Just Say No

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  June 13, 2012

She thrilled the crowd at Netroots with more of the same, including some widely reported swipes at Romney.


In a "Battleground Massachusetts" session, which focused primarily on painting Scott Brown as a Wall Street, big-oil, Mitt Romney Republican, an attendee asked what the top current issues are that progressives are fighting for in the state. The response did not include health-care payment reform, sentencing and other criminal- justice reforms, casinos, community- college restructuring, or a host of other matters in active debate on and around Beacon Hill with real, direct impact on people's lives. Instead, the top three were paid sick leave, electoral reform, and overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling on campaign funding.

That was very much in keeping with interests throughout the Netroots meeting. The two issues that packed halls, and came up repeatedly, were Republicans buying elections — symbolized by the hated Citizens United — and Republicans stealing elections through voter suppression, symbolized by voter ID laws.

It's a whole lot easier to unite enthusiastically against the Koch brothers buying elections, and Florida Governor Rick Scott trying to keep likely Democrats from voting, than to agree on a positive agenda.

Doing so also lets the left put aside the failures and frustrations they'd rather not deal with.

That includes the Wisconsin recall election — a national progressive crusade against, in this case, Scott Walker and anti-union policies. Anger had not proven sufficient when voters actually had to choose between Walker and Barrett to be governor. Netroots attendees and speakers blamed the result squarely on Walker's massive spending advantage; that may be true, but I heard little concern with how Barrett would govern, other than not being Walker.


The other thing the left doesn't much want to think about is the three-plus years of the Obama presidency — particularly the two when Democrats also held the House and Senate, yet somehow managed not to pass climate and energy legislation, a public option for health-care coverage, "card-check" labor reforms, the Employment Non- Discrimination Act, or immigration reform.

Obama campaign representatives at Netroots distributed wallet-friendly cards with talking points about the administration — or tried to distribute; I wasn't seeing many takers.

The president recorded a special video message to the conference, which was played at the final assembly. In it, Obama listed accomplishments, which sounded awfully thin to this group, and said little about what he would do with a second term.

For most on the left, the way to get them buzzed about the presidential race is to mention Romney — or Paul Ryan, or John Boehner, or the various Republican "wars on ___."

It will be hard for the left to match the right's negative energy, though. The Romney campaign is entirely built on being against Obama.

And Romney is trying to be the blank-slate candidate, almost pretending he never even served as governor.

The Obama campaign hopes that the race will ultimately play out like the Wisconsin recall — with the energy of against not quite getting the blank-slate opponent to 50 percent by the time voters actually have to make a choice.

That's why, on the previous Thursday, top Obama strategist David Axelrod held a press conference in front of the Massachusetts State House, where he and a group of Democratic officeholders panned Romney's record as governor.

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  Topics: Talking Politics , Politics, Romney, Scott Brown
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