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About every other year, I make it a point to stop by Netroots Nation, the annual gathering of thousands of progressive activists, to take the temperature of the American Left. One year, I was even invited to join a panel, and I enjoyed jousting with attendees while playing the role of piñata at their party.
This month, Netroots Nation met in Philadelphia. The choice was no accident. Pennsylvania will probably be the key swing state in 2020. Donald Trump won it by only 44,000 votes or seven-tenths of a percentage point. He lost the prosperous Philadelphia suburbs by more than Mitt Romney did in 2012 but more than made up for it with new support in “left behind” blue-collar areas such as Erie and Wilkes-Barre.
You’d think that this history would inform activists at Netroots Nation about the best strategy to follow in 2020. Not really. Instead, Netroots events seemed to alternate between pandering presentations by presidential candidates and a bewildering array of “intersectionality” and identity-politics seminars.
Senator Elizabeth Warren pledged that, if elected, she would immediately investigate crimes committed by border-control agents. Julian Castro, a former Obama-administration cabinet member, called for decriminalizing illegal border crossings. But everyone was topped by Washington governor Jay Inslee. “My first act will be to ask Megan Rapinoe to be my secretary of State,” he promised. Naming the woke, purple-haired star of the championship U.S. Women’s Soccer team, he said, would return “love rather than hate” to the center of America’s foreign policy.
It is true that a couple of panels tried to address how the Left could appeal to voters who cast their ballots for Barack Obama in 2012 but switched to Trump in 2016. “How’d we lose the working class? Ask yourself, what did we do for them?” asked Rick Smith, a talk-show host who explores labor issues, adding:
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