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At Netroots, Progressive Activists Turn to Traditional Organizing


At this year’s Netroots Nation conference, where speakers included Democratic luminaries like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vice President Joe Biden, the honor of delivering the opening keynote address went to Rev. William Barber, the president of the North Carolina NAACP and the driving force behind the state’s Moral Mondays demonstrations.

If one speech captured the tenor of this year’s Netroots Nation, it was Barber’s.

“Movements never came from D.C. down,” he bellowed. “Movements always come from Birmingham up, from Montgomery up.”

The conference – and potentially the American left as a whole –  appear to be following Barber’s lead. While the official program still included plenty of events like “Changing the Meaning of a Super PAC: Ready for Hillary,” there were more panels than ever about community organizing and individual labor battles.

“I think there’s just this sense of activism, that people are finally like, ‘We’ve had enough,’” said Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurer for the labor coalition AFL-CIO. “It’s been building for the last few years with the changes in the economy.”