Netroots Nation leans away from boldface names

CHICAGO — The last time Netroots Nation held its convention here, seven of eight Democratic candidates for president spoke. That year included blockbuster draws like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

It was a who’s-who, head-turning affair that helped put the annual conference of progressive activists on the map. Lefty darlings Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez energized the Netroots groupies at subsequent confabs.

But times have changed. President Joe Biden isn’t attending this year, nor are any of the congressional superstars who graced the stage in the past. The opening day headliner was Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, a former school teacher and union organizer. He’s a rising progressive star — but most attendees had never even heard of him before he won a contentious mayoral election in April.

The 30 Netroots Nation attendees POLITICO talked to say they aren’t motivated to see namey names on stage — though a few, admittedly, are self-described “fangirls” of AOC.


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