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PowerPlayer: Netroots Nation Organizer Mary Rickles

Monday, June 04, 2012


This week’s PowerPlayer is Mary Rickles, communications director for Netroots Nation. The annual convention for progressives begins in Providence this week and Mary was kind enough to chat about the event and the outlook for liberals in 2012.

1) Netroots Nation takes place at the end of week. Tell us why it's important for progressives to have this annual event.

The trainings. The networking. The annual karaoke party!

In all seriousness, most of our attendees do their work primarily online. This convention brings organizers out of their communities into a larger space to strategize about making change happen nationally. It's probably the only time of the year that this broad of a group -- tech geeks, community activists, college organizers, union members, campaign staffers -- comes together in person.

Someone once told me they come to Netroots Nation for the oxygen. I think that's a pretty good way to sum up the recharged, refreshed feeling you get at this event. It's just inspiring to walk through the halls and know that there are ideas being born, collaborations being made and lessons being shared.

2) 2008 has come and gone and a lot of people are not as excited about the Obama reelection bid as they were with his first campaign. How can you energize the base?

Honestly, I'm not sure we'll ever see that same level of excitement about a campaign. 2008 was a unique moment in time that might never be replicated.

That said, I think progressives are still largely fired up. It's just that many of them realize that it's not just about the presidency, or even Congress. They're fired up about key state and local races and working hard to make sure that some of these damaging right-wing ballot initiatives don't pass. They're excited about strong progressive candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin. And even the most disappointed progressives would probably still say that an Obama second term is a better alternative than President Romney.

3) Take us through a day in your life.

We're a small team and all wear a lot of hats, so my days can be pretty different. They always start with coffee and time reading the blogs and catching up on email. And because I'm on the West coast, they often start with a 6:30 or 7 a.m. phone call from someone on the East coast who forgets that I live in California.

I travel a lot, too. When I'm on the road, I'm usually running from meeting to meeting. When I'm at home, my days consist of conference calls and lots of email sending. My job is pretty broad, so in a typical day I might talk to a reporter, deploy an email to our list, write a blog post or design some collateral. I do try to block out at least an hour a day where I can work on high-level strategic stuff uninterrupted.

When we're not in crazy planning mode, I try (and mostly succeed) to log off at a decent hour and hit the beach, take in some live music, go to a Giants game or visit with friends.

4) There are a lot of progressives who are disappointed with Democrats throughout the country. How should progressives go about maintaining their integrity while attempting to bring back a majority in the House?

Don't forget your core values. The reality of politics is that some level of compromise is almost always required to get anything passed. But compromises -- hopefully small ones -- would be easier to stomach if more of our leaders held fast to our core progressive values and the idea that in this country, every person deserves a good job with fair wages and equal opportunity.

5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I'm kind of an open book, so my friends would probably say there's not a whole lot that would fall into that category. But people who know me through work are often surprised when they find out that I sing in a band. I've been singing since about the time I started talking, so music is a huge part of my life. I go to tons of live shows and try to sing at least once a week, even if it's just at an open mic night in my neighborhood.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: My mom. She's empathetic, compassionate and just all-around amazing.

Favorite Restaurant: Burma Superstar in San Francisco

Best Beach: I'm originally from Alabama, so I love the Gulf Coast.

Best Book You've Read in the Last Year: The Hunger Games

Advice for the Next Mary Rickles: You can do anything that you set your mind to, especially if you've got a good playlist to inspire you.


Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected].


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