When Tom Hayden mentioned Jerry Brown favorably, there were hisses from the thousand or so New Left activists in his audience.
When socialist author Michael Harrington and a Machinists Union vice president said they were waiting - and hoping - for Ted Kennedy, there was a thunderous silence from the crowd.
And when anyone mentioned Jimmy Carter, there was derisive laughter, unless it was his energy program that was being discussed. Then the boos and hisses returned.
That range of negative emotions about sums up the position of the most left-wing element of the old liberal coalition as the 1980 election campaign approaches.
More than 1,000 of them - including many local elected officials - gathered this weekend on the Bryn Mawr College campus for the fifth annual National Conference on Alternative State and Local Policies. The participants are a mixture of 1960s civil rights and antiwar activists like Hayden, union organizers, and younger community and public-advocacy-group leaders.
Their common bond is an anti-corporate rhetoric, ranging from traditional socialism to tracts against the oil companies.
Hayden, something of a hero to the younger activists because of his role in the antiwar movement, has drawn increasing criticism from his onetime followers because of his political alliance with California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., an all-but-announced contender for the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination.
When Hayden said in a speech Friday night that his current organization, the Campaign for Economic Democracy, "has won a growing respect from Gov. Brown," there were hisses all over the college auditorium.
Hayden said, "I know his reputation is not good with many of you," but added that despite Brown's support of a federal balanced-budget amendment and Proposition 13, the governor has been "courageous and outspoken" in his opposition to nuclear energy, his support of solar power and his positions on other issues.
Hayden said the California Senate's recent rejection of Brown's nomination of actress Jane Fonda, Hayden's wife, for membership on the California Arts Commission was an indication that "the right wing" recognizes the growing alliance between his movement and the governor.
At a news conference this morning, Hayden said he was not formally committed to support Brown's candidacy but said the hisses for the governor indicated that "Brown is not understood well among readers of Doonesbury and by many other sincere people." Brown has been a frequent target of satire in the Doonesbury comic strip.
As for Kennedy (D-Mass.), his chief promoters were Harrington, the socialist author, and George Poulin, vice president of the Machinists Union. Harrington said he thought it was "a dangerous sign of the times that so many of us, including myself, are witing for Teddy, but I see no alternative." Yet neither he nor Poulin, who delivered a full-scale attack on President Carter as a "doublespeak politician," could rouse the crowd.
There was more applause when Carolyn Lucas, vice president of Massachusetts Fair Share, a citizen action group, asked, "If Kennedy were really ours, would we have to wait for him?"
Some conference members are supporting the fledgling Citizens Party, a third-party movement led by Barry Commoner, the St. Louis university professor and critic of nuclear power. But its chief organizer, Don Rose of Chicago, said it would be months before he could judge how many states would allow it ballot position for 1980.
Another new movement, the Progressive Alliance, led by United Auto Workers President Douglas Fraser, is still struggling to work out a program acceptable to its 60 union and other member organizations, organizer Ed James told a panel session, and is not ready to charter local units or accept individual memberships. In any case, he said, the group will not take part in the 1980 presidential election.