Netroots Nation, the annual conference for thousands of liberal bloggers, Democratic Party activists and liberal advocacy organizations is underway today, July 17, and through the weekend in Austin, Texas. In the decade since then-First Lady Hillary Clinton railed against the "vast Right Wing conspiracy," Democratic liberals have woven their own with dozens of new think tanks, lobby groups, funders like the Democracy Alliance and George Soros, scores of consultants and hundreds of millions of dollars raised and spent to grease the wheels of collaboration, all designed this year to win the White House and solidify control of the Congress.
Liberal bloggers are notorious dissenters and critics of mainstream Democratic policies, but there won't be much of that on formal display in Austin, nothing like the "Coffee with the Troops" which injected an unscheduled discussion of the Iraq War into last year's conference in Chicago. Potentially controversial issues including Dennis Kucinich's call for impeachment of President Bush, or the failure of the Democratic Congress to stop funding the war in Iraq, are off the official agenda at Netroots Nation.
This year's event is carefully messaged and very well funded, designed to cheer on Barack Obama even in his absence. While he attended last year's event, an appearance this year probably wouldn't fit with his recent positioning toward the center, not the liberal-left, of the Democratic Party. The singular goal of the Netroots Nation in Austin is to emphasize unity and help win control of the White House come November.
Featured speakers include House leader Nancy Pelosi; political consultant Steve Hildebrand whose firm works for both Barack Obama and MoveOn's Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq; MoveOn staffers Ilyse Hogue and Adam Green; Michael Kieschnick of Democracy Alliance and Working Assets; Simon Rosenberg the founder of NDN; Matt Stoller the consultant who founded the online equivalent of the old smoke-flled back room called Townhouse; DNC chair Howard Dean; and the blogger who inspired the original conference named after him, the Yearly Kos, Markos Moulitsas.
This year's Netroots Nation conference is very professionally run and well funded by MoveOn, various labor unions including SEIU, the New Democratic Network, and dozens of smaller political consulting firms, liberal publications and various companies that profit from the now prolific liberal blogosphere.