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Khalid writes: "Progressive activists feel like this is their moment."

Netroots Nation is the largest progressive convention of the year. (photo: BlueJersey)
Netroots Nation is the largest progressive convention of the year. (photo: BlueJersey)


Progressive Activists Gather, Hoping to Seize Their Moment in 2020 Campaign

By Asma Khalid, NPR

12 July 19

 

rogressive activists feel like this is their moment.

Their values are no longer seen as fringe ideas in the Democratic Party. Multiple presidential candidates are talking about "Medicare-for-all," reparations for slavery and bold action on climate change. And their ideas are driving the action on debate stages.

Now, as they gather in Philadelphia for the largest progressive convention of the year, Netroots Nation, they feel empowered as if this is their time to take over the party, push traditional Democrats aside and hold candidates accountable.

"We are not going to allow establishment Democrats who are thinking that we're still in 1980 ... to do anything but strongly go forward with a bold plan," said Aimee Allison, the president and founder of She the People, a network focused on elevating the political power of women of color.

Allison, like other activists at Netroots this weekend, sees the conference as a chance to energize progressive forces and prepare for battle within their own party.

"We are sick and tired of waiting for change," said Yvette Simpson, the CEO of Democracy for America, a progressive PAC founded in 2004. "Change has to happen now."

Democracy for America has not yet endorsed a presidential candidate but intends to do so before the primaries begin. There's excitement, activists say, around the sheer number of progressive candidates, compared with moderates.

But these activists don't agree on who they want to win. They're in agreement that former Vice President Joe Biden is too moderate. Many point to the momentum that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is gaining in both polling and fundraising. They say they're energized by her grassroots campaign and her emphasis on policy plans.

Other activists point to California Sen. Kamala Harris, with her strong debate performance and the very identity she represents as a black woman, as an exciting opportunity for change.

And others are still loyal to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. They say he has been an ideological trailblazer who has fundamentally shifted the Democratic Party's agenda since his 2016 run.

"There was a time when you didn't have many options," said Simpson. "This is a great time for the progressive movement." Activists say they feel that they'll have a chance to vote out of optimism, rather than fear or electability, this cycle.

But among the five candidates polling the highest at this moment, Warren is the only one attending the presidential forum at Netroots this Saturday, raising questions about the power of progressives at the very moment they think they have the ability to control the party's direction.

Some activists question why any candidate would bypass the forum, since it's a chance to tap into the most vocal and energized subset of the progressive movement. They say this gives Warren an unfettered chance to further consolidate her support in front of what's expected to be a friendly crowd for her message. The Massachusetts senator has been a frequent speaker at previous Netroots conventions.

Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the progressive website Daily Kos, has been openly critical of Sanders and said this is a strange opportunity for the candidate to skip, given the pressure he's facing as Harris and Warren have risen in the field.

Sanders made ideas like "Medicare-for-all" mainstream in the party, but this cycle, many other candidates are calling for similar changes. Moulitsas said that's a key challenge for Sanders in a progressive movement that is eager to see women and people of color in leadership.

"Bernie — he's polarizing. ... He is unable to speak in a way that draws in the more diverse elements of the Democratic Party ... and so given that there are other options, I think it's tough for him," said Moulitsas.

And that priority is becoming more apparent on the left. Progressives have long called for ideas such as accessible health care and affordable college, which remain top goals for them. But increasingly, racial and social justice is also a part of the equation.

"It's not just enough to talk about economics without looking at the economics for a woman of color," said Natalia Salgado, a political strategist with the Center for Popular Democracy Action.

That's an evolution within the movement in the past few years as a number of minorities have taken leadership positions in progressive organizations.

And it has also led to a shift in what progressives are looking for in a candidate this cycle.

"The progressive movement is looking for candidates who are embracing racial, economic and gender justice," said Allison. "And any candidate who seems hesitant or unable to ... looks like they're on a downward trajectory," said Allison.

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+7 # librarian1984 2019-07-12 20:02
Part of the problem for Democrats is this freaking word salad. The Clintons weren't the first to use word games to advantage, but they were some of the best, co-opting language and confusticating issues like PC-ness with justice. The GOP use fear to round up the herd, using it to demonize government, socialism and the Other; the liberals manipulate with outrage, and pretend to be 'progressive', both parties moving relentlessly right, then acting as if a baby step left will turn us all communist, all because we have the audacity to suggest billionaires who've been sucking us dry for decades should give a tiny bit back.

Kos is not 'progressive'. Sanders is, though they pretend he's a radical.

If a 1950s Democrat emerged from suspended animation today, they'd be less shocked by advances in technology (depicted each week in comic books and tv) than by endless war, low wages and our loss of civil rights -- without a whimper.

Some of the 20+ Dem candidates might have a place in the new administration; others will content themselves with lucrative civilian gigs. Only one is capable of being a benign and effective president, and he's from VT.

Democrats need to unite ... behind Sanders. Buttigieg can be Education Sec, Warren Treasury, Gabbard State or Defense, Inslee on climate, Castro on immigration, Beto a Texas Ranger, Booker a judge on America's Got Talent. Harris can be Queen of the Hamptons.

If we can't unite, at least be fair.
 
 
-1 # candida 2019-07-13 16:22
Quoting librarian1984:
Democrats need to unite ... behind Sanders. Buttigieg can be Education Sec, Warren Treasury, Gabbard State or Defense, Inslee on climate, Castro on immigration, Beto a Texas Ranger, Booker a judge on America's Got Talent. Harris can be Queen of the Hamptons.

If we can't unite, at least be fair.


The not-so-subtle racism of your comments do your candidate no favor. Serious positions, white people only apply. Box POCs into racist and tokenistic stereotypes. Let's unite...as long as it's behing MY candidate. Please read your last line and take it seriously.
 
 
0 # librarian1984 2019-07-14 14:25
A VERY typical neoliberal response, weaponizing political correctness and making nonsensical accusations to marginalize progressives.

We saw your MO in the 2016 campaign and you, like JCM, don't seem to have learned a thing.
 
 
0 # The Eternal Optimist 2019-07-13 09:31
All these points are important; they're things that we need to deal with. But missing from the above discussion is the most important thing; climate change, which (according to the U.N.) we have only about a dozen years left to deal with before it may actually make life as we know it on this planet impossible.

Why isn't this issue (and the next most important one; nukes) front and center, 24/7?

We don't need a "leftward shift"; we need to slam on the brakes, throw it into reverse, and floor it, if we're to avoid going over a Very Big Cliff.
 

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