This is the first of a series of on-the-spot reports from the America’s Future Now conference. Check back for more.

WASHINGTON — Thousands of leading activists in progressive organizations have gathered in this city today for the opening of the America’s Future Now conference. Energized by last year’s elections, they are mapping plans to build what they are calling a massive mobilization of independent forces to fight the special interests standing in the way of President Obama’s progressive agenda.

Robert Borosage, Campaign for America’s Future co-director, told the opening session that the major media ‘is busy here asking whether progressives really support President Obama or if progressives really have an agenda of building support independently for their own issues.”

“Our answer to both questions is an emphatic ‘yes’,’ he said.

Borosage said it is independent efforts ‘that will help define the scope of change,” engage the public to support change and ‘stiffen the spine and strengthen the hand of Democrats in negotiations. Neither the public plan in health care nor cap-and-trade on carbon emissions will survive without popular mobilization.’

He warned that the absence of strong progressive movements can open ‘dangerous space for ersatz populist movements on the right.”

“We saw that with the tea bag parties that Fox network huckstered,” he said. “We’ve seen conservatives conflate the trillions going to bolster banks with the spending in the recovery plan needed to get the economy going.’

Progressives have done a good job of organizing to support key elements of the president’s agenda, Borosage said, but that the task ahead ‘will be to build a movement that opens up the space the president will need to act boldly.’

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