Thursday, June 7, 2012

Netroots Nation: Why am I here?

Attending Netroots Nation for the first time as a Democracy for America Scholar. What do I want to achieve?
In the last few years I've been deeply engaged in the nuts and bolts of progressive unionism and education policy.  After working all day teaching young children, then negotiating, serving on the VT-NEA Board, working for the US Dept of Education, etc., there is precious little time left for all of the other worthy progressive causes in the world.  But I believe that connecting across policy spheres is crucial to the success of progressive causes.  I am here to make that connection and learn about all the things I've been missing while actually doing the work.
One of the things I've noticed about the radical right is that there think tanks cross issues.  Look at Hoover - they have specialists in defense, economics, domestic policy education etc.  This enables them to develop a narrative across disciplinary boundaries.  The different policy areas become mutually reinforcing.
Contrast with the left.  Think tanks, such as they are, tend to work within silos.  The issue orientation leads the public to latch onto specific issues rather than a coherent and self-reinforcing narrative.  Teachers go, "LGBT, Native American? Those aren't my issues - I'm not gay, I'm not Native American."  Well dammit these are our issues.  Urban is a rural issue.  Rural is an urban issue.   
We are all in this together.
The great narrative battle is between private good and the public good.  The right believes there are very few public goods - maybe defense, but that the benefits of the society accrue to individuals, and therefore society can be atomized, privatized and government shrunk until it can be "drowned in a bathtub."
My view, one I hope we share, is that there are great public goods, things which are too profound and important to consign to the markets.  Drive a Ford or a Chevy, eat Rice Crispies or Cornflakes?  Private goods - that can be settled by markets.  But education, healthcare, marriage equality, civil rights public transit, the environment and, yes, defense, are great public goods, matters of profound social consequence in which we all have too big a stake to turn our back on the collective enterprise.  I refuse to turn my back on my neighbor.
We are our neighbors’ keepers.
I am hoping to connect with this bigger narrative here in Providence.  Wish me luck.
Follow the hashtag #NN12


  1. Salient point--the left tends to work in silos. And those silos have little funding fences around them...

    Wish I was there (but I have a paying workshop gig this week). Will be following Education Worker, and dreaming of NN in 2013.

    1. Thanks Nancy,
      Teacher Ken is here - met him in person for the first time. Hope to see you soon.

  2. Interesting post... I hope you are enjoying this conference!