Chances are, you probably have the Daily Kos blog open on one of your browser tabs right now. The fiercely progressive blog and community hub showcasing an array of liberal activists and organizers has been at the forefront of a number 21st political battles. Markos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of Daily Kos, started Netroots (then known as YearlyKos) as a way to bring an online community together in a shared physical space. Eight years later, Moulitsas attends as a “private citizen.” When I caught sight of him at the conference, I approached him for a conversation on how the conference has changed over the years, the relationship between liberals and Obama, and his take on current voter demographics.
SFBG: What’s your been your experience at Netroots Nation 2013?
Moulitsas: What’s been different than previous ones is, it’s kind of lot younger. There seems to be a sort of a new generation of network activists. And so, we have this new generation of activists that’s emerging, which is to me is kind of cool. Because any movement cannot sustain itself without youth, that new blood and … the skills they’re bringing to the table — this intimate knowledge of social networks — are skills that I can definitely benefit from, and some of these young guys can actually benefit from some of the wisdom that old-timers have.
How has the conference progressed since the first one in 2006?
You know what was amazing about that conference, is that it was organized by the community. I didn’t organize it, it was the community that decided that they wanted to meet in person and then they made it happen. It was truly volunteer and amateur-driven, from day one, but it didn’t feel like an amateur conference. So they accomplished kind of the impossible just by sheer will and desire to make this happen, and so what I would say is … this is going to grow into something much further beyond the Daily Kos community.
What do you say to liberals who are disillusioned and cynical about Obama and other Democratic Party leaders?
You know, change is incremental. It always is in the political realm. A lot of that disappointment with him really stems from the fact that we have a shitty Congress. A lot of that had nothing to do with the shitty Congress. We’re not going to get everything we want and we could never get everything we want. We’ve got to keep creating that space, politically, for people to do so. Obama couldn’t be pro-gay marriage his first term, until the very, very, very end of his first term, when finally the political space has been created, where he could be a better progressive. So to me, that’s what it’s all about, is to continue to create that space and move the American public. I mean, the American public is already there. It’s getting them to realize they’re actually more liberal than they think they are.
It’s making sure that growth demographics that are very democratic are engaged politically, not taken granted but make sure that African Americans, Latino, Asians are engaged politically because there are going to be key components of our future majorities in the direction our nation takes. Conservatives really began their movement, building their movement in 1964, after the Barry Goldwater defeat. From the point, it took them 16 years to win the White house with Ronald Regan. It took him 30 years to win Congress in 1994 with the Newt Gingrich revolution.
But while the Democratic Party has moved left on issues like pot and gay marriage, a lot of people are saying the neoliberals have taken over the Democratic Party.
I actually think some of the most excitement coming from the Democratic Party are people like Elizabeth Warren, who are actually more progressive on economic issues than any democrat I’ve seen on the scene long time.
Do you think the emerging “Democratic Majority” has arrived?
Obama lost the white vote. The white votes were 75 percent of the electorate 2012. Mitt Romney won them 59-39 and Obama didn’t hit 40 percent with white voters. If the election were held in 2016, nothing else changes, same percentages, instead of winning by 5 votes, Obama would win by 9 points. So, not only is it here, but it’s growing at an incredible pace. Right now the only way Republicans can win elections is if our voters stay home. That’s a problem, because our core voters are also the least performing of voters – young people, African-Americans, Latinos, and single women have the worst turnout rates, particularly in midterm elections.