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Wrapping Up: Some More YearlyKos Observations

BY Joshua Levy | Monday, August 6 2007

As I flew home on Saturday from YearlyKos, I felt equally elated and exhausted from three days of near-constant interaction with so many bloggers, activists, journalists, campaign operatives and techno-politicos. The panels I attended were usually good and sometimes illuminating, the food was so-so, the the long distances between panels got old quick (at first I told Micah that the complainers were wimps; I soon found my own inner wimp), and Presidential forums and breakout sessions added glamour to the whole event.

And it's always a good feeling to actually see, in the flesh, folks with whom I spend so much time with on email, IM, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Status updates on Facebook and Twitter:g ood fun. Status updates in the form of actual conversations: priceless.

A few highlights:

- Howard Dean's opening night speech. I blogged about it that night, but the speech has stayed with me. It was awesome.

- The presidential forum, which was attended by 7 out of the 8 Democratic candidates (Micah has a rundown here). Maybe it was because they felt more comfortable in front of a crowd of Democratic activists, and their words weren't being broadcast on television at the same time, but the candidates came across as more passionate, more funny, and more real than they do during televised debates (or "forums," as the non-DNC debates are called). Barack Obama started off slow, letting John Edwards be the passionate idealist, while Clinton played it cool (even when moderator Joan McCarter, or mcjoan, mistakenly referred to her as "President Clinton). Bill Richardson was smart on policy and Chris Dodd fired up the crowd once or twice. Mike Gravel provided comic relief. Oh yeah, Kucinich was there tool.

But then there was the lobbyist question. Obama and Edwards fiercely opposed taking money from lobbyists; Clinton defended them and said they're "people too." This got Obama going. By the end, he'd taken the reigns from Edwards and became the fiery idealist, strongly denouncing Washington lobbyists and squarely differentiating himself from Clinton.

- Obama breakout group. He said while Washington accuses him of over using the word "hope," he wants to be a "hope peddler... a hope monger." The crowd loved this line. Micah said he'd heard it before. I still liked it.

- Clinton breakout group. She's funnier and more ironic in person. She knew she wouldn't get showered with adoration from the crowd, but I gave her kudos for changing her schedule and showing up. Peter Daou -- who was well-respected by the audience, many of whom were his peers -- lead the discussion, calling on two non-bloggers to ask questions before selecting a blogger. Given that he knew this crowd, the selections seemed suspicious... Hillary got hit with a real hardball question at the end, when someone asked her to comment on four Clinton-era initiatives that are particularly disliked by the Kos crowd: NAFTA, DOMA, welfare reform, and Don't Ask Don't Tell. She defended NAFTA and welfare reform, and for the other two she gave the standard Clintonian answer that the political moment made it impossible to pass what they wanted, and these represented the best compromise they could get. Far from idealism.

- "Blogging While Female": a panel on women in blogging. Garance Franke-Ruta moderated a discussion with YearlyKos organizer Gina Cooper, Pandagon and ex-Edwards blogger Amanda Marcotte, and Feministing blogger Jessica Valenti. They all gave stories of being seriously harassed simply for being women bloggers. They get sent disgusting photoshopped pictures, hate mail describing plans to rape and kill them, and some are physically stalked. All for the crime of, as the name of the panel suggests, daring to be a woman with a public voice. The men that defend them are often emasculated by other men, or it's suggested that the male defenders simply want to sleep with the women.