MINNEAPOLIS -- President Barack Obama is decidedly "not [the left's] boyfriend anymore," progressive supporters of gay- and immigrant-rights said on Thursday, rebuking the White House for breaking promises to the left while also asking them for money.
The message to those in the room for "What to Do When the President is Just Not that Into You," a Netroots Nation panel, was be more demanding, don't take no for an answer and compromises aren't good enough.
Lt. Dan Choi, who was discharged from the military for running afoul of its anti-gay Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, provided a visual when an Organizing for America volunteer stood up and asked him to support Obama in 2012. The man said he did not support gay marriage -- "civil unions?" he offered weakly -- and Choi promptly ripped up an Organizing for America flyer he had been given and threw it back in the man's face.
The four panelists -- Choi, immigration reform supporter Felipe Matos, America Blog writer John Aravosis and Fire Dog Lake Founder Jane Hamsher -- said they are planning to hold the White House's collective feet to the fire for its decisions on civil rights, whether it would hurt Obama's reelection chances or not.
"I would probably vote for the president in the end, but I'd also do everything that I can to shame him," said Aravosis, who writes about gay rights issues. "But I don't think they realize how damaging that is."
Although Obama signed a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in December, the panelists decried his failure to take a hard stance for gay marriage.
"We always say we simply expected what he promised," Aravosis said "The White House would rather not engage at all -- at least with the big stuff. We were told he'd be a fierce advocate, and he's been not fierce at all and not much of an advocate."
On immigration, Obama has been even worse, panelists said. He continues to deport a record numbers of undocumented men and women and has failed to pass the DREAM Act, which would give undocumented youths who graduate from college or serve in the military a pathway to citizenship.
At the same time, the White House has courted the votes of the gay and immigrant community.
"We're angry, and we know he's courting our vote right now," said Matos, an undocumented man who lives in Miami. "He went to Puerto Rico, he went to Texas... we're onto him. [As] a friend of mine said, we are not the type of people he wants to mess around with."
Immigrants rights supporters are beginning to mobilize against Democrats -- including Obama -- for 2012.
"That's the big threat that the president is scared of: That we're not scared to stand up anymore," Matos said. "We're willing to go as far as we have to go to pressure him to stop the deportation of DREAM Act students."
One way to ensure Democrats do not take progressive votes for granted is to stop voting for Democrats, Choi said.
"How many people here are lifelong members of a particular party?" he asked, prompting hands around the room to raise. "That's a lot of people. And I think that's a major problem."
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