PHILADELPHIA – This is a cattle call that only a few presidential candidates have answered. And while the leader had gone to New Hampshire to campaign, the conference probably would not have welcomed former Vice President Joe Biden anyway.
Only four Democratic candidates went to the City of Brotherly Love to address progressive followers on Saturday at Netroots Nation. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and Washington Governor Jay Inslee made the trip. All rank at less than 1% support in surveys. The only leading candidate to attend is Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Rachel Earnest is with her. Like other people present, the Pennsylvania voter told RealClearPolitics that she did not support the idea of "another White in the White House".
And although Biden launched his campaign in this city two months ago, promising to reject anger and embrace unity, this progressive congregation is united by a virtuous, though sometimes vulgar, indignation. To avoid any misunderstandings, in a plenary session, Michigan Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib reiterated her promise made in the evening about President Trump: "We are going to attack the MF'er, do not worry!
This is a small sample of the rhetoric of the first political convention for progressives. But at a time when the Democratic Party has moved more to the left than ever before, what should we think of the fact that less than a quarter of the candidates eager to challenge Trump have bothered to run for office? Is it due to the difficulty of marrying progressive politics with the populist energy needed to reclaim the White House? Senator Sherrod Brown, who represents Ohio and briefly flirted with a separate race, disagreed.
"It's not a choice between a progressive message and talking to the workers," he said. "It's a question of salary. It's overtime. It's a question of working hours. It's a question of retirement. Our candidates are talking about these things, and we are winning white workers, black workers, Latino workers and Asian workers. "
Brown told RCP that "you can get a majority pretty much everywhere in the country if you respect and honor the work, and talk to the workers."
He nevertheless wants more candidates to join him on stage. Although it includes demanding campaign schedules, ignoring Netroots "is a missed opportunity for people who are not here."
Trump is the # 1 progressive enemy in the theaters of the Philadelphia Convention Center this weekend. And the democrats are very close. The activists, community organizers and voters present seem determined to eliminate both in 2020.
In the midst of a session organized by the Democratic National Committee on Base Mobilization for General Elections, about two dozen protesters stood up and started singing. "We demand," shouted the leader. "We demand, echoed the others," a debate on the climate ". After a break of about five minutes, Cheyenne Davis, National Director of Training at the DNC, interrupted them to say nicely that she had welcomed this one-sided discussion.
Irritated by the fact that climate change received only a limited bill during the first sanctioned Democratic primary debate, those who crashed on Saturday said they felt used.
"They see us as people who can be placated with a statement on climate change – that's real and that we should return to the Paris agreement," said RL Miller, co-founder of Climate Hawk Votes, at the CRP. Addressing the issue will require more, especially a debate on specific elements, whether it is a carbon tax, a Green New Deal or the future. of modern agriculture.
Even if having an open discussion about their favorite policy can mean alienating the moderates and even losing the elections, it's a bet that the protesters are ready to take.
"The DNC is afraid of losing Obama-Trump voters," said Miller, referring to voters who changed political affiliation between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections. "They are afraid that if the Dems go on stage and are trying to outdo each other, they will hear about "carbon tax" and lose all Obama-Trump voters in Ohio.We will start talking about banning fracking, and we will lose all Obama-Trump voters in Pennsylvania.We are talking about abolishing [internal combustion engine] cars, and there goes Michigan. "
Inslee on the contrary seems convinced that climate change is a weak point in the armor of the Trump campaign. And while he's voting at less than 1%, the Washington governor told the press that he would continue to press for a separate debate on rising temperatures in the world. He will keep up the pressure but he will not "burn his DNC membership card" for now.
Many protesters support him and are members of the Sunrise movement. Most are so young. Their parents were too scared to sound too liberal, said Mattias Lehman, the group's digital director, who gained prominence in Democratic circles for holding the position of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this year.
"Look, nobody is just going to give our generation the political power. We do not wait for the passage of the flame, "Lehman told the CRP. "We are building a youth movement. They do not come to us, we come to get them. "
Loyalty to the party does not matter much to Netroots, where progressives view the insurgency as more honorable than just being a loyal infantryman in the campaign to expel Trump from the oval office. Helen Gym, City Councilor of the City of Philadelphia, has made it clear since the main step before the presidential forum.
An unidentified power broker told her that she and her extreme left represented "the biggest threat to the Democratic Party" and she did not disagree: "I told her," Damn it, it's not a good thing. " is true. "The crowd broke out.
Gillibrand, a long-time party supporter, went to Philadelphia to offer penance to the progressive congregation for her own white privilege.
"Now, as a white woman, who has certainly had a lot of white privileges, I travel with a black staff member, and I see how she is treated differently when we enter a hotel. makes me furious, "said Gillibrand, raising her voice.
The senator from New York also spoke about her own son, who will have "moments in his life where his whiteness protects him. Its whiteness changes the way it is treated. When he walks down a street with a hoodie with an M & Ms bag in his pocket, he will not be shot. "
The Liberal crowd provided support and received appreciable but moderate applause. They did not have such restraint for Warren.
The Massachusetts Liberal was the undisputed favorite of Netroots, and the conference was clearly his territory. So that when protesters interrupted her to complain about the treatment of illegal immigrants under the Obama administration, the crowd self-controlled shouting, "Let her finish."
"It's time to live our values and that means at the border when desperate people come here," said Warren, "so we must treat them with humanity and we must respect the law."
The progressive legislator added that the mistreatment of border workers could be tolerated now because "Donald Trump might want to look away," but that "President Elizabeth Warren will not do it".
The crowd broke.