Progressive Activists And A Few 2020 Democrats Gather At Netroots Nation Democratic presidential candidates addressed thousands of progressive activists and organizers at the Netroots Nation conference in Philadelphia Saturday.
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Progressive Activists And A Few 2020 Democrats Gather At Netroots Nation

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Progressive Activists And A Few 2020 Democrats Gather At Netroots Nation

Progressive Activists And A Few 2020 Democrats Gather At Netroots Nation

Progressive Activists And A Few 2020 Democrats Gather At Netroots Nation

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Democratic presidential candidates addressed thousands of progressive activists and organizers at the Netroots Nation conference in Philadelphia Saturday.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Nearly 4,000 progressive activists were in Philadelphia this weekend for the annual Netroots Nation Convention. Most of the top 2020 candidates skipped out on the conference, citing scheduling conflicts. NPR's Asma Khalid reports that activists noticed who showed up and who didn't.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Progressive activists feel like this is their moment to take over the Democratic Party. Their ideas around healthcare and the economy are no longer seen as being totally on the fringe. But that's why some say they were a bit confused and even disappointed that more 2020 presidential candidates did not show up to talk to them here at Netroots. Only four candidates came to the annual progressive convention - New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, former Obama Housing Secretary Julian Castro, governor of Washington state Jay Inslee and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

SABIHA BASRAI: I was most impressed with Elizabeth Warren because she's been so consistent.

KHALID: That's Sabiha Basrai from Oakland, Calif. She likes Warren, but there's another candidate she really wishes would have been here.

BASRAI: As someone who's been a Bernie supporter in the past, I would've really like to hear from Bernie Sanders in this landscape because the political landscape right now is so different than the landscape that he operated in during the last election cycle.

KHALID: Sanders skipped the convention, but he had staff here who defended his decision. Here's his political director Analilia Mejia.

ANALILIA MEJIA: Unfortunately, he wasn't able to participate in this particular space, but we've had countless of these conversations with many of the organizations that are present here.

KHALID: Both Sanders and Warren have a natural base in the progressive movement, which is why Sanders' absence combined with Warren's presence was so noticeable. It gave the Massachusetts senator a chance to solidify her support in the progressive community at a key moment when her poll numbers have been rising, and she's been bringing in more money. This is the seventh time Warren has come to Netroots, and she's a familiar face.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We love you, Liz.

ELIZABETH WARREN: I love you too.

KHALID: She walked on stage as folks shouted out, we love you, Liz.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WARREN: The progressive agenda is America's agenda, and we need to get out there and fight for it.

KHALID: And she got sustained applause for promising to hold federal officials accountable for mistreating immigrants.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WARREN: On my first day, I will empower a commission in the Department of Justice to investigate crimes committed by the United States against immigrants.

KHALID: The trouble for Sanders is not just Warren. It's that his once revolutionary ideas are now mainstream for 2020 candidates. Here's Inslee, Castro and Gillibrand at Netroots.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

JAY INSLEE: We must rebuild the union movement. They ought to be able to be benefiting by their productivity increases not just the millionaire class.

JULIAN CASTRO: I believe that housing is a human right - that it's a human right.

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: As president, I will guarantee "Medicare for All." I will guarantee a single-payer system. And I know how to get it done.

KHALID: One thing that's changed, though, since Sanders ran in 2016 is that the progressive movement has incorporated a stronger push for racial justice. The last time Sanders came to Netroots, he was interrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters. Now you have white candidates, like Gillibrand, talking about white privilege.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GILLIBRAND: So if I don't understand that it is my responsibility to lift up the voices of black and brown Americans every day, then I'm not doing my job as a U.S. senator, and I'm not doing my job as a presidential candidate.

KHALID: Activists say in the end, they could be happy with almost any of the Democrats running in 2020. But in a sign of how much they adore Warren, after she finished speaking, people started streaming out, even though the event was not over.

Asma Khalid, NPR News.

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