'Take Back America' Conference Is a Chance for Democrats to Highlight Progressive Politics

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y).
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y). (By Dennis Cook -- Associated Press)
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By Chris Cillizza And Shailagh Murray
Sunday, March 16, 2008

Watch out, Washington: The liberals are coming.

Tomorrow kicks off the fifth annual Take Back America conference in Washington -- a gathering of groups across the progressive spectrum aimed at planning and coordinating their efforts heading into the November election and beyond.

"We are headed to what has the potential to be a sea-change election, not just a change election," said Bob Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future and one of the founders of the conference.

Sensing an opportunity not only to regain the White House but also to secure significant majorities in Congress to push a progressive agenda, Borosage and Roger Hickey, who is also affiliated with the Campaign for America's Future, see the conference as a chance for the ideological left to let its voice be heard.

More than 2,000 people will attend the gathering, to be held, as was its ideological alter ego, the Conservative Political Action Conference, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

"This is the last chance to compare notes and coordinate what is going to be a massive undertaking," Hickey said.

That word "coordination" is something rather new in the progressive movement, which, Borosage and Hickey acknowledged, long was symbolized by a series of "silos" in which each individual group operated.

That "go it alone" approach provided a stark contrast to the well-organized and well-funded conservative movement -- whose cohesion was long admired, privately, by Democratic operatives hoping to build their own independent repository of money, message and electoral muscle.

"After [Bill] Clinton got elected, it was every group for themselves," Hickey said of progressives.

No longer, he and Borosage insisted, pointing to the rapid growth of the Take Back America conference from a "quiet policy conference" (in the words of Borosage) to a rallying point for the American left. "We exploded it because we thought it was important to bring various tribes of the progressive movement together and show their strength," Borosage said.

He added that, heading toward November, "there is a hell of a lot of coordination going on leading up to the election and planning for after the election."

The growth of the conference has mirrored a broader expansion of progressive influence within the Democratic establishment, including in the presidential race, where the candidates have adopted policies that have been hallmarks of the left, such as universal health care, energy independence and a removal of American troops from Iraq, Borosage said.

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