This year’s Netroots Nation
proved my suspicions that the netroots won’t be bought.
During his keynote address, Bill Clinton was heckled by someone angrily
yelling about his administration’s support of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and instead of skipping charmingly over the issue,
Clinton dissembled embarrassingly for a few minutes in an attempt to
defend what was obviously base political posturing during an era when
gay rights were less popular than they are now. To make matters
worse for those of us who want our politicians defending gays, lesbians,
straight women, and anyone with sexual and reproductive health concerns
(that would be everyone), Howard Dean fumbled a question about abortion
and health care reform during his talk Friday morning.
That provided all the more reason
for attendees of Netroots to come to our panel "Advocating for Reproductive
Rights in the Age of Obama" on Saturday. We did not
fumble. We did not flinch. We answered questions
about reproductive health care and health care reform without getting
embarrassed or fumbling around in ignorance.
Programmers for Netroots Nation
decided to go with fewer panels this year than in previous years.
I’m sure this was a controversial decision, but so far it’s made
it much easier to decide which panels to attend. So far, my favorite
has been the panel on science and science policy, since we have seen
a dramatic and positive shift in the past year on the government’s
approach to science, though obviously much more needs to be done.
Dr. Susan Wood, who made headlines a few years ago when she resigned
from the FDA because of the ideologically motivated refusal to approve
emergency contraception for over the counter sales, was one of the pro-science
panelists. And that’s the sort of stroke that sets Netroots
Nation apart from similar conventions. Many people tend to think
of reproductive rights as its own set of issues and don’t see the
relationships between reproductive rights and other issues. But
at Netroots Nation, the relationship between reproductive rights advocacy
and science advocacy is made explicit.
That, and the fact that every
conversation you have here is deep and political and thought-provoking
and funny to boot.
If you didn’t make it to Pittsburgh, then come to Netroots Nation next
year. At least, come if you want to have those amazing, eye-opening
political discussions with interesting people.