Saturday morning, July 19. Sitting here at the Netroots Nation conference in Austin, Texas with several thousand other online activists. Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Party Speaker of the House, the third most powerful politician in the United States, is up on the podium, doing her best to damp down the mounting criticism of the Democratic Party's shameful collaboration in funding the war and aiding and abetting the Bush administration's shredding of the Constitution. Before Pelosi speaks, an announcement is made from the podium that disruptions will not be tolerated--if any of us express our frustrations too passionately with Pelosi and the sell-out Democratic Party leadership we will be arrested.
The first question the Netroots moderator poses to Pelosi is about impeachment. This generates considerable applause and cheers from the crowd. Pelosi, notorious for proclaiming that "impeachment is off the table," artfully dodges the question and evasively talks about censuring the Bush administration and getting tough on Karl Rove. This generates polite clapping from the front of the room, where all the tables have apparently been "reserved" for Pelosi fans. In contrast I can see groans, grimaces, and shaking of heads from many of us, the netroots rabble, sitting at the back of the hall.
I resist a strong urge to get up and leave. How long will the centrist bureaucrats of Netroots Nation and groups like MoveOn roll-over for lowest common denominator Democrats and Barack Obama? After an hour of rather boring rhetoric by Pelosi, Al Gore makes a surprise appearance on the stage, letting Nancy off the hook.
After a standing ovation, Gore reminds us that the polar icecaps are melting even faster than scientists had expected. The global climate crisis, he goes on, is about to turn into a climate catastrophe. Gore then points out that global warming is of course connected to the energy crisis, reliance on foreign oil, and the economic crisis, as well as the lack of political leadership in the country. Finally, to cheers from the crowd, Gore calls on the assembled netroots to educate the public and get behind his campaign to generate 100% of the nation's electricity from renewable sources of energy within 10 years.
Pelosi once again joins Gore on the stage and rather unconvincingly tries to present herself and the Democratic majority in the Congress as "revolutionary" on energy matters. This is too much for a number of us in the audience, and finally a man yells out at the top of his lungs, "What about the goddamn impeachment resolution?" The security guards at side of the hall look nervously around, but no one makes a move to arrest the man.
After claiming that she is trying to be "bi-partisan" today, and dodging a question about whether or not she will get behind Gore's campaign for 100% renewable electricity by 2018, Pelosi rather anti-climatically reminds us that nothing will change unless we "get out there and elect Obama and a Democratic majority in November..."
Whether or not you decide to vote for Democrat Barack Obama, Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, or Independent Ralph Nader in November, please go to http://www.GrassrootsNetroots.org and join a growing radical populist army who believe we need an alternative to MoveOn and Democratic Party centrists. The doomsday clock is ticking. Let's fight like hell to make sure that 2008 is not the year where we tried to change drivers, but still went over the cliff.
Ronnie Cummins is National Director of the Grassroots Netroots Alliance.