Netroots Nation: progressive activists look ahead to 2020 at annual event

The 13 th collecting has taken on a new significance as ambitious Democrats attempt to court progressives

Netroots, the largest annual meet of progressives in their respective countries, get underway in New Orleans on Thursday, with delegates appearing both near and far across a stormy political horizon.

The 13 th meeting has taken on a new significance since the 2016 election as the Democratic party lookings to harness the energy of a leftwing insurgency and turn it into a” blue wave” in November.

But many here are already looking past the congressional midterms toward the next presidential election.

” Welcome to the swamp ,” environmental activist Colette Pichon Battle said, welcoming the audience to her native Louisiana which at present was both very hot and very humid.

Over the next few days, progressives will be wooed and courted by ambitious Democrats who are attaining the pilgrimage to the Big Easy with an eye toward 2020. Among the featured keynote appearances are Senators Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, all of who are sees as part of an advance guard of Democrats positioning themselves to challenge Donald Trump.

Other maybe contenders in attendance include Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist leading the charge to impeach Trump ;, Washington governor John Inslee, who is the chair of the Democratic Governors Association ;, and Julian Castro, the former San Antonio mayor and housing and urban development secretary who has said he’s” interested” in a run.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the young progressive who toppled the fourth ranking Democrat in the US House in a New York primary, is also slated to speak. Since winning her New York primary in June, Ocasio-Cortez has traveled the country to raise the profile of other nominees operating on a similarly daring message on issues of healthcare and immigration.

Notably absent, though, is the progressive lion himself.

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, the progressive whose campaign resurrected the progressive movement and whose legion of supporters eagerly hopes will was participating in 2020 is ceding the stage to his younger senate colleagues.

Netroots constructed its debut in Las Vegas in 2006, as a space for bloggers and internet-savvy Democrats who opposed the Iraq war to gather in person and strategize ahead of the upcoming midterm elections. That year Democrats swept to power, winning majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as a majority of governorships and country parliaments all over the country.

There’s a similarly emboldened feeling among the participants gathered in New Orleans as the momentum of the party moves sharply left. On the opening night, speakers mocked the” mythical middle” while the crowd cheered the rise of racial and gender diversity of the panels and presenters.

” What you insure up here is not just the future of the Democratic party but the future of the country ,” said Arshad Hasan, the Netroots Nation board chair.

In recent years, racial tension have flared at the conference. At the 2017 meeting in Atlanta, protesters chanted:” Trust black women !” while Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Evans delivered her speech. Evans, who is white, lost the Democratic primary to Stacey Abraham, who is black.

But the most memorable interruption came during the 2016 presidential campaign when Black Lives Matter activists hollered down Sanders and Martin O’Malley, who were both vying for the Democratic nomination. Sanders, visibly annoyed and unable to speak above their chanting, told the protesters, who were black:” If you don’t want me to be here, that’s OK .”

Organizers said on Thursday that they’re working to elevate people of color, who have long argued that that the progressive movement must do a better job of addressing racial inequality.

Among the speakers on Thursday were Chokwe Lumumba, the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, who perhaps drew the loudest applause of the night when he said:” As a black human, I long for the day when I have as many rights in this nation as a handgun does .”

Not every notion received a warm welcome. In a room full of people who wanted nothing more than to see Trump removed from office, Steyer’s impeachment pitch landed cold.” What’s your plan ?” someone hollered, as Steyer railed against the party establishment for not endorsing effort.

” Do you need to wait for Robert Mueller to tell you Trump is wildly corrupt ?” he asked to titters and a few scattered “No” s.

Over the next several days, participants can attend panels such as” disaster capitalism”, a dialogue on rebuilding communities after environmental disasters, and” kindling the lighted in litmus test”, about ensuring progressives prioritize reproductive rights. Morning yoga and” midday mindfulness” offer a restful repreive from the back-to-back conferences while a leftwing slapstick display promises to have the crowd” laughter liberally “.

With a handful of major midterm successes and a 2020 field that could come down to progressive bonafides, the crowd here has much to look forward to. If there was ever a moment for progressives to” laissez les bon temps rouler” that moment is now.

Republicans are promoting the senators’ attendance at Netroots as a sign of how far left the Democratic party has moved. In a statement, the Republican National Committee called Netroots a” formerly fringe far-left progressive motion conference that has become a’ key force-out’ in moving the Democratic party further left “.

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