At the annual Netroots Nation conference, liberals reflected on where Democrats came up short.
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Another panel titled, “Can Unconscious Bias Derail the Progressive Agenda?” explored how even people who were not explicitly racist still harbor unconscious racial anxieties that savvy political operatives tap into for partisan gain. McCain ‘08 ads fed into this sort of unconscious racism, according to one panelist, who argued that McCain’s ads attacking Obama’s inexperience exploited white fears of the “uppity” black man. Democrats are generally too afraid to talk about race, the panelists argued, but combating such unconscious bias would require identifying it publicly to bring it to the surface.
John Powell, a professor of civil rights at the University of Minnesota Law School, argued that Obama in particular has run away from anything having to do with race, for fear of being seen as the president for black people.
THROUGHOUT THE CONFERENCE, speakers mocked and attacked the most hated figures and institutions on the right: Fox News, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Andrew Breitbart, Michelle Bachmann, and Glenn Beck.
“I’m really sorry that Glenn Beck is going blind,” Schultz remarked, eliciting laughter in some parts of the audience. “Because I think it’s a travesty he’s not going to see the country he’s trying to destroy.”
But the most popular target for progressives wasn’t a specific individual or institution, but a nascent political movement — the dreaded “teabaggers.”
While there was general agreement with the sentiment that the Tea Party movement represented the tantrum of a racist, paranoid fringe that now finds itself out of power, there were conflicting views as to whether the movement posed a political threat. Some expect the Tea Partiers to damage the Republican Party by moving it too far to the right, yet one could also sense a concern that the movement could exploit economic anxiety to advance conservatism and undermine progressive policies, especially those that rely heavily on deficit spending.
Moulitsas called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid the “luckiest sonavabitch in politics” for drawing Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle as his Republican opponent.
“Thank you, teabaggers,” he taunted, imploring the audience to repeat the barb. He went on to mention Rand Paul of Kentucky and Linda McMahon of Connecticut as two other examples of Tea Party activists forcing Republicans to nominate extreme candidates who hurt the GOP’s chances. “Thank you, teabaggers,” the audience shouted back at him each time.
“They are the best thing to happen to us this year, I swear to God.” he said. “If you want motivation for November, it ain’t the Democrats. I’ll say it right now, they’re not motivating me. What’s motivating me is breaking the teabaggers.”
He went on to explain what it would mean to “break” them.
“What’s going to happen is that they’re not going to win the victories they think they’re going to win,” he predicted. “It’s going to break them, because it’s going to be all out civil war. They’re going to claim that the Republicans weren’t conservative enough. And Republicans are going to say, “You guys are bat s*** insane, you f***ed us this year.’”
Yet behind all of the triumphalism, one could sense a growing fear that the Tea Party movement would be a way for Republicans to benefit from the populist backlash against Washington. One panel examined “Right Wing Populism and the Tea Parties” while another looked at “2010 Elections: Channeling the Power of Jobs, Populism & Angry Voters.” The latter panel looked at ways that the weak economy could be used to the benefit of progressives, and the answers were heavy on protectionism. The idea was to convince Democrats to talk about bringing manufacturing jobs back to America as a cultural issue, while attacking Republicans for supporting tax cuts and trade policies that ship jobs overseas. Scott Paul, the executive director for the Alliance for American Manufacturing spoke about his group’s “Keep It Made in America” initiative.
During the question-and-answer session, one audience member asked, “Can anything turn around the economy other than massive government spending?” (Consensus answer: no.) Another member of the audience followed up by emphasizing that Democrats needed to create more projects like Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. “When are we going to stop worrying about what the Tea Party is going to say, and just do what we need to do?” he shouted with frustration.
THE SPEECHES FROM the top elected Democrats at the conference made it clear that there is at least some concern that a demoralized base could cost them in November. Obama himself felt compelled to address the audience through a video message.
He conceded that “Change has not come fast enough for too many Americans, I know that,” and continued: “It hasn’t come fast enough for me either. And I know it hasn’t come fast enough for many of you who fought so hard during the election. The fact is, it took years to get here. It’ll take time to get us out. We’ve known that since the beginning of our campaign. But I hope you take a moment to consider all that we’ve accomplished.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online