Boggles the Mind

Aunt B and I decided, last minute, to attend the TAP Conference here in Nashville. This is my third, I believe, and yesterday’s conference made me more than a little sad. I think the idea of TAP (Tennessee Alliance for Progress) is a great idea, as I understand it. Progressive minded groups from across the State gather in one location to compare notes, learn techniques to help advance their particular cause, and listen to motivational speakers. Seems perfectly logical and reasonable to me. The first one I ever attended was held at what is now the Marriott Hotel. I was relatively new in town, but I was trying to raise awareness on behalf of, so I decided to organize a fund-raiser here in Nashville. I literally began by “cold-calling” and canvassing throughout the city of Nashville. I’m here to tell you, that’s hard work, and certainly not for the thin-skinned. I don’t remember how I came to meet Nell Levin, but she invited me to participate in that year’s TAP Conference.

It was at that conference that I met a number of dedicated Progressives. (Let me state, for the record, that though Paul Waldman prefers the term Progressive, I embrace the term Liberal with similar pride and enthusiasm.) Nell had seen to it that the program was tightly scripted, that is, there was an agenda and her and the other people at TAP do a good job of sticking to it. At the Marriott, the workshops were all held in the same room, but took place at separate tables. I guess it became clear to TAP that they would need a more cost efficient venue in which to hold future conferences. The Cohn Adult Learning Center has been the site for last two years. I briefly attended last year’s, and there seemed to be a decent turn-out. Yesterday, however, was pathetic. I can’t quite figure out why. Part of me thinks that we are in a post mid-term election period, and we are all a little burned out, and maybe even still savoring the victory. I completely understand that. Before long, we will all be gearing up for the Primaries, and then, of course, the 08 Presidential election. In a perfect world, every precinct chairman in Tennessee would have been present, looking for holes to patch in the Democratic election infrastructure. Needs to be identified, volunteers to excite and train, strategies discussed. I could go on and on about what I would have liked to have seen. The truth is, I would have even been pleased to see total chaos, provided that there was a large crowd on hand to be, well, chaotic. I didn’t count enough people there to fill a school bus.

I suppose it’s presumptuous of me to think that I have an answer for the low attendance. All I can say is, I think I would have done a better job of marketing the damn thing. I can’t help but feel that if we are going to expect people, (especially young people, who have the energy to carry out whatever plans the tribal elders decide to implement) to give up their time and money to attend a think tank weekend, we had better generate some excitement. Also, what did it say about a Progressive organization to hold it’s conference in a venue that had a sketchy wireless connection available, and oh, did I mention the ultimate irony? There was a workshop on Progressive blogging, held in a room full of computers that were blocked from, you guessed it, blogs.

There are still issues out there of vital importance to the average Tennessean, and the average American. It truly isn’t time for Progressives to bask in last November’s glory. It troubled me to see the same faces there that I always see at Progressive events or gatherings. Almost no new young blood. It also troubles that there are still too many of us mired in our hatred for all things Republican and particularly GWB. Ok, I get it. I was mad as hell myself for a very long time. I hope I used my anger wisely. But I have moved on, so to speak. I certainly do not want to devote time and money to sit around with angry people that love to pontificate endlessly about how bad the current administration is. I really don’t. It sucks the energy from me and I can’t wait to be out of earshot. I’m glad for Organizations like Media Matters, and Truthout and many others, they have the talent and resources to help keep a one- sided administration honest And we need that. I know a dozen or so bloggers on both sides of the political spectrum that do a good job of this. I don’t read the ones that only parrot the Party line, or that merely cite sources from within a VERY small selection of like-minded organizations (see Terry Frank) . And I have no patience for those that want to flagellate me endlessly with their poorly formed opinions on politics because they have alienated everyone else in their life and they just desperately want to talk to SOMEONE.

I was glad to have Aunt B there, mainly so that she could listen intently and I could play Boggle on my laptop. I knew she could sum it all up better than me anyway. I wonder if I have to turn in my membership card now….



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11 responses to “Boggles the Mind

  1. Honestly, the $25 fee precluded me from actually going, especially when I would have to have gone a little late (childcare issue). That fee is kind of high for what they were offering. Perhaps a college student discount would also be a good idea…get the young’uns in the door.

    Plus, not knowing how big the even was, I was a little intimidated that I might get there, end up by myself, and feel really uncomfortable.

    Otherwise, I would have loved to have heard what they had to say…considering I am a right winger s-l-o-w-l-y making her way toward the left.

  2. how big the even was
    event, I meant event (no comment preview…grrr)

  3. Yeah really, I don’t know very many fellow students that can just dish out 25 bucks.

  4. I don’t know how much the cost affects it, more just the length of these conferences which turns off (especially young) people. Publicity is key, but also, getting a high-profile politician or media personality also goes a long way in attracting a crowd.

    At the Democracy for Tennessee Convention last week, there were some young people, but in general, most of those attending were in their 40s or 50s.

    I happen to be of the opinion that if conventions like this offered alcohol, attendance would be WAYYY up.

  5. At the Media Reform Conference, I found that most of the folks there were about my age, which is 41.
    The volunteers, however, were of college age.
    No point here, just sharing.
    If I lived in Metro, I would have come if that’ s any consolation.

  6. My friends were disappointed and confused by the website.

    I do think that how young people organize and older folks organize is different and yeah, maybe making some effort to reach out to the kids where they’re at might make a difference.

  7. nm

    The money can be an issue for us (ahem) older folks, too. Especially when we have reached the point in the election cycle when parties/candidates are hitting on us for campaign contributions, too. Where do you (I mean ‘where does one’) put your money? There are a lot of choices to make.

  8. For the record, TAP advertised openly and often that scholarships were available to attend the Compass Conference. We gave out a number of scholarships. If we failed to reach young people it was because we operate on a very small budget, with one staff person, namely me. The amount of time and effort putting on this Conference takes is overwhelming. We had a core group of volunteers who busted their humps making the Conference a success, (and despite Mr. Mack’s post to the contrary, TAP considers the Compass Conference a success.) Speaking of personal responsiblity, Mr. Mack, did you publicize the TAP conference on this blog to help us with turnout? What we were offering for $25 was two national speakers that TAP went to considerable expense to bring in, 12 workshops, two films, music by Robert Ellis Orral and an excellent progressive bookshop. To my mind, $25 was a deal. Also, I would hope that people in the progressive/liberal community would want to come out to support a gathering that offers an opportunity to network and build a movement for change in Tennessee. What’s a liberal firing squad? It’s a circle. How about we point our figurative guns at our real common enemy instead of wasting our time our dissing those who are our allies? To quote our keynote speaker Paul Waldman: We’re All In This Together. Please ask yourselves, what can you do to help build a movement for change in Tennessee? We are all we’ve got. Change is not going to come from the top down. It is not going to come from the politicians. It is not going to come from anywhere else except you and me. I see a shift in consciousness welling up in America and am energized by it. We are in an historical moment that we can seize. It’s up to us.

  9. Nell, I personally had no problem with the cost of the event, and I am well aware of how hard you worked, this year and in years past. I was impressed with the number of workshops and the proposed content, what I was lambasting was the attendance, and, frankly, the marketing.

    That said, if we don’t have the will to expose weaknesses within the Progressive movement, nothing will ever get fixed. The turn-out is evidence that at least parts of it need attention.

    Lastly, we may do well to stop thinking in terms of enemy/ally when advancing our agenda. Like Mr. Waldman said, most of America is already in our corner, we just have to coax them into believing it. (paraphrasing) Part of that process is not alienating those that may hold an alternative viewpoint.

    I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your concerns.

  10. Mr. Levin,
    I think your work is not being questioned here. I didn’t take notice of the scholarships when I visited your website.
    But you know, the only way we get to a higher plane is when we aren’t slapping each other on the back.
    It’s when we process what happened, how we got there and what we are going to do next.
    I will proudly come to your next conference.
    However, I don’t think Mr. Mack was slamming YOU. I think he was processing how to make the next conference better.
    And I like that.
    And, with that said, I like what you’re doing as well.
    We are all in this together.
    newscoma at gmail dot com

  11. Pingback: Already? Compass V? « The Coyote Chronicles

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