The nation’s capital descended into inauguration madness today. Masked protesters smashing store windows. A former America’s Got Talent competitor crooning “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Our new president promising a skittish country that “I will never, ever let you down.”
Quite a ways down the coast, at Miami’s Turnberry Isle Resort, politicians and progressive donors are presently gathered for an event of their own: a conference, led by liberal operative David Brock, dedicated to resistance. Titled “Democracy Matters 17,” the three-day affair includes an array of panels and presentations from names like former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and EMILY’S List President (and Butte native) Stephanie Schriock. Also on the agenda is a Saturday luncheon with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and—here it comes—Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.
The conference has attracted increasing media attention since BuzzFeed first broke the news on Jan. 13 of Brock’s efforts to create a Koch-brothers-like leftist donor network capable of fighting back against Donald Trump. Bullock’s scheduled appearance, of course, raises a few more questions for those of us back home. The Democracy Matters 17 agenda describes the Bullock-Holder luncheon as an opportunity to discuss “how Democrats can build momentum from the ground up, starting in the states, to advance progressive policy and defend voting rights,” and to examine “legislative opportunities in governors races in 2018 and how we can impact the big prize of redistricting in 2020.” So, yeah, fairly vague stuff there.
The Indy reached out to Bullock’s office for a little more insight. A spokesperson told us via email that the governor is “interested in being a part of the conversation about the future of the country and the future of the Democratic Party.” Apparently Bullock doesn’t have any prepared remarks or presentation material available, but his office added that he will be discussing his experience as Montana’s top executive, “including his ability to work with a Republican-majority legislature to advance an agenda that includes Medicaid expansion, campaign finance reform, equal pay for equal work, and expanding public education. He will also be discussing his successful re-election bid as a Democrat in a state that voted for President Donald J. Trump by a margin of 21 points.”
According to a copy of Brock’s opening remarks for the conference, Democracy Matters 17 is geared toward discussing what worked (and, more important, what didn’t) in the 2016 election, and how Democrats can build a bigger, sleeker machine to leverage Republican weaknesses in 2018 and 2020. Brock’s speech jabbed at the Clinton campaign for failing to use information he insists could have taken Trump down, while also acknowledging that Trump “threw out the political rulebook” last year. “Democrats showed up for a boxing match, and Trump was wrestling the whole time.”
As folks in Washington, D.C., continue to celebrate or protest, Brock is using his conference to send a clear message: “We’re already at work resisting Donald Trump at every turn and protecting and defending our shared values and the Obama legacy,” he wrote in his remarks. “We certainly don’t have all the answers, but hopefully you’ll view this conference as a constructive, thoughtful, and politically savvy starting point.”