Obama boosters receive luke-warm embrace at liberal Netroots conference
June 17th, 2011
05:33 PM ET
12 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. ndlily

    If Obama really "drained the swamp" and got rid of Corporatist Democrats, he'd have to get rid of himself. Obamacare is a dream come true for the businesses of medicine and insurance, forced purchase of their products with only token oversight and no accountability.

    June 17, 2011 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  2. Old Artillery Man

    As said earlier, stop caving in to the republicans.

    As an example, he caved in on something the republicans have been trying to get for years. A reduction in the Social Security tax. They want eventually be able to call it a welfare program. You know how they feel about welfare programs.

    It has been said, if a child wants a puppy, he should ask for a pony. When the repugs ask for a pony, he gives them a Ford Mustang.

    June 17, 2011 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  3. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Unbelievable... The Dems accuse the Republicans of driving the economy into the ditch. But then the Dems are foolish enough to listen to the advice the Republicans give them to get out of the ditch!?!?

    It's really kind of important that if you take over the wheel from a drunk driver, that you stop listening to him when he tries to tell you which way to turn, from the backseat!

    June 17, 2011 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  4. Dr Matrix

    Ok, so the progressives/liberals aren't happy with Pres. Obama. Does anyone think they will be so upset that they will vote for whatever extreme right wing, American Taliban candidate that the Republican/Tea Party will run? Whoever wrote this article can't be that stupid.

    June 17, 2011 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
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