By Holly Hazard:
NEW ORLEANS — “You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people,” said Sen. Cory Booker in his keynote speech Friday at the Netroots Nation Conference in New Orleans. He had this challenge to conservative values: “People talk about patriotism. You can’t be patriotic if you don’t love the people in the country you’re in.”
The New Jersey Democrat inspired the audience with stories of people who had guided his life. He talked about rejecting the assumption of a normalcy in America in which, every morning, people wake in neighborhoods to news of people being murdered, where immigration laws separate families, where teachers are paid so little they have no financial security and where our environment is so poisoned, it’s normal for people to have asthma and other environmental ailments.
“I reject the normalcy that corporations may pollute, that teachers are underpaid and under-appreciated,” he said. “We have to start saying we reject the normalcy of injustice.”
Cynthia Nixon, candidate for governor of New York, had harsh words for the Democratic Party and Governor Cuomo. “We have to transform the Democratic Party into a vehicle not just for corporations, not just for Wall Street, but a vehicle for all working people in this country,” she said. She proclaimed herself a Democratic Socialist, saying that her values are directly aligned with that movement, and that the Republicans are going to call us Socialists no matter what we do “so we might as well give them the real thing.”
Nixon challenged the notion of the Democratic establishment that primaries aren’t good for the party, citing several victories in her challenge to Governor Cuomo. She said Cuomo “oversaw the development of a fracked gas pipeline that would destroy a community’s water and health, but the same day we released our Climate Justice Platform, he halted the construction of that pipeline. We stood up and fought back and won, That is the power of primaries.” She cited several other examples of the successful pressure her campaign has placed on Cuomo’s administration. “That is the power of primaries,” she told a cheering audience.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren told the story of her family slowly rising to a middle class life, only to have it endangered when her father suffered a heart attack. It was only her mother, getting a minimum wage job at Sears, that saved her home and family. At that time, minimum wage was enough to cover the basics for a family of three, said the Massachusetts Democrat, adding “Today, a full-time minimum wage job doesn’t pay the rent on a two-bedroom apartment in any state in America.”
She asked “What happened?” and then explained that when she was a child, Congress based the minimum wage on what it would take to support a family and now Congress decides it based on “what will maximize profits for the biggest corporations.” She asked the audience, “Who does the government work for? Is it working for the high and mighty or is it working for the people?” She finished her remarks by describing the Republican tactic of using the politics of division to separate us and that we have so much more in common we can not allow this narrative to stand.
Senator Kamila Harris of California reminded the audience that “when we get beyond this dark chapter, we agree it will be a partly because we speak truth.” She explained that many people right now in America have no trust in government, its institutions and its leaders. She noted, “The Russians have always known racism and other forms of hate and have always been America’s Achilles heel.” These are the tools the Russians use to divide us. “We need to deal with that weakness,” she said. “This is our truth. We need to deal with it.”
The annual Netroots Nation Conference being held in New Orleans is the largest gathering of progressive political activists in the nation.
Holly Hazard is is a member of Mason District Democratic Committee and is on The Blue View Staff.