Don’t call it a “cattle call.” Don’t call it the “CPAC of the left.” On Tuesday morning, the Center for American Progress will host a daylong “Ideas Conference” — its third, as CAP President Neera Tanden points out. It’s just different from the last two in that at least 140 reporters have signed up to cover it, and they’re not shy about calling it a 2020 scouting session.
“We’re focused less on the politics of the moment and more on, ‘What’s the alternative?’ ” Tanden said in an interview. “I expect there’ll be some criticism of Trump, but we expect most of our speakers to provide a positive vision.”
For much of its existence, CAP was designed to feed a future Hillary Clinton administration with staffers and ideas. (Former Bill Clinton chief of staff and 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta was CAP’s first president.) But Clinton is not on this year’s agenda. Neither is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and neither is former vice president Joe Biden.
“We were trying to emphasize a new generation,” Tanden said.
The conference, which as in the past will take over the basement of the Four Seasons hotel*, will kick off with a speech from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and end with a speech from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), both in their 40s and elected to their high-profile jobs in 2013. About half of the rest of Tuesday’s speakers are considered potential 2020 presidential candidates: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Gov. Terry MacAuliffe (D-Va.). Gov. Steve Bullock (D-Mont.), whose 2016 reelection victory gave Democrats one of their few reasons to cheer in a rural state, will also get a set piece speech.
“It’s not a 2020 event, but I’m sure everyone’s going to be bringing their A game,” said Tanden. “There’s no conflict between offering a compelling view of how progressives can win and sharing some real ideas. I expect they know they’ll be judged through a 2020 prism, but I think it’s a little bit because of where we are. People are so angry at the state of the country. Everything’s moving forward faster.”
The day will also feature a series of national security addresses and panels, as more in the party call for a special prosecutor to probe President Trump’s 2016 campaign and the influence of Russia. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) will hold a panel on the subject; former U.N. ambassador Susan Rice will give separate remarks.
On Wednesday, after most of the media are gone, CAP will host training sessions for “resistance” activists — part of a series that the think tank has organized. One of Tuesday’s panels will bring some of the activists together, as well as Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, whose “Daily Kos” blog has become a major crowdfunding source for Democratic campaigns.
“I LOVE these new resistance groups,” Moulitsas said in an email. “We need to stop chasing after white racists lost to the fake news bubble, and realize that out of the 97 million Americans who didn’t vote last year, the majority is our own liberal-leaning base. We need to get THOSE people registered and active in the franchise.”
*This article has been edited to reflect the change of the conference venue.