Liberal activists will be gathering in Washington today for a conference they call "Take Back the American Dream." One goal is to pressure President Obama to move more to the left, and it's quite possible that it will have some effect because Obama is trying to short up his Democratic base, including liberals.
But the liberals have broader goals, which will become clearer at the three-day conference in speeches by a number of leaders, including Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, former Obama adviser Van Jones, and several Democratic members of the House including Rep.Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, and Rep. Barbara Lee of California.
Jones is a particularly controversial figure because he served briefly as the White House environmental adviser until he was forced by administration officials to resign amid a furor over his past associations and policy ideas, which were criticized as extreme.
Jones is trying to organize what he calls a "counter-balance to the Tea Party"—a liberal movement with goals that include imposing higher taxes on the rich—and what he calls an overall "progressive fight-back." The three-day conference is seen by some liberals including Jones as a move in that direction.
Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation set the tone for the conference, which she is scheduled to address, in a Washington Post essay. "Americans are right to have a low opinion of their government, to feel that their leaders have often left them to fend for themselves, that their democratic institutions have failed them," she wrote. "They are right to see Washington as rigged, dominated by insiders. ...Yet it would be a grave mistake to give up on government; instead, it's time to clean up our politics and rebuild a fair economy."