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Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Remarks at Netroots Nation as Prepared for Delivery

Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz delivered the following remarks at the annual Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis, MN:

Hello!  It’s great to be at Netroots Nation with all of you!

This is my first trip here and I’m very excited about it.

A couple of months ago, I was privileged to get a call from the President of the United States.  He was calling to ask me to serve as the Chair of the DNC. 

When the President calls and asks you to do something, the answer is “Yes!”  But, more importantly, as a “gimme the ball” kind of person, I was thrilled that the coach put me in! 

In 2008, President Obama ran a campaign powered by people at the grassroots level.  You know that, because you were an essential part of his grassroots team!   As the name of this conference implies, the netroots brought our nation together for President Obama.

Grassroots and now netroots campaigning has always been important to me as well – after all, you’re looking at someone who won her first campaign in the face of opposition from the good ol’ boys network by knocking on 25,000 doors in Florida’s summer heat! 

When I think back on that race, I imagine how many more people I could have reached out to if I had access to the kinds of social media tools that are now available – and I am enormously pleased to see those tools being used by so many Democratic candidates today!

There are progressive office holders across the U.S. – including in the White House – that would not be in office if it weren’t for the tools that you developed, expanded, and brought to the masses.  They are there because of you!

Progressives have been better able than conservatives to take advantage of social media to win elections and win progress – and that is entirely to your credit!  But conservatives are catching up, and we need to be ever-vigilant.  Progressives can’t take our advantage in the area of social media for granted.

So one of our top priorities for the next year is ramping up our online engagement and making sure netroots activists have a voice in the direction of the Democratic Party and the President’s reelection campaign. 

We know the most productive way to reach potential voters is through one-on-one personal contact. There is no substitute for grassroots organizing on the ground and netroots organizing online. That’s why we plan on running a field-based campaign that is fueled by the ideas and talents of the activists who are involved – I’m talking about all of you!

We’re putting technology to use to help our activists be even more effective.  But you are all data-driven folks, so I don’t want you to have to take my word for it.  I want to give you some real, concrete examples.

Over the past few years, we have maintained a strong Democratic organization with staff in all 50 states.  That gives us a distinct organizing advantage, because we’re not starting from scratch. 

Our staff and volunteers are ingrained in their communities – when they pick up the phone, knock on a door, or organize a local group online for President Obama, they do so as a friend and neighbor. 

But they also have another advantage – we’ve equipped our organizers and activists with tools like an app that enables them to use maps on their smart phones to go door to door in their community, and empowers them to enter data in real time so that we can follow up with undecided or unregistered voters right away.

In addition to utilizing technology to sharpen our ground game we’ve also put an incredibly high priority on reaching out to voters through new media and new techniques, and we plan on building on that work in the next year.

We understand most people get their information through highly personalized media.  So we’ve continued to grow our presence on blogs and social media. We’ve created iPhone and iPad apps to provide volunteers with information at their fingertips. 

We are using new technology for online organizing meetings that are almost exactly like actual house meetings: attendees can see each other by video conference, participate in polls to make decisions as a group, and even move into small-group break-out sessions and report back on their conclusions. The effect of this new technology is to provide online supporters with a volunteer experience that feels like the volunteer experience they'd have in an offline field office — an unprecedented and powerful tool to have as we enter a new election cycle.

And we continue to look for new and innovative ways to reach out to voters and activists.

We’re making sure we leave no stone unturned.  Already, we are holding volunteer trainings across America and reaching out to voters from across the political spectrum. We want the Democratic Party and the President’s re-election campaign to continue to be inclusive of all Americans and to embrace the voice of the grassroots and netroots, the voice of the people.  Because we know that your support is absolutely essential to the President’s success.

Just recently we had a chance to see our party infrastructure at work – and the results were extremely positive.  In a special election in New York’s conservative 26th district, we were able to elect Democrat Kathy Hochul.

This was instructive for two reasons:

First, this election showed once again that our grassroots activists are prepared and willing to put in the kind of time and effort that makes a difference in close elections. 

Bloggers and online activists played a huge role in making the upset in the New York’s 26th Congressional District possible by keeping that race in the national eye; raising the money Kathy Hochul needed; and keeping her Republican opponent on the defensive.   In addition, in the days leading up to the vote, our volunteers made tens of thousands of phone calls and thousands of in-person voter contacts.  We expect that same level of effort and enthusiasm in 2012.

Second, we learned that voters aren’t buying what Republicans are selling.

Kathy Hochul’s Republican opponent, and the people who spent a small fortune on her behalf in a solidly Republican district, found out the hard way that their extreme plans to end Medicare and slash Medicaid and investments in health care, education, innovation and job creation are just plain unpopular.

Still, Republicans continue to tout the same failed policies.  They’re saying cutting taxes for the wealthy and allowing business to self-regulate again is a silver bullet for the economy, that we should just trust them. But we know better than that. We saw what happened under President Bush.

Republicans’ policies were bad for America then and they’re bad for America now.

Republicans want to repeal financial reform – setting Americans up for another financial crisis in the future.

And Republicans want to do away with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – taking us back to the days when Americans could be buried by the fine print on their mortgage or credit card agreement.

But Republicans aren’t just bad on the economy – they’re trying to take away some of our most fundamental rights.

We’ve seen Republican Governors strip away the rights of public employees to collectively bargain in Wisconsin and Ohio.

We’ve seen Republicans in Congress take steps to try and drastically curtail women’s reproductive rights.

We’ve seen Republican Governors in states like Florida and Wisconsin enacting voting laws that restrict voters’ rights to cast their ballots.  In more than 35 states across America, Republicans have pushed for photo ID laws that cost states millions and hurt minorities, the elderly, and young voters.

The Democratic Party will fight these laws and we are continuing to work to expand the electorate.  But we’re going to need your help!

There are big issues facing the country right now. We need long term solutions for our debt and deficits; we need to invest in education and infrastructure; and we need to get our country on track with sustainable energy solutions.

We’ve got a lot of work to do and I know all of you have good ideas. Democrats are the party of big ideas and new technology and we want your input.

Republicans want to take us backwards. They think cutting taxes and deregulation solves all of our problems. It doesn’t matter what the issue is, their solution is cut taxes and deregulate. That might make for a good sound bite, but it’s not good for real people.

So we’re going to hold them accountable for their wrong-headed ideas!  We’re going to hold them accountable every day from now until Election Day!  We’re going to reelect President Obama, retake the House, and hold onto the Senate!

You are critical to our efforts!  I will see you on the trail, and online, and on to victory in 2012!

Thank you for having me here today and for working with us as we move forward.