Netroots Nation 2011

Last week, much of the ActBlue office packed our bags and headed to Minneapolis for Netroots Nation 2011 for an opportunity to mingle with our users and fans–thanks to all of you who dropped by our booth for your kind words.

Reflecting on the conference, a number of press figures referred to the atmosphere as "dispirited," or other adjectives amounting to roughly the same thing. I attended panels on campaign finance, the courts, and Afghanistan, and what I saw in those panels was the maturing of a movement. Though the 2010 elections largely obliterated the giddiness of '06-'08, it also gave Democrats a sense of the breadth of the field they need to play on.

Republicans are pushing their agenda at every level: in the states, through the courts, and in Congress. The progressives gathered at Netroots Nation were focused on how they could impact issues that are decided far from the federal battlefields they won in '06 and '08, like campaign finance regulations, court appointments, state laws and national security decisions.

In that sense, "energy" is a really poor gauge of how successful the conference was. Any large, long-term project isn't going to be amenable to the sort of triumphalism and buzz that is the pulse of politics as measured by the media. I'd urge people to look instead at markers of success like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee's $3 million raised from 190,000 donors on ActBlue. As POLITICO notes, they are "loaded for battle," a remarkable feat of grassroots fundraising for a group that didn't exist in 2008. Moreover, the PCCC has elected to play a broad role, engaging in federal primaries and working hard to support the recall efforts in Wisconsin. 

The PCCC's combination of talented organizing and effective fundraising through ActBlue means they can engage people and issues that wouldn't get attention otherwise and bring them to the forefront of politics. Progressives looking to do the same in other areas might want to take a cue from them. 

It's worth noting that the RightOnline Convention, in contrast, featured plenty of energy–a firebreathing speech from Michelle Bachmann, a little lighthearted Obama minstrelsy, and an invasion of NN11 by Andrew Breitbart–but the underlying reality was rather grim:

“We’re trying to compete with ActBlue but they’re way, way ahead of us. We’re playing catch-up,” said John Hawkins of Right Wing News. “Their panels are for advanced activism. This is basic, for getting into activism.” A sign in the hallway of RightOnline advertised “proven technology used by millions of Democrats.”


1 Comment for “Netroots Nation 2011”

Pete & Sue Schmidt


The President has taken up the Republican Talking Points. So has his economics advisor Gene whatshisname. They both uttered this same phrase “business is nervous due to the deficit, they won’t invest in jobs until they see we are cutting spending and bringing it down”. This is such BULL. Business is hoarding their money, Taxcuts have done nothing to increase jobs and they won’t. ANY economist will tell you the same on Taxcuts. We need Tax increase for those earning over 1,000,000.00 = infrastructure rebuilding to kickstart job growth. Jobs =CUSTOMERS. Business needs CUSTOMERS. Obama, you need new eco advisors. The Repubs have framed the discussion about the deficit and massive Medicare cuts TO STALL you and the Dems and you have wasted all this time fighting them on this when the discussion should have been framed by Dems in the first place about Jobs, Jobs, JOBS. DON’T YOU GUYS GET IT??? They have STALLED YOU!!! Man I am So Pissed right now!!!! Wasted opportunities, You have public capital -Spend it before it becomes worthless!!!! Vote for who?? Not unless what I see changes. No Caving!!!
Pete & Sue