I’m at the Right Online conference in Minneapolis, right in my backyard, working with Americans for Prosperity to encourage and advise conservatives that want to become politically active. Needless to say, Barack Obama is not one of the most popular politicians among attendees, but as ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports, conservatives are hardly alone. The progressive Netroots Nation conference is also taking place here in Minneapolis, and if anything, they may be more vocal in their unhappiness with the President:
The frustrations and the fears that progressives feel about President Obama were on full display Thursday as thousands of them flocked to Minneapolis for the sixth annual Netroots Nation conference.
Former Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold said he hoped that Obama will be re-elected, but he urged the president to stand up to corporate interests, demanding that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling become a focal point of the 2012 campaign.
“Sometimes we have to be very direct with the Democratic Party. Just as you have long pushed our Democrats to stand up for their ideals, I’m here this evening to ask you to redouble your efforts because I fear that the Democratic Party is in danger of losing its identity,” Feingold said in his keynote address to a crowd of around 2,400 progressive activists and bloggers here at the Minneapolis Convention Center, the most ever for the event.
Wow! Will there be a hug-in between conservatives and progressives on Nicollet Mall? Stay tuned!
No, there won’t be a harmonic convergence between the two conferences, but it’s remarkable how similar the tone had become on the Right and Left. Neither side is happy with the establishment in their parties, and the energy on both sides is with grassroots attempting end runs around them. Right now it’s the Left’s turn to be disillusioned, with their supposedly transcendent candidate being exposed as a clay-feet radical progressive once in power, but the Tea Party will easily recognize the symptoms from their own experiences.
For Obama, this presents a big problem in his re-election effort. The people at Netroots Nation were the enthusiasm behind his rise in the primary in the 2007-8 cycle. They broke away from Hillary Clinton and the party establishment she represented in favor of Obama’s effortless populism and outsider status. Although conservatives can hardly imagine a more radical progressive holding the White House, his former enthusiastic backers have definitely fallen out of love with Obama.
That doesn’t mean that they will split from Obama and suddenly become Republicans. But a significant loss of enthusiasm in the grassroots will mean fewer dollars, less volunteerism, and a more difficult campaign for re-election. Even more importantly, both parties are now on notice that the engine of activism that they may have taken for granted will no longer blindly follow them while being ignored. That’s a consensus everyone can appreciate.