Speaking to an audience of skeptical liberal bloggers, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid vowed Saturday to keep fighting to pass sweeping reforms -- from energy to immigration to health care with a government option -- that President Barack Obama promised in his campaign to win the White House.
"We're going to have a public option, it's just a matter of when," Reid said at the Netroots Nation convention, months after the health care insurance law passed without the full plan favored by liberals.
Reid, the Senate majority leader, said Democrats scaled back a proposed energy bill last week because they couldn't get support for carbon caps from Republicans. He blamed GOP leaders for blocking Obama's agenda by requiring a super majority of 60 Senate votes to move major bills.
"The Senate Republicans have veered so far to the right they don't care who they run over," Reid said, speaking before an audience of about 1,000, or half the people attending the three-day convention. "The debate won't end here. This is just the beginning."
But for progressive activists, Reid's failure to put a price on greenhouse gases emitted from power plants or to boost renewable energy is just the latest disappointment in an election year when Republicans appear on the rise, and on their way to picking up House and Senate seats.
"Unless it is revived and passed, the astonishing collapse of energy and climate legislation in the Senate will be remembered as this era's signature political failure," Laurence Lewis, one of hundreds of Netroot's Daily Kos bloggers, wrote after Reid's speech at the Rio.
While those on the left pushed for more action from the party in power, a rival gathering of 1,100 right-wing bloggers and conservative activists met a mile away at The Venetian. They called for a political revolution, putting Republicans in charge of the House and Senate.
Sharron Angle, who is challenging Reid for his Senate seat, was one of the stars of the RightOnline convention, where conservative talk show and Fox News personalities revved up the crowd.
"We love you, Sharron!" one man shouted as Angle took the stage.
"I love you, too!" said Angle, whose Tea Party credentials won praise.
The former assemblywoman from Reno delivered a rousing stump speech, calling for smaller government, less spending, lower taxes and a return to constitutional principles. She said Americans want their liberty and freedom back, and don't want to be saddled with higher debts and deficits.
"They need a nation that once again is one nation under God, not one nation under the government," said Angle, who is running just behind Reid in the latest polls. "We can do better."
In step with the Tea Party movement, Angle argues that Obama has overreached and the federal government has overexpanded. Critics cite the health care law that will require Americans to buy insurance if courts rule that it is constitutional.
"We the people are the solution," Angle said. "We have the right contract with America. That's our Constitution and the Bill of Rights."
The dueling conventions provided a snapshot of today's polarizing politics with both the Democratic and Republican parties dealing with elements pulling them further left and further right.
The Tea Party movement, which began last year as a protest against Obama's policies, is largely made up of conservatives who reject moderate Republicans, including several who have lost primaries to outsider candidates rallying for change this year.
On the left, those who turned out in record numbers to vote for Obama in 2008 are disappointed that he hasn't moved fast enough on everything from comprehensive immigration reform to getting rid of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibits homosexuals from openly serving in the military.
In a surprise video appearance at the Netroots Nation convention, Obama acknowledged the liberal activists' frustration but assured them he was committed to their causes. He said the combat mission in Iraq would soon end, the administration is working to dump "don't ask, don't tell" and to close the prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay.
"In ways large and small we've begun to deliver on the change you fought so hard for," he said. "We can't afford to slide backward. And that's the choice America faces this November. Keep up the fight."
Obama's video was introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who got a standing ovation.
In her remarks, Pelosi referred to "differences of opinions," and like Obama ticked off legislative victories such as the health care overhaul and broad reform of the U.S. banking and financial sector.
Echoing the president, she asked the crowd to recognize what's been achieved in Washington since Obama's election, and not to let differences cause a political fissure.
The day after the election "we want to have no regrets," Pelosi said.
When Pelosi was asked a question about the military policy on gays, someone shouted from the audience.
"Your impatience is justified," Pelosi said.
On the energy bill and capping greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, Pelosi said, "This is not an issue the Senate can walk away from."
"We'll welcome whatever the Senate can pass to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Pelosi said. "Sooner or later this has to happen."
Reid, too, made open pitches and promises to keep the liberal activists happy. He opened his speech by praising Army Lt. Dan Choi, a gay rights activist honorably discharged from the military for announcing his homosexuality on television more than a year ago.
"Dan is a perfect example of why you have to eliminate 'don't ask, don't tell,' " Reid said.
Choi jumped onstage to give Reid a hug and his West Point class ring. Reid said he would return it after Obama signs away "don't ask, don't tell."
Jeremy Hooper, a blogger and gay rights activist from New York, said he was confident Democrats would eventually come through on their promises, but only if they can battle "fear and falsified anger" from those who oppose same-sex marriage and gays in the military.
"We're working for things from the heart here, and the other side has this preconceived agenda that they've been pushing from the day Obama got elected," Hooper said. "If they're just working from a "throw the bums out" mentality, then everybody should be scared."
The two-day RightOnline convention appeared more like an old-fashioned political rally with fiery speeches, flag waving and dancing in the aisles when music was played between speeches.
Netroots has held five annual conventions; RightOnline began three years ago to counter liberals using Twitter and Facebook to organize and advocate. The conservatives purposely meet in the same city and at the same time as the Netroots convention.
About half of this year's RightOnline attendees were Tea Party activists, whose movement has energized conservatives, said Erik Telford, RightOnline's Washington-based executive director.
"Our mission is to activate and train people," Telford said. "We have people who say I go to every rally but they want to wake up every day and get more involved."
Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey judge and current Fox News legal analyst, drew the loudest applause when he argued the federal government is trampling states' rights and people have to take back power. And he drew a roar of support when he said "taxation is theft."
"If they want to tell you how to live your life, then vote them out of office," Napolitano said to a round of cheers. "The government is so out of control that the government doesn't recognize the Constitution. The states created the federal government and not the other way around."
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Contact Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919.