July 15--Detroit's a reliably Democratic city, but it will become a liberal bastion this week when more than 3,000 progressive political activists head to town to network and plan their strategy for the 2014 and 2016 election cycles.
Netroots Nation, part of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, will descend on Detroit for a four-day conference at Cobo Center beginning Thursday. With 80 panel discussions, 40 training sessions and keynote speeches from Vice President Joe Biden, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, and liberal icon U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the conference will attempt to engage and ignite the next generation of leaders from the left.
"The conference is meant to bring progressives together who are working on various issues to organize, strategize, build better coalitions and figure out how to make progressive change happen," said Mary Rickles, spokeswoman for Netroots Nation.
Those attending the conference will talk about everything from marriage equality, to immigration reform, to the fallout from the Supreme Court's recent decision on contraceptives, to raising the minimum wage and expanding Social Security. They'll also talk about technology advances that will help Democratic campaigns and get their message out to a broader liberal constituency.
The selection of Detroit for the conference is especially timely, said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America. The city routinely gives Democrats margins of victory exceeding 90%. There's a highly competitive race for the Senate between U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, a Republican, and keeping a Democrat in that seat is a key theme for the conference.
"We always try to pick a city that has a strong labor component and then we look at what will be a good story to tell based on what's happening in the city," Rickles said. "You've got a big Senate race happening here and organizing in Michigan is extremely important and timely. And there are a lot of the things happening in Michigan that could happen in other areas around the nation."
Indeed, no other big city in the nation is going through what Detroit is experiencing with a historic bankruptcy and the possible cuts to city employee pensions.
"Detroit is a really excellent spot to come. It's an example of the out-of-control income equality we have in our country,"she said. "We have live action examples in Detroit of years and years of the wealthiest being separated from the poorest."
And the issue of water shutoffs in Detroit will get a little national attention when people attending the conference join with Detroiters on Friday in protesting the shutoffs.
Other speakers at the conference include: U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Chuck Schumer of New York and Chris Murphy of Connecticut; U.S. Reps. Peters, John Conyers and Dan Kildee, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Alan Lowenthal and Mark Takano of California; former New Hampshire Gov. Howard Dean and Michigan's Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer.
Who is not at the conference also will be noted, Chamberlain said.
"Presidential politics always play a big role at this conference. This is a chance to engage and really drive the grass roots," he said. "As it stands right now, Hillary Clinton isn't going to be there and that is a misstep."
Contact Kathleen Gray: 517-372-8661, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @michpoligal.
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Original headline: Detroit to host gathering of progressive Democrats
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