WASHINGTON – Netroots Nation began with an explosion. Russ Feingold didn’t mince words: “I fear that the Democratic Party is in danger of losing its identity.” Lt. Dan Choi was even more blunt, including with attendees who believe that marriage equality isn’t important. When Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director, showed up he got an earful.
The message to those in the room for “What to Do When the President is Just Not that Into You,” a Netroots Nation panel, was be more demanding, don’t take no for an answer and compromises aren’t good enough.
Lt. Dan Choi, who was discharged from the military for running afoul of its anti-gay Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, provided a visual when an Organizing for America volunteer stood up and asked him to support Obama in 2012. The man said he did not support gay marriage — “civil unions?” he offered weakly — and Choi promptly ripped up an Organizing for America flyer he had been given and threw it back in the man’s face.
Russ Feingold’s keynote address (see video) set the tone for the conference, where progressives are thinking about 2012 and also remembering how they felt in 2008 about candidate Obama. Currently, team Obama is struggling to rev up enthusiasm from progressives, though rank and file Democrats remain strongly supportive.
However, presidential elections are won electorally and the margins from state-to-state continue to hard fought, so Pres. Obama will need his base to win.
There’s no soft peddling it. In the most committed wins contest of presidential electoral politics, the excitement quotient in the activist community for Pres. Obama reelection is down and that’s partly because Barack Obama seems to be running for a second term for the sake of it.
That could all change once the Republicans have a candidate. Nothing gets your attention more than seeing the alternative play through your head. But having something to root for is just as important and Pres. Obama is going to have to remake that case with progressives for 2012. It’s simply not a given they’ll GOTV for him this time around for many reasons, starting with the fact that he’s adopted Bush era policies on civil liberties, DADT discharge policy, marriage equality, economic policy, but particularly Afghanistan, as well as Libya… Yemen. That’s just the short list of discontent from his base.
Taylor Marsh is a Washington based political analyst, writer and commentator on national politics, foreign policy, and women in power. A veteran national politics writer, Taylor’s been writing on the web since 1996. She has reported from the White House, been profiled in the Washington Post, The New Republic, and has been seen on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic, as well as on radio across the dial and on satellite, including the BBC. Marsh lives in the Washington, D.C. area. This column is cross posted from her blog.
Screen capture from Huffington Post.