Washington Post reporter Rachel Weiner profiled the battling online conventions in Minneapolis this weekend -- Netroots Nation vs. Right Online -- and found that the happier warriors were on the Right. On page A4, the headline was "At dueling political gatherings, room for mutual admiration." Look who's the face of the Netroots (including on their homepage) -- radical (if temporary) Obama green guru Van Jones:
Over at Netroots, there was talk of the enthusiasm and media attention on the other side. “The tea party changed the discussion,” said Van Jones, the former White House “green czar” who is launching a new economic campaign called Rebuild the Dream. “What they were able to do is take pre-existing sentiment and preexisting groups that were not visible and they got those visible. They got those people heard.”
Netroots still has clout. Four senators were at Netroots; none came for RightOnline. (Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, was scheduled to attend but could not make it). The head of the Democratic National Committee spoke at Netroots; no top officials from the Republican National Committee attended RightOnline.
Yet RightOnline had two presidential candidates, who told the gathered activists exactly what they wanted to hear. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) delivered the same speech she gave a day earlier at the Republican Leadership Conference, to great applause. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty gave a fast, short, invigorating speech, though he received fewer standing ovations than his home-state rival.
The pull quote was "Conservative respect the left's ability to fundraise and adapt to new technologies. Liberals look some envy on the enthusiasm of the tea party. Both sides wonder how the other side manages to be so much more unified." But while Bachmann was getting "great applause" for saying what conservatives wanted to hear, Weiner found the establishment Democrats that came to hear the Netroots heard "mostly heckles and boos" and disappointment:
By contrast, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer addressed Netroots Nation and got mostly heckles and boos from an audience that thought he was evading questions on issues such as jobs, gay rights and Social Security — and that the White House is ignoring its base.
At a panel on how to work with Organizing for America in 2012, President Obama's campaign representative Jeremy Bird was peppered with questions about lack of enthusiasm.
"I'm not saying at all that there's not frustration," Bird pushed back, adding that "there are a lot of people out there ... who are very excited about the president."
But the only chants of "Yes We Can" seemed to be at RightOnline.
"A lot of these people came to political awareness, came to the Netroots around the 2008 campaign," said Jane Hamsher, who founded the influential liberal blog FireDogLake. A longtime critic of some administration policies, Hamsher was on a panel called "What to Do When the President is Just Not That Into You." "It's a hard decision to say, `This person disappointed me,' so I'm a little surprised at the extent to which that seems to be the sentiment here."
For more on the Netroots anger, see Bruce McQuain at Hot Air.