The Professional Left is ready to play nice.
This June, progressive activists will gather once again for their annual convention, Netroots Nation. Born from the DailyKos community, the conference is a premier event on the liberal calendar, and a good way to take the temperature of the progressive community. And this year, it’s feeling pretty darn good, Netroots organizers said Monday. President Obama is no longer persona non grata, and the left is ready to build on what it sees as a very successful past 12 months.
Last year, the left was angry. At their conference in Minneapolis last year, the anger of thousands of progressives who were spitting mad at President Obama was palpable. They dragged White House Communications Director Dan Pfieffer on stage for a well-attended drubbing that included boos.
This was a Netroots still smarting from then-Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ “professional left” crack, which left progressives feeling (at best) unloved by the Obama White House. They returned that sentiment in spades to Team Obama in 2011. At a panel called “What To Do When The President Is Just Not That Into You,” LGBT activist Dan Choi actually ripped up an Obama flyer on camera and chastised the Obama volunteer who dared present it to him.
There is no such panel evident on the Netroots schedule for 2012. At this year’s conference in Providence, R.I., the bitterness will be tempered, organizers say.
“People are definitely in more of an electoral mode,” said Raven Brooks, executive director of Netroots. “When you’re in not a presidential year like that, I think there’s room to have debate about what we’re doing policy-wise, but especially with that’s happened with the GOP Congress and what’s happened everywhere else, I think people are generally on board.”
Even in the darkest moments of the progressive split with Obama exemplified at Netroots 2011 — when the overarching fear was that Obama would kowtow to the new GOP Congress with compromise after dreaded compromise — the official straw poll of attendees found Obama with 80 percent support. Faced with a real opponent against Obama this fall, the Netroots team says the progressives will do their part.
“People’s level of excitement for the presidential [election] may not be the same degree of hotness but people are fired up about 2012,” said Mary Rickles, communications director for Netroots. “I think people know also that even if Obama hasn’t given them everything they want, we don’t want President Romney.”
Despite last year’s Pfieffer episode, Netroots organizers said they’re in talks with the White House to get someone from the administration to appear at the Providence conference.
“We don’t know what that will look like yet,” Rickles said. “I think it’s fair to say that we expect someone will be there because they come every year.”
Whomever attends from the White House will face a much warmer reception, the organizers said.
This not to say the progressives are lying down. Indeed, Brooks and Rickles pointed to a string of progressive victories over the past year from the Obama administration decision — including cancelation of the Keystone XL pipeline, increased recognition for LGBT families in federal benefits and the successful pressure campaign on ALEC — as examples of how the left has broken through in the past year. The next Netroots will be focused on building on those victories as well as expanding the Netroots base to include activists focused on areas like criminal justice by tapping into the outrage over the Trayvon Martin shooting.
“With progressives there will always be frustrations, that’s the nature of the beast,” Rickles said. “But there are a lot of things to look at as wins and as things done right.”