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Wednesday: The Core

Brad Mays, PUMA conspirator and documentary film maker.

Brad Mays, PUMA conspirator and documentary film maker.

As I mentioned last night, I met with Darragh Murphy yesterday in Princeton. I hope she got home alright so, Darragh, if you’re reading this, just wave your hand. We were in Princeton to meet with independent film maker Brad Mays. He’s commenter Lori’s husband. Lori roped him into doing a film for PUMAPac and the concept was interesting so Brad graciously offered to help us out. Little did Brad know what he was getting into. (Why does Rocky Horror Picture Show suddenly come to mind…?)

So, Brad sets up his equipment and Darragh, who conducts an interview as well as Terry Gross, starts asking me questions and in spite of the fact that all three of us met each other only moments before, something wild happened- the conversation went straight to the heart of the situation. It was intense and multilayered and Brad, who thought this was going to be an easy project, got sucked in.

What we were talking about was how did so many reasonable, open, intelligent people change so much in the span of a year. Anyone who attended the YearlyKos conferences in 2006 and 2007 knows what I’m refering to. In 2006, the first YearlyKos as like a big family reunion. Everyone came together in Las Vegas for a single purpose- defeating the Republicans. I can remember Wes Clark, jumping up on a table in the Hard Rock Cafe, giving an impromptu speech and telling us that what we were doing was important and we were “Sooo close” to winning back majorities in the House and Senate but that blogging wasn’t going to be enough. He urged us to get out from behind our keyboards and put our energy into campaigning and volunteering in any way we could so that we could make it happen. And he presented Markos with a medal of sorts, a Clark coin that he used to give out to people under his command in NATO when he was running it.

This photo is unretouched.  I *saw* it happen with my own two glassies.

This photo is unretouched. I *saw* it happen with my own two glassies.

It was Clark’s way of saying thanks for all of the work Kos had done to bring us all together at a time when it seemed there was little else between the Rethugs and Democracy but a band of hardass, ragtag bloggers with a killer app.

YearlyKos 07 was not like that. The easy comraderie was gone. The presidential contenders were acknowledging us in Chicago, except for Hillary. There was some controversy over whether she would make the breakout session that was planned for her. There was a scheduling conflict caused by the event planners, as it turned out. But she rearranged her schedule at the last minute and had her breakout before the presidential forum planned for later in the afternoon. I had chosen Hillary’s breakout session even though I was an Edwards fan at the time because I felt kind of sorry for her. Edwards’ session was going to be well attended and there was no more room at Obama’s so I thought, why not? How bad could she be? It turned out that she blew me away even before she took my question at the end. I left her session still planning to vote for Edwards but Hillary had definitely left an impression.

Then I went to the presidential forum and suddenly, everything changed. Edwards instantly mesmerized the crowd. He was playing them like a virtuoso. He knew every word that would get the Kossacks to their feet. Here’s the diary I wrote for the Cheeto that day: Dear John, You lost me today. When I look back on that diary, I see that the seeds of what would happen during the primary season were planted last year. Take a look at the poll that went with the diary. Oddly enough, only 3 points separated Hillary and Barack Obama in preference among the Kossasks after the breakout sessions and the forums. It wasn’t like Barack Obama was some transcendent figure back then in spite of his wild popularity going into the forum. He was only a mere three points ahead of the presumably least popular person there, Hillary Clinton. The trick of “how they did it” is in Edwards’ wild, frenzied presentation that left me oddly cold. Why didn’t I get it? What was *wrong* with me?

My guess was that I share more in common with the Wes Clarks and the Hillary Clintons than the Kossacks. What I noticed in the lead up to the primaries is that most of the presidential candidates openly flirted with the Kossacks. They flattered them, pandered to them. Some even wrote diaries. But not Hillary. I think the exception was when she wrote a small piece for FireDogLake but she didn’t stick around to answer comments. Wes Clark dropped in from time to time but as the season wore on, it became clear that he was no longer welcome. Clark considered himself a Kossack. The Kossacks felt otherwise. Hillary barely acknowledged us and this is, I think, what separated her from candidates like Edwards and Obama. She never seemed to feel the need to go to different groups and suck up to them. She invited *us* to come to her. Where Barack Obama appeared to cater to the lefties at DKos to win their support in the primaries, Hillary stuck to a set of core Democratic principles. Here’s a clip of what I’m talking about, although not exactly the one I was looking for, where she is talking about a core Democratic principle when it comes to health care- shared responsibility:

This response perfectly illustrates Hillary’s appeal to me. She did not try to make a deal and “love the one you’re with” in order to score points with various constituencies. She had a set of core principles and she asked voters to join her there. She leads based on principle. Now, that doesn’t mean that Clinton isn’t capable of playing politics or getting down in the dirt like the rest of them. It merely means that when it comes down to putting her money where her mouth is, she votes and plans and prioritizes based on some inner guidance. I think the only time I’ve seen her slip was on the Iraq War Resolution and even there I can see her struggling internally. I think it was a bad vote but in her voting repetoire, it is one of the very few glaring examples where she doesn’t stay true to herself. On FISA, there is no doubt in MY mind that her vote was predictable. She was always going to vote no. Democrats respect privacy and the 4th amendment. If you believe in those things as core Democratic principles, the vote is not a difficult one. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

So, this kind of stuff came at the very end of the conversation that Darragh, Brad and I had. What came before was more about what happened to the Democrats this year. How did the split happen? And how is it that so many otherwise rational, reasonable people underwent such profound personality changes in order to wholeheartedly support a man of very little means and no qualification?

PUMAs, we’re going to get ourselves a movie! Brad hopes to get a teaser clip for us in a week or so. But there is so much material to cover and the project has so many layers and so much depth that we’ve barely scratched the surface. But we have plans, oh my droogs. And we can all play a part in this endeavor. I’ll be talking about that at the time we bring out the teaser.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank Lori for helping to set this up and having the insight to see where it all fits together. Way to go, Lori!

And for all you Conflucians, here is the perfect song for those of us who lead from some inner core. Our task is to lead the rest of the party back to that place. Now is the time on The Confluence venn ve dahnce: