant (TX-10): 'I'm Ready to Lead'

When Tom DeLay engineered his redistricting scheme four years ago, he was riding high.  In control of the White House and both houses of Congress, he and his partisan allies thought they could get away with anything, from a war of choice in Iraq to choosing a new representative to roam the halls of Congress for us.

So how'd they do?

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Iraq and the Wimp Love Myth

The Spineless Dem has risen again.

Democrats have responded to months of Republican intransigence by cutting deals on GOP priorities like trade and immigration - and have now capitulated completely to Republican demands on Iraq.

Why are the Democrats acting so butter-boned?

A lot of it has to do with their seemingly innate fear of confrontation.  Democrats are afraid that in the great battle of rhetoric and ideas, they still can't go toe to toe with the Bush White House and the Republican message machine. They're also afraid that their liberal, mushy voters won't support hardball politics. But is confrontation for Democrats really such a politically hazardous strategy - and isn't it necessary to achieve the great goals to which we all aspire?

There's more...

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