Publicola has been giving ink (pixels?) to one health care advocate’s disappointment with Darcy Burner’s performance as Executive Director of ProgressiveCongress.org. Okay, fair enough. But as long we’re critiquing HA’s favorite twice-failed congressional candidate, I thought I’d give voice to one of Darcy’s most prominent fans, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Editor of The Nation:
When it comes to the big issues of our time — like healthcare, energy and climate change, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and building a more just economy — I’ve long believed it will require a strong inside-outside strategy to push progressive solutions through Congress. That’s why I was so pleased when Darcy Burner was recently named Executive Director ofProgressiveCongress.org. (Full disclosure: I’m a board member.)
The organization’s purpose is to bring together progressives both inside and outside of Congress to craft strong policies and work cooperatively to implement them. Burner knows the grassroots, netroots, and political landscape as well as anyone, and her close Congressional races in Washington state against a Republican incumbent in 2006 and 2008 are a testament to that fact. A former Microsoft manager, she was also the architect of the “Responsible Plan to End the War In Iraq“.
Vanden Heuvel pretty much kvells over what Darcy has achieved at ProgressiveCongress.org in her few weeks on the job at the startup organization.
Last month, ProgressiveCongress.org asked people to submit and vote on questions regarding healthcare reform via its website. Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) then answered the questions on the House floor, where proceedings are broadcast on C-SPAN and entered into the Congressional Record.
The results exceeded all expectations.
Tens of thousands of people responded and Caucus members were “very enthusiastic” about “having more direct interaction with normal Americans out there who are interested in [these] issues.” Then this past week there were approximately 47,000 votes on which Energy Bill questions to ask — a response Burner called “unbelievable.” (Caucus members answered those questions on the floor this past Thursday and video will soon be available.)
“This was an experiment,” Burner said. “My tech background tells me you try ten things, eight of them will fail, and the other two will succeed. The catch-though, is you can never predict ahead of time which two things it’s going to be. So, this being our first foray in trying to connect some of the progressive grassroots to the Caucus… it has succeeded spectacularly.”
This is exactly the kind of creative experimentation people can expect from Burner and ProgressiveCongress as it works to connect progressives outside of the beltway with those on the inside — leveraging the strength of both.
And this is exactly the kind of creative experimentation that got netroots progressives so excited about Darcy’s potential in Congress.
I don’t think Josh or Sandeep or most in the legacy media ever really grokked the Darcy thing, preferring to write it off as some kinda naive self-deception on the part of the netroots, or even worse, a cult of personality. Oh, please.
I like Darcy well enough, and consider her a friend, but her quirky eggheadedness doesn’t exactly inspire a cult-like devotion, and to be honest… ideologically… she’s rarely the most progressive person in the room. No, what we saw in Darcy was something we see in ourselves: the passion, creativity, and willingness to fail that is so often missing in a political culture that at times appears to be totally defined and constrained by the electoral cycle.
(And, oh yeah, she’s smart. Damn smart. I don’t hear anybody saying that about Dave Reichert.)
It would have been exciting to see how well those qualities served her in Congress. And I guess, her service there will be exciting, if in a slightly different capacity.