Take Back America

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Not unsurprisingly, Obama won the Take Back America straw poll. The progressives today finish their annual three-day conference here in DC. A whopping 72% were for Obama, compared to 16% for Clinton, with just 12% saying they’d be happy with either. And 69% said Obama was better equipped to beat McCain versus 15% for Clinton. (See Politico story here.)

I had intended to go to the conference but was kept busy doing my civic duty (jury duty) and then my professional duty (Obama’s speech yesterday). That said, I did spend some time last Friday with progressive legends Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey, who run Campaign for America’s Future. They had some interesting insights on their movement and the general election:

1) Progressives have already started and will continue to spend unprecedented amounts of money and effort in this election against John McCain. Several groups already have tv ads up against him.
2) Progressive issues, such as the war in Iraq and universal healthcare, will dominate the general election because they are where the greatest differences lie with McCain.
3) They will not make the same mistake that progressives for Bill Clinton made in 1992: if a Democrat wins they will not, in their euphoria, simply assume the next president will actively pursue their agenda. This time, they will hold his/her feet to the fire.
4) They believe this is the beginning of the decline of conservatism, that the right wing is in retreat. Progressives are where conservatives were in 1993 and the left cannot be allowed to blow this chance.

Add this to MoveOn’s endorsement of Obama, it seems that while he’s split the union vote with Clinton, he’s winning the progressive vote. Though living up to their expectations might be easier said than done, they are realistic about what the president might be able to do right off the bat: asked what he expected the next president to do when he/she takes office Hickey said the first priority should be a plan to end the war in Iraq “or face a revolt from the left.” But second, he said, would probably have be an economic stimulus package and he said that universal healthcare would likely have to be a longer term goal.