Netroots Nation, an annual gathering of progressive bloggers, has become a sort of whistle stop on the lefty campaign calendar.
In 2007, all the major Democratic candidates for president gathered at the confab, then called the YearlyKos Convention, for one of the loftiest debates of the primary season.
Last year, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate President Harry Reid dropped by, with Senator Al Franken delivering the closing address.
The progressive blogosphere won't be quite as critical in the coming presidential election as it was in the last; a Democratic presidential primary seems highly unlikely this time around. But 2012 will be an election year, with plenty of other high-profile races in play. Netroots Nation will be in the spotlight. And that spotlight, it appears, will shine on Providence.
Netroots will not officially announce the locale for its 2012 gathering until the close of the 2011 iteration, scheduled for June 16-19 in Minneapolis and featuring Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, among others. But all signs point toward a Rhode Island get-together.
Nolan Treadway, political and logistics director for the conference, says Providence is one of "a couple of finalists" for the June 2012 gathering of about 2000 people — rather large for the capital city — with events to be spread out across the Westin Providence, the Providence Biltmore, and the Rhode Island Convention Center.
And landing in the capital city would fit nicely with Netroots' progressive politics. A little history, here:
Providence was vying with Minneapolis for this year's convention when the Westin unilaterally imposed a 20 percent pay cut and tripled health care contributions for housekeepers, room service attendants, bellhops, and other workers organized by the Unite Here union.
Unite organized a boycott of the Westin honored by several organizations, including Netroots — marking the first time in the blogging collective's brief history that it had exerted public pressure on a convention site. That pressure contributed, in a small way, to a labor deal that will restore the pay cuts and rein in health care premium hikes over time. Coming to Providence next year would make for a neat little capstone on the story — sending a final message about the power of organized labor and its allies.
It is an opportunity not lost on Netroots, which counts several large unions among its chief sponsors. "We do want to reward good behavior," Treadway says.