Living Liberally Blog

Living Liberally Blog

We're Holding Our Heads High, Bob

In today's New York Times, Bob Herbert -- a favorite columnist of Living Liberally -- laments:

Liberals have been so cowed by the pummeling they’ve taken from the right that they’ve tried to shed their own identity, calling themselves everything but liberal and hoping to pass conservative muster by presenting themselves as hyper-religious and lifelong lovers of rifles, handguns, whatever.

He goes on to articulate the proud liberal legacy in America: civil rights and women's rights, environmental protection and food safety, Social Security and Medicare, concluding:

Without the many great and noble deeds of liberals over the past six or seven decades, America would hardly be recognizable to today’s young people.

Bob - have we got a video to show you.

Bob, you're speaking our language. The 10,000 monthly attendees at Living Liberally events around the country agree with you. The activists, bloggers and electeds in the video above agree with you. Daily Kos creator Markos -- whose first words on his blog (as recounted in his new book Taking on the System) were "I am progressive. I am liberal. I make no apologies." -- agrees with you too.

And John Kennedy pre-emptively agreed with you in his famous remarks (that are the video's soundtrack).

So what's with our elected officials? What's with our leaders on the "Left" that leave them so scared of this label?

They believe they've only given up on a word that's been poisoned in the public imagination while we were too complacent to defend it. But they are actually giving up the ideas, the tradition and the accomplishments that had accompanied that word for the last century.

Unfortunately, if you only think election-to-election, you don't make language your battlefield. You willingly cede that footing thinking repositioning may get you short-term gains.

We see where that gets us. Which is why so many regular Americans are taking the lead where our "leaders" are failing -- why everyday citizens are becoming voters, volunteers, activists, and even candidates under the "liberal" banner. From Idaho, where 6 chapters of Drinking Liberally gather progressive peace activists; to Salt Lake City, where 40-50 regularly gather and proudly proclaim their liberal identify -- there are loud, lively Liberals in this nation.

Bob, we're with you in calling upon our politicians to step up -- but in the meantime, don't despair: we're holding our heads high -- liberal, loud and proud.

Salt Lake City Makes Local Columnist Drunk, Happy

The words "fun" and "political speech" usually don't go together - unless you, like me, watched John McCain's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention Thursday with the members of the Salt Lake City chapter of Drinking Liberally.

So begins Sean Means' recent "Culture Vulture" column in the Salt Late City Tribune as he describes the enjoyment he had at the local DL chapter's recent McCain on the Rocks watch party.

I love that the challengers for Governor and Lieutenant Governor were in attendance, unafraid to be seen with a group of scary liberals...and that Sean goes into detail on some of the rules of the drinking game.

A Sip of McCain on the Rocks

Obama packs our a week-long Denver celebration.
The GOP has empty seats, a police-state Saint Paul,
a phone-in Prez, a scandal-a-day, & a shortened convention
that even Republicans don't want to attend.

Biden buys good news cycles & great energy.
Given Palin's inexperience, poor judgment, scandals
& right-wing radicalism -- this Veep to Nowhere
actually does make McCain look qualified by comparison.

The Dems bring dignity, hope, vision.
McCain's no-vetting, pandering VP pick
shows that this out-of-touch, ill, 72-year-old
just doesn't take the Presidency seriously.

Desperate...delusional...derailed...derided...
There's something to seeing McCain on the ropes...
now, enjoy McCain on the Rocks.

Join for a drink (& a drinking game) --
after all, you can't watch tonight alone...or sober
-- at your local progressive social club.

DRINKING LIBERALLY
Find - or start - a chapter near you.

McCain on the Rocks - Drinking Game Rules

For use and wide distribution...drink liberally:

McCain on the Rocks:
The Official Drinking Liberally
McCain Convention Speech Drinking Game

Take a Sip when
He Says:
- faith
- service
- experience
- Barack Obama
- global war on terror
or when:
- he makes reference to being a POW
- he compares himself to Ronald Reagan
- he calls Iraq a success
- he praises Sarah Palin by name

Take a Gulp when:
He Says:
- my friends
- George Bush
- maverick
- Joe Lieberman
- Vietnam
or when:
- he references his relationship to God
- he talks about Sarah Palin’s lovely family
- he compares himself to Teddy Roosevelt
- he claims not to like talking about being a POW

Take a Big Gulp when:
He Says:
- torture
- climate change
- straight-talk
- Cheney
- Iran
or when:
- he praises his own bi-partisan ways
- he questions a Democrat’s patriotism
- he gets real explicit about his POW experience
- he compares himself to General Patton

Chug when:
- he explicitly praises George W. Bush
- he makes allusions to Obama’s race

Celebratory Toast if:
- he forgets a line, pauses more than 3 seconds
- he forgets a line, curses at the audience
- he compares himself to Richard Nixon
- he tries an endearing joke about his age

Finish Your Drink if:

- He replaces Palin with a younger beauty queen
- He calls for Bush a lousy President
- He jokes about bombing Iran

McCain on the Rocks

Tomorrow, John McCain will give his acceptance speech.

You want to watch.
You can only watch with a drink in hand.
You shouldn't be drinking alone.

Therefore: it's time for a watch party.

Drinking Liberally is working with People For the American Way on a national night of gatherings -- fittingly called "McCain on the Rocks." You can find a local get-together, or check with your area DL chapter to see if they are hosting something.

We'll be posting the official DL Drinking Game later on, but in the meantime, Bill Nothstine from our exceptional Portland, Oregon chapter has already posted rules for an all-evening drinking game (sip if a speaker references his POW experience; drink if McCain speaks of his POW experience; chug if anyone says how much McCain doesn't like to mention his POW experience).

They've also create a guide for McCain-themed haiku and limericks.

Such as:

Now McCain will not talk to the press
They're asking hard questions, I guess
And they're kicked off the bus
Where they can't cause a fuss
So much for the Straight Talk Express

When the RNC meets in St. Paul
It will kick off a most dismal fall
If their best hope is Palin
Their luck must be failin'
So they'll come at a crawl if at all

Download the drinking game and haiku/limerick guides below -- they are PDF attachments. (If attachments don't show up, follow the links above to find the rules online.)

We're enjoying McCain on the ropes. Now, let's have him on the Rocks.

Carnival vs. Police State

Haven't been blogging much these past two weeks. Traveling makes it difficult enough to sit down and write; the busy pace of Conventions makes it harder; and these two Conventions have been such extremes that I want to be wandering through them more than describing them.

Denver was a democratic carnival, where the main pedestrian drag of the Lower Downtown area was filled with suited delegates, young people, protesters (from the Left and the Right), vendors (Barack Obama action figure anyone), musicians, annoyed Denverites, bicycle cabs...and, yes, riot police. Their presence reminded you any moment there cold be travel; but they didn't block streets...they didn't separate the delegates from the protesters or the onlookers.

It was an open city for an open convention. While I was there, I felt aware of the cops...but not oppressed by them.

Then I came to Saint Paul. Maybe it's the layout of the city -- whereas the Denver Pepsi Center is on the outskirts of downtown, the Xcel Center is at the heart of this city...and thus the heart has been cut off from its body by barbed wire and barricades. A beautiful city becomes unwalkable. The locals, who love their home, are ashamed that this is the face they show to the world.

Walking with the peace protest on Monday -- the 10,000 that featured families, children, vets and no violence -- we were led through caged paths with high, black grates on either end. Police stood at the read as we slowly slogged through narrower avenues near the center. At one point a friend asked, "Should we be worried that they already have their gas masks on?" At another point, we wanted to peel off -- and a cordon of 30 shoulder-to-shoulder riot cops told us that we had to march the full parade route.

They don't seem to be wanting to do this. But in that environment, they are not individual police officers (residents of St. Paul keep telling us they love their police -- that they are "neighborhood cops"), but one side of a tense confrontation; and we protesters were made to feel like the other side. The tension mounted. Surrounded by my public safety officials, and by 10,000 people in agreement with me...I didn't feel safe.

That gloom and fear pervades the RNC. Hope and happiness charged the DNC. Maybe each party is just pushing its brand.

More soon...and check out Open Left where Matt Stoller has been photo-documenting much of this experience.

The Official Barack Obama Convention Speech Drinking Game

As Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for President tonight, enjoy his address with drink in hand -- ready to toast, to celebrate and to share the experience...with drinking game rules, of course.

Take a Sip when
He Says:
- hope
- change
- community organizer
- Bush
- Hillary Clinton
or when:
- he says how much he loves America
- he tells a joke that actually makes you laugh
- he implicitly/explicitly compares himself to MLK
- compliments Michelle for being accomplished

Take a Gulp when:
He Says:
- Yes we can
- Iraq
- Kansas
- Cheney
- Bill Clinton
or when:
- he quotes a great American text or speech
- he talks about Joe Biden's lovely family
- he compares himself to JFK
- he compliments Michelle for being a good wife and mother

Take a Big Gulp when:
He Says:
- audacity
- glass ceiling
- bipartisan
- Rove
- swiftboat
or when:
- he quotes the Bible
- he uses the word "partisan" like it's a bad thing
- compliments a Republican (or Joe Lieberman)
- he compares himself to RFK

Chug when:
- he gratuitously compliments McCain's "service" and "courage"
- he jokes about John McCain's houses

Celebratory Toast if:
- he uses the word "partisan" like it's a good thing
- challenges McCain to a duel
- praises President Jimmy Carter
- he makes you cry

Finish Your Drink if:
- He mentions Reverend Jeremiah Wright
- He calls for Bush’s impeachment
- He threatens to bomb Iran.

(If you want to print out a version, you can click on the attachment link for the PDF below -- prints 2 per page)

It's Time To Barack The House

(Note: 2 locations for tonight's Convention Watch:
The Tank & Rudy's -- see below for details)

Michelle Obama's speech Monday night
& her personal story inspired a nation --
somehow we can't imagine Cindy McCain doing the same.

Hillary Clinton showed the force of a fighter
tenaciously battling for a better America.
Next Tuesday, Rudy 9iu11iani will tenaciously
offer us a "noun-verb-9/11."

Bill Clinton reminded us that a President
could compassionately put people first.
The GOP is putting George W Bush first...
and hoping nobody tunes in to see him.

We have the grit & guts of Joe Biden.
Romney? Crist? Rendell? Jindal?
We welcome that fight...

And tonight, it's time to Ba-rock the house.
Too bad it's past McCain's bedtime.

Come together to toast the night
that an America story steps center stage
as we all share this American Dream
at your local progressive social club.

DRINKING LIBERALLY
Find - or start - a chapter near you.
(In NYC? join our watch parties
at The Tank @ DCTV - 87 Lafayette St)

Beyond Denver: the RNC

There's no doubt about it: The Big Tent will be awesome. The folks out in Denver are pouring their souls into a remarkable hive of activity that will showcase the netroots and our partners during the Democratic Convention.

Lesser known is that there is a place for us after August 28th: The Twin Cities.

In 2004, it was the RNC week that brought bloggers, activists, protesters, performers together at The Tank. This year, a similar -- but larger -- operation will be in place in Saint Paul: a daytime work space for up to 170 bloggers hosted by The Uptake...and evening parties sponsored by the SEIU, hosted by Drinking Liberally and friends. (Details coming...stay tuned.)

I just had the chance to tour the space The Uptake is setting up -- you can see the Excel Center from the windows. You are inside the security zone. The marches will u-turn at the corner outside the building. And there will be plenty of space to create content...and I wouldn't be surprised if you could find yourself some delegates nearby.

Register now to get your spot in this center -- and stay for the evening parties (did I mention complimentary drinks)...plus the Alliance for a Better Minnesota is hosting trainings and workshops as well.

Don't forget the Twin Cities, where our progressive mark will stand out in sharper contrast. Also, these cities really can't stand the GOP. Former Saint Paul Mayor Norm Coleman didn't win a single precinct in his city when he ran for Senator. Sep 1st - 4th should be fun.

Taking OUT The System


My parents kind of get what I do. They have a sense of what blogs are and how they interact with the larger world of politics, though they don't read blogs (and definitely don't have user accounts). They have a sense, gleaned from the occasional New York Times article or conversation with one of my peers, that technology is tearing down barriers. But they probably haven't heard or used the term "gatekeeper" very often.

So Markos, thank you for writing a book for them.

Markos's new work, Taking On the System, is an exploration of how all of us have just been handed power...if we decide to grab hold. We can change media narrative by becoming our own media through blogging. We can become our own campaigns with simple cameras and free video hosting sites.

And it's not just in politics. Markos quite consciously weaves stories of other industries, most notably the music business, among his anecdotes from Senate campaigns, the anti-war movement, immigration rallies and other political efforts. In doing so, he creates an argument that doesn't just appeal to the political junkie but to anyone who wants to understand entrepreneurship, idea-generation and anti-authoritarianism in the digital era. He also does it in a well-written, fun, and at-times inspirational style that is full of examples and lessons, which are helpfully broken down into "rules."

My parents will understand the progressive movement -- and these times -- much better when they read it.

But it's not only aimed at the newcomer to these discussions. Marching through experiences from '06 -- including the Webb, Tester and Lamont campaigns -- and through other achievements of the Left -- changing the perception of Fox News -- Markos provides activists with a compelling narrative that suggests we are accomplishing things.

Sometimes in this line of work, that affirmation is important.

He also doesn't shy away from challenging us. Markos describes why Cindy Sheehan's heart-felt, authentic (and media-friendly) protest in Crawford was more effective than a half-million protestors in the streets in affecting the coverage of the anti-war effort (he criticizes the large-scale marches for being unoriginal, off-message and somewhat disorganized -- compared with the very effective, surprising and disciplined immigration marches).

He then turns on Sheehan, arguing that she lessened her impact as she veered onto other topics, changed her demeanor in the company of flashier activist groups and -- Markos argues -- allowed herself to be used...by players ranging from Hugo Chavez to Code Pink.

I instinctively stand to Sheehan's defense and thus found this section provocative. Markos wasn't out to tell me what I already believed -- he was willing to spark an argument. In the context of his "rules for radical change," he lays our a very compelling case that Sheehan did squander her capital. That's not to say that she didn't have the right to speak out on other issues as an individual; but as a symbol -- and so much of how we affect the world is through symbols -- she lost her way.

She has reason to be disappointed in Democrats, I believe...but I also came away agreeing with Markos that she's not as effectively focusing that frustration as she did her grief and anger in the summer of '05.

But this book -- and this review -- is not about Cindy Sheehan. Rather, I want to point out that Markos is at his best when he's unapologetically willing to stir up disagreement, but staking out an argument and sticking with it -- whether it's his arguments against the right-wing, his debates with other Lefties, or his battle against the "gatekeepers" throughout this book.

One of his teachings (not to make him sound too Jedi Master-esque) is to "target your enemy." If the title of his book doesn't tell you that the "System" is that enemy, then his frequent references to bypassing, influencing and "crushing" the gatekeepers make it clear who he stands against: those who would use their authority to limit participation, squelch dialogue, defund creativity and stand in the way of progress.

With the success of DailyKos, he has bypassed some gatekeepers. With the Penguin Press publication of Taking On the System, he has influenced others.

Now...let's get back to the crushing.

Markos will be speaking at the Living Liberally Convention Watch Party on Thursday, September 4th, the evening of John McCain's address -- at The Tank @ DCTV, 87 Lafayette Street, in Manhattan.

His book will also be available in September through the Progressive Book Club -- get your first 3 books for $1 each when you become a member.