Netroots Nation 2014 Wrap Up

by The Campaign Workshop

dancing donkey


This year’s Netroots Nation conference marks the progressive online community’s ninth and largest yet.  More attendees, more panels, more progressives and certainly much more press than ever before, spent three days in Detroit, MI learning from and teaching one another.  Here are some highlights from the conference itself, and the overall impressions I got while there.

Highlights included seeing a lot of prominent political figures, including Vice President Biden, Rev. William Barber, Senator Charles Schumer, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and joining a protest with Detroit’s water rights activists to call for a end to the water shut-offs affecting over 200,000 Detroit residents. (If you’re not up to speed on this, it’s a humanitarian crime of outrageous proportions. Detroit is cutting off water for hundreds of thousands of residents who are past due on their water bills. No water means no food, no bathrooms, no life. Support #DetroitWater in order to spread the word!)

Detroit was an especially interesting place to host this year’s conference.  Netroots was in San Jose last year, which was quite fitting given that it’s a conference about online activism.  Other previous cities include Providence, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Minneapolis. But Detroit felt different. It didn’t seem like a random choice. Rather, it provided an opportunity to live our progressive values by descending upon a city at the epicenter of fighting back against the kinds of problems progressives all across the nation have been railing about in their own cities. With both an important Senate and Gubernatorial race on the line, as well as continued “emergency manager” takeovers across Michigan, Detroit was more than just a city with a large enough convention center to hold Netroots Nation conference attendees.

This year’s conference had the most “big name” politicos and press I’ve seen so far; a sitting VP tends to draw a crowd. Additionally, Google sponsored a bunch of events and a contest for the best new tech product. In many ways, it was strange to notice how this small community of online progressive activists has grown into a sought-after group of “influencers” by major corporations and politicians. Particularly so, when you consider the juxtaposition of the venue, Cobo Arena, with the crumbling buildings and threat of water shutoffs looming just outside its doors. Being schmoozed with free swag and praised by the Vice President for “pushing the agenda” didn’t totally feel right once I stepped outside for a bite to eat. In fact, it felt downright messed up. I'm not sure what Netroots 2015 will bring next year in Phoenix, but there is already a discussion about that venue choice and how Netroots 2015 will proceed as its own entity. I look forward to the conversation. Let me know what you think about Netroots 2015 and beyond in the comments below!