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Liberal Bloggers: Obama 'Not Our Boyfriend Anymore'

Jun 17, 2011
Originally published on August 24, 2011 10:34 am

President Obama took his licks from progressives who are meeting in Minneapolis at the Netroots Nation Convention, the annual gathering of liberal bloggers and other social media activists.

The panel that drew one of the biggest crowds at Netroots Nation so far was called "What To Do When The President's Just Not That Into You."

"It's like the president's not our boyfriend anymore," Joan McCarter, an editor at the Daily Kos website, said during the discussion.

John Aravosis, another panelist, who blogs about gay-rights issues on AMERICAblog, reminisced about the heady early days of the left's relationship with Obama.

"I honest to God thought I was voting for these guys and that it was going to be the first time in my lifetime that I'm finally in a position of power, where I could be working with the White House on a regular basis, saying, 'OK what could we do this year on gay stuff?' Wouldn't it be cool, oh, 'Don't ask, don't tell,' this is great.' "

But panelists agreed that it hasn't turned out so well for progressives on overhauling health care or financial systems or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a host of other issues.

While most Democrats think those were huge victories, many progressives here think the White House caved to conservatives who've denounced the outcomes as tantamount to socialism.

McCarter urged the panelists not to overlook some genuine successes, especially on gay rights.

"So could each of you talk a little bit about, I guess, is it true that we've made progress on some of these issues," she asked.

The answer was: Well, yeah, maybe, some. The "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which barred gays from serving openly in the U.S. military, is on its way out. The Justice Department is no longer defending the law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriages. But it sounded like a defense of the boyfriend who brought you flowers even though he cheated on you.

Jane Hamsher, who blogs at Firedoglake, said with the election approaching, progressives should work the relationship with the White House for what it's worth.

"This is the time when Barack Obama has to care," she said. "This is the time when he needs your vote. So don't give yourself away cheaply. Ask for what you need and what the country needs and this is the time to do it."

As disenchanted as these progressives were with the Obama administration, plenty of elected officials have decided Netroots Nation is the place to be this weekend. That includes four U.S. senators and the new head of the Democratic Party, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

In fact, this is the largest Netroots convention since the event began five years ago. So maybe it should no longer need saying that the blogosphere is politically influential. Yet people are still discovering that.

"We know that new media is something that should no longer be considered a tack on or a different track," said Blaine Rummel, director of public affairs at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Last February, Rummel went to Wisconsin when Gov. Scott Walker announced his plan to strip public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights. Rummel was organizing some demonstrations.

"We were hoping for from 500 to 3,000 people," he says.

But then the Wisconsin blogosphere, or the cheddarsphere as it's called there, started running a student video of a sit-in at the state capitol.

"When 13,000 people showed up we were just in awe, and then 20,000 people showed up and then 30,000," Rummel recalls.

The crowds continued to build.

No wonder that conservatives would like to get a bigger piece of that action — which is why their blogosphere is gathering Friday at the RightOnline convention in Minneapolis, just a few blocks away from Netroots Nation.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Even as the conservative gathering hammered President Obama, so has the liberal and progressive grouping at the Netroots Nation Convention in Minneapolis. NPR's Ina Jaffe is there.

INA JAFFE: The panel that drew one of the biggest crowds at Netroots Nation so far was called What to do When the President's Just Not That Into You. Joan McCarter, an editor at the Daily Kos website, put it this way.

Ms. JOAN MCCARTER (Editor, Daily Kos): Sort of the president isn't our boyfriend anymore panel.

JAFFE: Another panelist, John Aravosis, who blogs about gay rights issues on AMERICAblog, reminisced about the heady early days of the left's relationship with Barack Obama.

Mr. JOHN ARAVOSIS� (AMERICAblog): I honest to God thought I was voting for these guys and that it was going to be the first time in my lifetime that I'm finally in a position of power where I could be working with the White House on a regular basis saying, OK, what could we do this year on gay stuff. Wouldn't it be cool - oh, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, this is great.

JAFFE: But the panelists don't think it's been great for progressives on a host of issues, including the health care overhaul and financial reform. While most Democrats think those were huge victories, many progressives here think the White House caved to conservatives who've denounced the outcomes as tantamount to socialism.

Joan McCarter tried to lighten the mood and urged the panelists not to overlook some genuine successes, especially on gay rights.

Ms. MCCARTER: So could each of you talk a little bit about, I guess, is it true that we've made progress on some of these issues.

JAFFE: The answer was, well, yeah, maybe, some. The Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy is on its way out, and the Justice Department is no longer defending the law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

But it sounded like the defense of the boyfriend who brought you flowers even though he cheated on you. Jane Hamsher, who blogs at Firedoglake, said with the election coming up, progressives should just work the relationship with the White House for what it's worth.

Ms. JANE HAMSHER (Blogger, Firedoglake): This is the time when Barack Obama has to care. You've got a window of time where he needs your vote. So don't give yourself away cheaply. Ask for what you need and what you think the country needs, and this is the time to do it.

JAFFE: As disenchanted as these progressives were with the Obama administration, plenty of elected officials have decided Netroots Nation is the place to be this weekend. That includes four U.S. senators and the new head of the Democratic Party, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

In fact, this is the largest Netroots convention since the event began five years ago. So maybe it should no longer need saying that the blogosphere is politically influential. Yet people are still discovering that.

Mr. BLAINE RUMMEL (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees): We know that new media is no longer something that should be considered a tack-on tactic or a different track.

JAFFE: That Johnny Come Lately is Blaine Rummel, director of public affairs at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Last February, he went to Wisconsin when Governor Scott Walker announced his plan to strip public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights. Rummel was organizing some demonstrations.

Mr. RUMMEL: We were hoping for between 500 and 3,000 people.

JAFFE: But then the Wisconsin blogosphere, or the cheddarsphere, as it's called there, started running a student video of a sit-in at the Capitol.

Mr. RUMMEL: When 13,000 people showed up, we were just in awe, then 20,000 people showed up, and then 30,000 on Thursday.

JAFFE: And the crowds continued to build. No wonder that conservatives would like to get a bigger piece of that action - which is why their blogosphere is gathering today at the RightOnline convention in Minneapolis, just a few blocks away from Netroots Nation.

Ina Jaffe, NPR News. Minneapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.