I’d barely shut my eyes for three hours when I found myself inexplicably awake, watching the sun attempt to crawl above the early morning Austin haze, the first tentative rays of light glinting off the endless rows of air conditioning units that neatly grow like cabbages across the flattop roofs of the surrounding buildings.
Kinda incoherent poetic metaphors, huh? Yeah, well, just be glad you’re not getting a fucking haiku from me, considering my accumulated sleep deficit over the past few days.
I had planned to get to bed relatively early last night, but somehow found myself at 1:30 AM, sitting in an IHOP with Darcy Burner and a bunch of veterans. Vote Vets co-founder and chairman Jon Soltz sat across the table, passionately detailing the Veteran Administration’s many bureaucratic nightmares as he relentlessly made his way through an enormous, whipped cream topped stack of chocolate chip pancakes. On his own unexpected politicization Soltz described heading to Iraq a true believer, only to have reality—political, military and otherwise—rip the veil from his eyes. “It was like learning that your parents are not really your parents,” Soltz explained as he tried to relate the sense of betrayal that accompanied his own disillusionment.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for those who don’t know squat about the liberal blogosphere might be that while 20-year-old slackers in bathrobes are in short supply here at Netroots Nation, veterans and military personnel are out in full force. At last night’s keynote, Gen. Wes Clark called out various groups one by one to stand up and be acknowledged… teachers, medical professionals, candidates, first responders, social workers, etc…. but by far the largest group in attendance were the veterans, and it was for them that the crowd reserved its loudest and longest round of applause.
It is an inside netroots joke that we sometimes refer to ourselves as “dirty fucking hippies,” the inherent punchline being that this description couldn’t be further from the truth. If we are radicals, we are the radicalized middle, a segment of the population historically loathe to forsake economic security for the sake of a mere cause, yet somehow provoked into producing a populist uprising. That veterans like Soltz and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga provide two of our most outspoken voices should come as no surprise from a broad movement that draws support from nearly every corner of American life.
For those who hope or imagine that Darcy’s close connections with the netroots will ultimately prove to hurt her standing with her district’s suburban voters, well, you should have been at IHOP last night, where Darcy was literally embraced by veterans who trust that she will deliver the kind of leadership, respect and support that they deserve. Yet more evidence that we are in fact a netroots nation.