Even though Hillary Clinton has no events on her public schedule for Friday or Saturday she is skipping this year’s Netroots Nation in St. Louis and is sending a video message in her stead that will be aired at the national progressive conference Mary Rickles, a spokeswoman for conference confirmed. Clinton’s absence from the conference, which has had 3000 attendees the past two years and begins is particularly notable given her struggle to win over disaffected Democrats who believe the party will, under her leadership, move away from the left.
So why did Hillary skip? The answer may lie in what Netroots Nation has become itself and its recent tradition of not only allowing protests of featured political speakers but helping them. While a stop in St. Louis for Netroots could have helped Clinton to ingratiate herself with the left, she would have risked being heckled or more.
Originally called the YearlyKos the conference was first held in in 2006.and featured such prominent Democrats such as Harry Reid, Howard Dean, and Barbara Boxer, In 2007 Seven of the eight major Democratic Presidential candidates attended the Convention in a debate moderated by bloggers. The candidates were Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson. This conference was the one and only time Hillary Clinton attended and she refused to join John Edwards and Barack Obama’s pledge to stop taking money from Washington lobbyists.
In 2008 the conference was rebranded to Netroots Nation to better reflect the growing influence and membership of the “netroots“as a whole rather than just Daily Kos and its then that many say the focus started to shift from political, policy, and foreign issues to more social issues and the demographics shifted to a much younger more “social justice warrior” type audience without adult supervision.
In 2013 Nancy Pelosi was booed by the audience in San Jose, California for saying that Edward Snowden had broken the law by revealing information about the NSA’s surveillance programs and for defending Barack Obama on the issue.
In 2014 at Netroots Nation in Detroit, MI a group of protesters interrupted Vice President Joe Biden’s speech, vocalizing their dissatisfaction with the Democratic administration’s policy of deporting undocumented immigrants.
At the 2015 conference held in Phoenix, AZ protesters repeatedly confronted Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland during a town hall discussion demanding the Democratic presidential candidates address issues like discrimination and police brutality.
Chanting, “What side are you on, my people, what side are you on?” and “Black lives matter,” the protesters led by the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Heather Cronk and Angela Peoples of GetEqual, moved to the front of the ballroom about 20 minutes into the event as Mr. O’Malley discussed proposed changes to Social Security. They remained there, heckling the candidates and posing questions, until organizers shut down the event, one of the centerpieces of the annual conference. There was much speculation afterwards that the Netroots Nations staff knew well in advance that the protest was going to happen and did nothing to stop it and actually helped the protesters.
In light of Netroots Nations past record, is it really surprising that more and more politicians have opted out of attending over the years? Instead of creating dialogue, a real dialogue between attendees and politicians Netroots Nation has helped foster a culture of shutting them down and off its own stage by special interest groups and alienating the very people they should be talking with. Not shouting at.
At this time, this close to the November 2016 Presidential election the last thing Hillary Clinton needs is a Black Lives Matters protest and scene in front of a progressive audience, many of which supported Bernie Sanders in the first place.
You can say what you will about Hillary but she isn’t stupid. A videotape message is much harder to shut down and try to make look like a fool.
Well played Hillary. Well played.