At the annual Netroots Nation conference, liberals reflected on where Democrats came up short.
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(The word also made its way into a slogan for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which is fighting back against what it says is misinformation about the burden public sector union employees are placing on states. The campaign is aptly titled: “STOP the Bulls**t!”)
Schultz’s critique of the Democrats extended all the way up to Obama himself.
“They must have a war room at the White House,” he mused. “I think they’ve got a sissy room, too.”
His gripe of the moment was that the Obama administration had ousted Shirley Sherrod, panicking after Andrew Breitbart had posted an edited video of her speaking that portrayed her as a racist. But a broader gripe was that President Obama didn’t give interviews to MSNBC in general and him in particular.
“I busted my ass for Obama,” he sadly recounted, like a jilted lover. “President Obama, he don’t come to Ed. He comes to Bret Baier on Fox News — in my time slot.”
He went on to proudly boast, “I thought our network did a hellavu job fighting for health care.”
Schultz challenged bloggers in the audience to hold Democrats and the White House accountable for their failures in advancing the progressive agenda, and urged them to use him as their inspiration.
“I have one message to all of you in the blogosphere: If I’ve got the balls to say it, you better have the balls to write it,” he goaded.
TO THE NETROOTS, weak-kneed Democrats have been standing in the way of the real change for which they campaigned. Gays still aren’t allowed to openly serve in the military. Gitmo hasn’t been closed. The U.S. is engaged in two wars, with an even larger commitment in one of them. There hasn’t been comprehensive immigration reform. Cap and trade died in the Senate. They didn’t get a public option into the health care law, and a single-payer, or fully government-run system, wasn’t even on the table. Though Obama signed stimulus legislation, it’s seen by liberals as insufficient to meet the magnitude of the economic downturn, and they’re disgusted by the renewed focus on deficits.
“Don’t accept the argument, any argument, about some financial limitations,” Van Jones, the former White House “green jobs czar,” advised the activists in a speech for which he received a standing ovation. “The limitation is not in our pocket book. The limitation is in our hearts. And our hearts can grow. And your job is to grow our hearts…. Don’t fall into the trap of this whole deficit argument. There is plenty of money out there. The only question: is how are we going to spend it?”
Jones was forced to resign from the administration last September following a series of revelations about his radical past, including the fact that he signed a petition calling for an investigation into whether the Bush administration knew about the September 11 attacks and deliberately allowed them to happen. (Jones has insisted that the group organizing the petition added his name without proper consent, and it has since been removed from the petition.)
In his speech, Jones said that following his resignation, he “spent about six months throwing myself the biggest, longest pity party you could ever imagine.” He tied his struggle to the larger struggle facing the progressive movement and the country as a whole.
“These are the days of hope and heartache, all across the country,” he said. Yet he ultimately urged liberals to cut Obama some slack.
WHEN TAKING A BREAK, attendees could roam through the exhibition hall, filled with booths of various liberal activist groups, Democratic candidates courting progressives, and some business ventures. One booth sold vegan-friendly soap, bath and body products, as well as a collection of Republican voodoo dolls. When I swung by, Sarah Palin’s mouth was the most popular target for pins.
Most of the conference was devoted to smaller panel discussions about blogging, online activism, and policy, with blasting air conditioning shielding the environmentally conscious attendees from the 111-degree Vegas heat. Upon registering, attendees were given a grid with a schedule of dozens of options, with topics including: “Tweeting the Revolution,” “Overcoming Organizational Resistance to Change,” and “California’s Challenge: From ‘Failifornia’ To Progressive Laboratory.” While many people would look at the crisis in the Golden State as a textbook example of what happens when high taxes, excessive regulation, a generous welfare state, and powerful public sector unions run amok, this panel sought to argue that this was actually the perfect time for the state to experiment with liberal policies.
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