Obama boosters receive luke-warm embrace at liberal Netroots conference
June 17th, 2011
05:33 PM ET
4 years ago

Obama boosters receive luke-warm embrace at liberal Netroots conference

Minneapolis (CNN) - Might President Obama and Democrats have a tough time rallying their supporters in the 2012 elections?

If responses from a gathering of progressives in Minneapolis is any indication, the answer may be yes.

On Friday, two of the president's most vocal political cheerleaders tried to rally supporters at the liberal Netroots Nation two-day conference. While the crowd was surely friendly, it was not entirely enthused.

"Good afternoon Netroots Nation," said Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz upon taking the podium amid positive – if not rousing – applause. "It is absolutely fabulous to be with you."

Wasserman Schultz heaped praise on the progressive activists for their work in the last election.

"Thank you so much. As a progressive, I personally thank you so much," she said. Then, receiving only scant applause to the pep-rally line, the DNC chair clapped on her own and remarked, "I'll applaud for you."

To be sure, scattered cheers did pierce moments of silence as Wasserman Schultz served up anti-Republican red meat.

The DNC chair outlined part of her party's 2012 electoral strategy, which will include firing up grassroots supporters, ramping up their online efforts, retaining and recruiting volunteers and staff in all 50 states, and pushing consistent messages against Republicans.

"Republicans continue to tout the same failed policies. They're saying cutting taxes for the wealthy and allowing business to self-regulate again is a silver bullet for the economy….Because that worked out so well for us in the last few years, didn't it?" Wasserman Schultz said.

At one point, she touted Democrat Kathy Hochul's win of a long-held Republican seat in New York's 26th Congressional district.

That election, Wasserman Schultz said to applause, sent the message that GOP "extreme plans to end Medicare and slash Medicaid and investments in healthcare, education, innovation and job creation are just plain unpopular."

Meanwhile, at an earlier session, a progressive interviewer grilled another Obama booster as activists offered several chilly responses.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer spoke to the gathering in a question-and-answer session with Kaili Joy Gray, a blogger for the liberal DailyKos.

On entitlements, Joy Gray read a question sent via Twitter: "What are the absolute lines you will not cross while negotiating with the GOP regarding Medicare and Social Security?"

"On Social Security, the president will do nothing that will slash benefits, privatize the program or change the nature of the program," Pfeiffer responded. "And on Medicaid, the same thing is true with Medicare."

Pfeiffer added: "He is absolutely 100-percent opposed to anything in 100-mile radius of what the Republicans and [Wisconsin Rep.] Paul Ryan have put forward."

On bi-partisanship, Joy Gray commented: "A concern a lot of people have about compromising is that sometimes it means betraying very fundamental values of the Democratic Party." She listed the president's deal with Republicans over extending the Bush tax cuts – an action that angered many liberals but one that Pfeiffer defended as necessary.

On the Afghanistan conflict, Joy Gray asked to loud applause: "What will it take to get through to the White House that we want the war ended?"

Part of Pfeiffer's response: "You'll hear an announcement in the coming weeks about the size and scope of that transition. How we'll begin withdrawing troops."

On President Obama's stance against gay marriage stance, Joy Gray asked: "If he doesn't manage to evolve to most of where the country is now heading on this issue before 2012, why should gays and lesbians vote for him?" Again, the crowd loudly applauded.

"I think because this president has been the most progressive president on these issues we've ever had," Pfeiffer responded.

On union strikes in Wisconsin: "Why didn't President Obama put on his walking shoes and go to Wisconsin to support the workers like he promised he would do in the 2008 campaign?" Joy Gray asked.

As the crowd lit up, Pfeiffer responded that the president was very supportive of the worker efforts.

Then a voice in the crowd shouted: "Answer the question!"

Pfeiffer's response: "When he's in Wisconsin, I'm sure he'll support them."

And then, a telling and somewhat tense moment that may crystallize progressive frustration with the president:

Joy Gray said: "I think everyone in this room understands its worse when we have a Republican in the White House. It's worse when we've got a Republican [House] Speaker. It's worse when they're in charge."

She continued: "But a lot of people feel really disappointed about where the president has been on issues and on representing true, fundamental Democratic Party issues. And I think they're all going to vote Democrat…we understand the importance of making sure that Democrats are in power. But they might not turn out in the same way that they did in 2008. Some people are saying, 'I'll show up on Election Day. But I'm not going to knock on doors. I'm not going to make phone calls. I'm not going to donate money. So, do you need us?"

"Absolutely," Pfeiffer responded.

"And what's in it for us in a second term?" Joy Gray shot back to loud applause.

"There is much that has been accomplished in the first two-and-a-half years. And as the president said the other night – the work is not done," Pfeiffer responded.

Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN


Filed under: 2012 • Dan Pfeiffer • Debbie Wasserman Schultz • Democrats • Netroots Nation
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Republican Robber Baron

    Step 1 – stop caving in the Republicans before the negotiations even begin

    Step 2 – finish draining the swamp and get rid scumbags like Evan Bayh and other spineless Dem's that serve Corporatists

    Step 3 – get back to the basics with what got Obama nominated against the Clinton machine – by abolishing the sleazy lobbyists from the campaign process that make America look like a Banana Republic with corruption

    June 17, 2011 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  2. gt

    of course.. they have house payments... and watch there home drop in value...they need jobs to feed there children.. they hate war... there good people .. are we surprised there not happy ......ugh..

    June 17, 2011 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  3. GI Joe

    It's Minnesota, for God's sake -- they produced genises like Bachmann and Pawlenty. Besides, it's 2011, not 2012.

    Didn't minnesota shut down because of the deficits Pawlenty left them? Guess their brains are still frozen if they want more of that.

    June 17, 2011 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  4. bobden

    Will Rogers once said (maybe more that once) "I'm not a member of any organized party. I'm a democrat."
    We Dems better get organized, and our President had better learn to stand up for OUR principles.
    And learn to tell John bonehead and the other gopers to buzz off. This is OUR country, too.

    June 17, 2011 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  5. GOP = Greed Over People

    President Obama peed in my Wheaties by caving to the extension of the shrub's tax cuts.

    We should all be paying higher taxes, the 14 bucks a week I got from the shrub I can live without, especially if it means WIC, Medicaid and other "entitlements" can go to those less fortunate. I would rather infants and the elderly be taken care of and again believe I live in a compassionate country, than what the 14 dollars a week the GOP is peddling.

    So, I am afraid I am the Netroot liberal, I will vote for President Obama, as I can never again vote for a Republican, but do not expect me to donate time or money.

    President Obama showed his "GOP" side when he forsook the young and elderly, and it is tough to forgive him for that.

    June 17, 2011 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  6. Peter E

    Why should the left like Obama? He promised change and has betrayed that promise. He continues the country down the road that Bush Jr. set. Absolutely no change in foreign policy. No change in the bailouts and excessive spending Bush Jr. started. No change in the War on Terror and using it as an excuse to suspend the Bill of Rights. Even the much labeled 'Obamacare' is just an extension of the Medicare bill introduced by Bush Jr.
    No change!
    Liberals have no more reason to applaud Obama than right-wingnuts hypocritically criticizing it! Those same right-wingers excused, and continue to make excuses for Bush Jr.'s record, even though it is the SAME as Obama's!

    June 17, 2011 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  7. Eloise

    So whadda they gonna do, vote Teapublican? C'mon.

    June 17, 2011 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  8. Rickster

    lol....even the libs realize what a loser Obama is.

    June 17, 2011 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  9. Ed

    Democrats need to stick up to Rupublicans and stand up and embrace their democratic principals. Reject Big Business influenance and focus on the needs of the middle class, and working people. Reject narrow mindedness and embrace separation of church and state. Let the other party go after narrow minded people, Big Business and the Religious, right wing coo coos.

    June 17, 2011 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  10. annie s

    President Obama has not been progressive enough for me either...but I'm going to work my butt off to help him get re-elected anyway. Let's face it, with Obama we get halfway there. With a Republican, we're toast.

    June 17, 2011 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  11. Bill

    Fine, progressives. Go vote Republican if you think that will make you happy and you will be better off.

    June 17, 2011 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  12. Satndford

    Vote for us – we suck less than the republicans ain’t much of a slogan!

    June 17, 2011 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  13. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I would like to hear one Republican explain exactly what they mean by "taking our country back"; we use cell phones, we have colored flat screen TV's in every room, we have microwaves, we have indoor plumbing, we have cars and not buggies, we have indoor A/C/heating, we have airplanes, we have computers and not typewriters, we have sent a man to the moon, we have technology that links us to the rest of the World, etc., we are a mixture of people of all colors and cultures. Yet, those who say they want to "take it back" haven't lived 100+ years to have accomplished anything to take back.

    June 17, 2011 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  14. The Elephant in The Room

    Re-elect Obama AND mobilize to give him strong majorities in the House and Senate and then step back.

    Armed with no more election risk, The President will be more aggressive.

    June 17, 2011 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  15. Jerry McFadden

    Everything the republicans say is a lie they twist the truth we all want and need medicare its not Obama care its still medicare what the president did was try and get more people covered, if the Ryan plan is so good why don't the republicans try it for the next two years and if its good and they stay in it maybe we will join them.

    June 17, 2011 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  16. Obama's Mooseknuckle

    The base is retreating. Barry is done. Huntsman 2012. Less than 2-years until we return to sanity...

    June 17, 2011 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  17. B

    You know ,if we allow the Republicans to win this one it might actually be The end of the World, as we know it anyway!

    Never have we witnessed so many radicals running for the job !

    June 17, 2011 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  18. david

    For many Dems the elections havent started yet the Republicans dont have a chance on Hell!!! Democratic policies work Republicans dont we had ten yrs to test out Republican ideology...Massive fail!!! We are never going back there!!!

    June 17, 2011 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  19. once upon a horse

    yet the far right wants to paint Obama as a liberal. Ha! He's far from it. His trying to work with the GOP has been seen by many on the left as caving in to them. He did it on Healthcare and the Bush tax cuts. He got himself involved with 2 military conflicts, not very popular with progressives but what's even worse the right didn't stand by him with Libya even though they were critical of him before he got involved. I like President Obama and moreso than not will vote for him again, BUT he needs some lesson from Bill Clinton on how to deal with Repubicans because they will stab a Dem in the back every chance they get and walk away laughing about it.

    June 17, 2011 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  20. seriously???

    How can there be a lack of enthusiasm and complacency when the alternative is a thousand times worse than a centrist Obama?? Are there really progressives out there who would allow Republicans to win in 2012 just because Obama has had to be forced to the center? I'm sorry but the cost of losing in 2012 would be devastating since Republicans have not even tried to hide how they would strip the poor and middle class of benefits while coddling the rich.

    June 17, 2011 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  21. Inside Job

    OBAMA, yo do not fight for us. All you do is cave . I know for the debt ceiling, you will give republicans what they want. and you will get nothing. Didn'ty he say that he will not sign a bill without public option????? what heppened Mr President??? you signed it without public option and now you maneg to push out Anthony Weiner. he was teh most vocal in Congress... who will fight for us now???

    June 17, 2011 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  22. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    If the Progressives vote with their feet in 2012, they have no right to complain if the GOP grabs the White House because they will have helped cause it.

    June 17, 2011 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  23. Ex-Republican NC

    I bet the voters in Wisconsin have had enough of republicans, I know N. C. has.

    June 17, 2011 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  24. Randy, San Francisco

    Liberals/Progressives will be motivated quickly if faced with the likelihood of a Palin, Bachmann, Romney, or Pawlenty White House.

    June 17, 2011 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  25. Aaron

    Obama has kept few of his campaign promises. However, he's the lesser of two evils. Put another Repub in the White House, and we might as well surrender to the Chinese with the next economic collapse. They just about destroyed the economy in 8 years under Bush and are just waiting for the chance to finish it off.

    June 17, 2011 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
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