NDN Blog

Invite: Feb 16, 1pm ET - NDN Talks High Crimes with Glenn Kirschner

We are very excited for this episode of NDN Talks - an extended conversation with television commentator and former prosecutor Glenn Kirschner.  Reserve your spot for Tuesday, February 16th at 1pm today. 

While we admired Glenn's commenator on television, what originally drew us to develop a working relationship with Glenn was this terrific legal analysis back in 2018.  In this NBC NewsThink essay, Glenn made a big argument, one which we think is particularly relevant today - that the Department of Justice needs to treat electoral crimes committed by the President as grave crimes, ones which cannot be subject to it's current "no prosecution" policy.  In this essay he wrote:

"If a president can act unlawfully to influence an election, he does not deserve the protections of his ill-gotten office. This incongruity encourages lawlessness in the quest for the presidency and then rewards that lawlessness by inoculating the criminal president against prosecution. Such a construct is dangerous....

We now find ourselves with a president whose crimes may outpace those of Nixon and Clinton. Failing to hold criminal presidents accountable in a court of law arguably emboldens, or at the very least does not dissuade, corrupt individuals from seeking the presidency. At some point, we must learn from our institutional mistakes. Department of Justice officials would be wise to reflect on American history lest we once again succumb to a governmental crisis."

What he is saying here, very clearly, is that if a President cannot be prosecuted for election crimes, then he has ever incentive in the world to cheat with impunity, which is exactly what we saw in both the Ukraine fiasco in 2019 and the months long effort to disrupt and cheat in the 2020 election.  Simon wrote an extended essay about Glenn's argument back in August, in the midst of what we called Trump's original electoral crime spree. 

With the 2nd Trump Impeachment trial starting in a new days we hope help to put Glenn's big argument back into the national debate, as a step we can take to ensure that these dark days don't return to America soon, or perhaps ever.

Glenn's Bio:

Glenn is a former federal prosecutor with 30 years of trial experience. He served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for 24 years, rising to the position of Chief of the Homicide Section. In that capacity, Glenn supervised 30 homicide prosecutors and oversaw all homicide grand jury investigations and prosecutions in Washington, DC. Prior to joining the DC U.S. Attorney’s Office, Glenn served more than six years on active duty as an Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) prosecutor, trying court-martial cases and handling criminal appeals, including espionage and death penalty cases. Glenn currently works as an NBC News/MSNBC on-air legal analyst and teaches criminal justice at George Washington University. He has a YouTube channel and Podcast, “Justice Matters with Glenn Kirschner.”

Glenn tried hundreds of cases in his 30 years as a prosecutor, including more than 50 murder trials, multiple lengthy RICO trials and precedent-setting cases.  His cases have been made into major motion pictures (murder conviction of a sophisticated con man who ran in elite DC circles, subject of upcoming film “Georgetown”, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Christoph Waltz and Annette Bening) and TV documentaries (defendant Andre Burno convicted of the ambush shooting of an on-duty police officer, subject of the Emmy Award-winning HBO documentary, “Thug Life in DC”). Glenn has lectured at Federal Bar Association seminars, judicial conferences and professional association events.  He has presented at the National Advocacy Center on the topic of homicide prosecutions and taught advanced criminal law at George Washington University School of Law as an adjunct faculty member. He traveled as a Department of Justice representative to address Ukrainian prosecutors and detectives regarding the U.S. Criminal justice system.   

As an Army JAG, Glenn served as prosecutor at Fort Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, where he handled dozens of court-martial cases and served as legal advisor to Army commanders on criminal justice matters. He then served as an Army appellate attorney at the U.S. Army Legal Services Agency in Falls Church, Virginia, where he handled death penalty and espionage cases, among others.

Glenn attended Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia and was First-Team All American football player in 1983.  In 1987, he graduated with honors from New England School of Law in Boston, where he was named a Trustee’s Scholar. Glenn has received numerous awards, including: the Harold J. Sullivan Award for Fairness, Ethics and Trial Excellence; the John F. Evans Award for Outstanding Advocacy; the Metropolitan Police Department’s Chief of Police Medal of Honor; the United States Attorney’s Office STAR Award; U.S. Army Meritorious Service Medal; Washington & Lee University Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee; and induction in September 2018 into the American College of Trial Lawyers.   

Defeating COVID Remains Job #1

It’s all happening now – infrastructure, reconciliation, defending our democracy, ransomware/cyber, Cuba/Haiti, Afghanistan, extreme heat and drought in Western states, COVID rates rising again here and across the world…….this month is going to be an incredible test for Joe Biden and his team.  NDN still believes we have three priorities above all others – defeat COVID, defend our democracy, keep creating jobs/build back better – and as we wrote last week, we hope that defeating COVID becomes once again Joe Biden’s #1 domestic and foreign policy priority.  COVID is doing lasting harm to not just people and families but the fabric of societies around the world – and it is in the vital national interest of America, and the President’s broader autocracy vs democracy agenda, to end the degradation of civic life we are seeing across the world today by bringing COVID’s run to a rapid end.  

A story in Politico today has this passage:  

……Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic operative, said the White House’s move to bring everything under Build Back Better was a smart course correction.

“It connects people back to the President’s two core and most important promises — defeating Covid and leading the country through the recovery — and it is a simple clear statement about what he’s doing,” Rosenberg said. “All the various plans got confusing — this makes it all simple, and powerful, again.”

Simple.  Core priorities.  Clear.  These are important words now as we head into this incredible period.  We worry that team Biden for all its good intentions has taken on too much.  That the system doesn’t easily allow this much legislating, about this many issues, with this much money, to happen so quickly particularly with the backdrop of rising COVID rates here and across the world.  And there is a strong argument to be made that Congress in trying to do so much should be more careful and deliberate about what it is doing. As we’ve learned from both the ACA and vaccine rollouts in recent years, designing and implementing big, complex government programs is really hard; doing many of them all at once is almost an unimaginable undertaking, legislatively and administratively. Isn’t slowing down a bit, making we sure get trillions and trillions of dollars of spending/investment right something that we should consider? 

As we wrote recently, we think it would be wise for the President to get his infrastructure bill done this summer, and come back and tackle reconciliation in the fall.  It would give us time to get the policy and politics right for reconciliation; allow a clear plan to pass federal democracy legislation to come together; and free up some of the White House’s time to reinvigorate our campaign to defeat COVID, including making sure schools across the country can re-open without incident and fear this August and September.  

Defeating COVID remains job #1 – you can’t build back better until COVID is truly on the run, here and everywhere.  Delta is reminding us every day that job is not yet done, and that Presidents, even one as experienced as Joe Biden, cannot do everything all at once

Video: DNC's Tim Durigan on Countering Disinformation (7/20/21)

On Tuesday, July 20th we were excited to host a discussion about countering disinformation with one of the best in the business, Tim Durigan, who runs the DNC's countering disinformation program.  Tim's bio and some recent stories about him and his work are below.  Yiou can watch the discussion here.  For anyone wanting to learn more about this important subject, do watch - Tim did a terrific job. 

Background/Clips

Washington Post: The Technology 202: Online disinformation has changed. Now the DNC is updating its response unit.

Social Media's Misinformation Mismatch | by Timothy Durigan | DNC Tech Team

CNN: Frustration and bewilderment: Emails show tension between Facebook and Biden campaign

Vox: How fake news aimed at Latinos thrives on social media

Tim Durigan Bio

Timothy Durigan leads the DNC's Counter Disinformation Program, where he oversees the DNC's efforts to track and combat online mis- and dis-information, build resilience within Democratic campaigns & state parties, and advocate for reform at social media companies. Prior to his work at the DNC, Tim supported Democrats' efforts to win a House majority in 2018 as a Deputy Director of Data and Reporting at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). He holds a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Notre Dame and lives in Washington, DC.

Video: Briefing On Biden Climate Agenda w/WH's Kieve, Flegal (7/13/21)

NDN is excited to share with you an in-depth briefing on President Biden’s climate agenda with two people working on it every day in the White House, David Kieve and Jane Flegal.  Our discussion took place over Zoom onTuesday, July 13th at 1pm ET.  You can watch it here.

We’ve asked David and Jane to come talk to our community about the important climate and energy related items in the Senate bi-partisan infrastructure framework, and the other parts of the President’s agenda we hope to see enacted in the years ahead including in the fall’s reconciliation process.  David is the Director of Public Engagement at the White House’s Council of Environmental Quality, and Jane is the Senior Director for Industrial Emissions there.

NDN is very excited with the far-sighted leadership President Biden and his team are providing on climate, infrastructure and in modernizing our energy systems.  It has been many years since NDN has advocated for making infrastructure investment central to our politics again, including a big commitment to climate friendly clean infrastructure.  NDN was also an early supporter of a carbon tax and of reforms that would make it easier for American utilities to make the transition to a low/post carbon future.   

It was a really terrific event, and hope you will take the time to watch. 

Analysis: More Jobs Created in Biden's 5 Months Than Bushes/Trump Combined

July 3 - The graph below speaks to one of the most significant inconvenient truths in American politics – the GOP’s economic track record over the past 30 years has been among the worst in the history of the United States.  With the strong June jobs report, over 3m jobs have been created in the first five r months of the Biden Presidency.  Remarkably this is more than was created over the Presidencies of the last 3 Republican Presidents, combined. 

When it comes to managing the US economy, the two parties are not the same.  Since this new age of globalization began in 1989, a modern and forward looking Democratic Party has repeatedly seen strong economic and job growth during their Presidencies.  Republican Presidents have overseen three consecutive recessions, the last two, were severe.  The numbers in the first graph below tell the story – in 16 years of Clinton and Obama, 34m jobs were created.  In the first four months of Biden it is 2.2m.  Over 16 years of the two Bush Presidencies and Trump, it was 1.9m.  Democratic policies have been able to make globalization work for America; GOP policies have repeatedly failed to deliver for the American people, have repeatedly let us down. 

It is our firm belief here at NDN that the current radicalization of the GOP is intimately linked to its repeated failure to handle the challenges of the post-Cold War era.  The rigid ideological approach of the modern GOP has left it unable to govern in a time of rapid change; and those repeated failures have left many Republicans angry, reactionary and willing to do the unthinkable to stay in or regain power.  The modern GOP has no answers for many of the most important challenges America faces today, and rather than modernizing, adapting, as all institutions must in a time of change, the GOP has decided to fight the future by rigging the system to remain in power while the country and its people drift from their narrow grasp.  If the GOP is successful, it is a clear formula for a sustained period of American decline as it will continue to delay much needed progress of the big challenges we face. 

This argument – about the success Democrats have gained through modernization, and the failures of the GOP for their refusal to do so – is at the very core of our presentation, With Democrats Things Get Better.  We are presenting it twice in July, on the 16th and 30th. You can learn more about these arguments, and sign up to see With Dems here

Video: Globalization, the US and Economic Nostalgia w/Adam Posen (6/29/21)

A few weeks ago NDN came across one of the more fascinating and provocative essays we'd read in a while, "The Price of Nostalgia: America's Self-Defeating Economic Retreat" by Adam S. Posen (bio) of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. There is so much in here to discuss that we invited Adam to come talk to us about the article on Tuesday, June 29th.  It was, as expected, a lively and thoughtful conversation about the best path forward for the US economy in a global age.  I'm particularly pleased we got to spend so much time talking about President's ambitious economic agenda, and how it all fits into Adam's thinking.  You can watch a recording of our discussion here.

An excerpt from his essay: “In reality, the path to justice and political stability is also the path to prosperity. What the U.S. economy needs now is greater exposure to pressure from abroad, not protectionist barriers or attempts to rescue specific industries in specific places. Instead of demonizing the changes brought about by international competition, the U.S. government needs to enact domestic policies that credibly enable workers to believe in a future that is not tied to their local employment prospects. The safety net should be broader and apply to people regardless of whether they have a job and no matter where they live. Internationally, Washington should enter into agreements that increase competition in the United States and raise taxation, labor, and environmental standards. It is the self-deluding withdrawal from the international economy over the last 20 years that has failed American workers, not globalization itself.”

In preperation for the event, we took a look back at the very first paper NDN published when it transitioned from a political organization to think tank back in 2005, Crafting A Better CAFTA.  In it we argue that to create space for more economic liberalization, we need to do more to ensure Americans weren’t being left behind, and offered the following agenda:

• Fully fund education reform, especially our poorest schools which have been received $30 billion less than President Bush promised in the No Child Left Behind Act

• Ensure that all Americans have health insurance, and find ways to slow the increase in health care costs

• Raise the minimum wage

• Make quality child care and universal preschool accessible to all families

• Adopt a national strategy to ensure universal broadband access, upgrade our wireless networks, and develop the next generation Internet

• Strengthen community colleges and other workforce development programs

• Expand trade adjustment assistance to cover service workers, to help them retrain for new jobs

• Create a clear path to legal status – and better worker protections – for immigrants already working in the U.S.

• Support initiatives which encourage U.S. students to pursue math, science, and engineering and improve math and science teaching

Hope you can watch this important conversation, and thanks for your interest. 

Adam Posen's Bio

Adam S. Posen has been president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics since January 2013. Over his career, he has contributed to research and public policy regarding monetary and fiscal policies in the G-20, the challenges of European integration since the adoption of the euro, China-US economic relations, and developing new approaches to financial recovery and stability. He was one of the first economists to seriously address the political foundations of central bank independence and to analyze Japan's Great Recession as a failure of macroeconomic policy.  While at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York during 1994–97, he coauthored Inflation Targeting: Lessons from the International Experience with Ben Bernanke, Thomas Laubach, and Frederic Mishkin.

During Dr. Posen's presidency, the Peterson Institute has won global recognition as the leading independent think tank in international economics, including repeated top rankings from the Prospect Think Tank Awards and the Global Go To Think Tank Index.  Under his leadership, PIIE has expanded to include 42 world-renowned resident and nonresident fellows and increased its endowment by 50 percent.  Since 2013, PIIE has developed high-level recognition and research partnerships in the People's Republic of China, while deepening longstanding ties with policymakers in other East Asian, European, and North American capitals.  The Institute also has broken new ground in providing accessible economic analysis to the general public.

Posen has been widely cited and published commentary in leading news and policy publications, including the Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, Handelsblatt, Die Welt, Harvard Business Review, and The International Economy.  He appears frequently on Bloomberg television and radio, among other media programming.

Memo: Some Thoughts on The Path Forward (6/28/21)

The Path Forward- In an essay we posted a few weeks ago, we suggested that Democrats have three big things to do this summer – defeat COVID, defend democracy and keep creating jobs.  On balance things seem to be going pretty well on these fronts, but there is a lot more work to be done…..

Defeating COVID– We start with celebrating our extraordinary progress here.  All measures of COVID’s strength here in the US have plummeted, and we are close now to 70% of all adults having gotten at least one shot. But the fears of what the new delta variant may do to unvaccinated Americans in the coming months – including the disruption of schools and youth sports – reminds us that half of all Americans are still unvaccinated, and we still have a great deal of work ahead of us to defeat COVID here at home. 

Effectively mobilizing to bring in the next layer of vaccine hesitant people is yet another big opportunity for Republicans to take an off ramp from MAGA crazy, and do the responsible thing here.  The correlation between support of Trump and low vaccine rates is very high - simply Republican leaders need to step up now and do their part to support the ongoing work of the Biden Administration and bring an end to COVID’s ongoing threat. Of all the terrible stuff we’ve seen in the Trump/MAGA era, the GOP’s COVID denialism is perhaps the very worst of it all, and we all need to be loud about challenging them to do better, do the right thing there. 

Globally, the spread of the delta variant reminds us that until COVID is defeated everywhere it is not really defeated here in the US.  It remains our belief that the Biden Administration should be doing more to mobilize American resources to accelerate a high profile global campaign to defeat COVID. Make it an American crusade/obsession; it is not only the right thing for us, but can do so much to strengthen the liberal order and restore America’s standing in the world.   As we’ve been writing we feel that this period right now is a bit more like 1944-45 than 1932-33 or 1964-65.  The world is suffering from a dangerous and destabilizing global trauma, and America needs to, as only it can, lead the global effort to defeat COVID and the effort to build back better, everywhere. 

Keep Creating Jobs– Biden’s early plans to defeat COVID and reboot the economy are clearly working, as the US is creating jobs now at a blistering pace – over 2m in Biden’s first four months.  As the graph below shows this is a very rapid pace of job creation, and is by comparison, more jobs created than in the 16 years of the last GOP Presidents COMBINED.  

But as Rob Shapiro’s new essay in the Atlantic about the recovery warns us, the trauma of the pandemic here in the US is causing people to return to spending much more slowly than in a traditional recovery.  Not really unexpected, but as Rob argues it means the recovery could stall out this fall and winter as many of the programs targeted at individuals come to an end. This is why Democrats would be wise to get the two bi-partisan bills which have emerged from the Senate – the US Innovation and Competition Act and the infrastructure bill – to the President’s desk before the summer recess.  The reconciliation bill, and whatever ends up in it, can come this fall as it just isn’t as far along as these other two packages. 

We here at NDN want to marvel at what the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, have agreed to in recent weeks – a national electric vehicles charging station network, enormous investments in roads/bridges/public transit and our energy infrastructure, creation of truly universal access to broadband, the replacement of all lead pipes to improve our nation’s drinking water, historic investments in all kinds of advanced research and to help America compete and win in technologies of the mid 21st century and beyond…..(much of this will disproportionately benefit underserved communities btw).

It is critical that Democrats take these extraordinary and far sighted packages, couple them with the already successful work of the President’s American Rescue Plan, and let the American people know just how important the election of 2020 was, and how much better we already are and will continue to be because of it.  Passing these packages, and selling our success, will give President Biden more running room to be aggressive with the reconciliation package to follow in the fall.  

Defending democracy– As we discussed with the great Norm Ornstein last Tuesday, we cannot be happy with the state of our efforts to defend democracy here at home.  Our discussion with Norm is well worth watching in its entirely – it was simply one of the best articulations of the challenges ahead we’ve heard.  His ideas about how to best reform the filibuster are particularly compelling.

Working backwards from the UN General Assembly this fall, we believe President Biden should give a series of speeches fleshing out his ideas about the autocracy vs. democracy framework he has advanced.   Americans need to have a better understanding of what’s at stake here, as the President seeks to mobilize them for what could be a very long – decades – struggle to ensure autocrats do not gain the upper hand abroad, or here at home. 

As urgent as the climate crisis is for America and the world (116 degrees in Portland), it’s our belief that maintaining the open, transparent global liberal order is a prerequisite for fighting and winning the sustained battle against climate change.  We will have more to say about this in the coming months but we aren’t backseating climate here – we just believe there are things that must be done first to make that very consequential fight more likely to be successful.  And yes we agree that the parts of the President's climate agenda not covered in the infrastructure package should land in reconciliation. 

Finally, we want to acknowledge that the President has gotten the Republicans to agree to two big packages full of his priorities.  Rather than the relentless nihilism of recent years, Joe Biden has successfully gotten the GOP to take off ramps from radicalization/MAGA, something reinforced by the very constructive appearances on yesterday’s Sunday shows by GOP Senators involved in the infrastructure package.  We all have to be eyes wide open here, and recognize that working with the Rs while they continue to attack our democracy is highly risky, as we risk legitimizing a party still in the thrall of an authoritarian MAGA.  But as NDN has written, our collective societal goal has to be to attempt to get the GOP to start and keep taking off ramps from MAGA; to learn, slowly, painfully, how to be just a right or center right party and not a radical one.  Joe Biden has done that in recent weeks, and while so much more needs to be done, helping remove radicalization from democracies is something at the very center of Joe Biden’s democracy agenda.  For if democracies fail, autocrats win.  

In a recent essay in the Washington Post Greg Sargent does a good job looking the risks Democrats are taking now in treating the GOP as a traditional American political party as it continues to wage its deeply un-American and dangerous assault on our democracy.  Let us all hope that Biden’s grand strategy is successful here, and that we are seeing is the beginning of the end of MAGA – all while advancing huge parts of our own agenda.  

Video: NDN Talks w/Norm Ornstein About Defending Democracy, GOP Radicalization (6/22/21)

Few have been writing and talking more about the decline of the GOP and the increasing threat it has become to our democracy than Norm Ornstein.  Among the most influential scholars of the Congress and America's democracy more broadly, Norm joinied us for an important conversation about the threats our democracy faces today as the Senate debate HR 1/S 1, the legislation designed by Democrats to defend our democracy this year.

You can watch our conversation with Norrm here and catch some of his commentary on these matters here, here and here.  Here is a link to the Brookings essay Morley Winograd discussed during during the Question and Answer session; and you learn more and register for the NDN presentation we discussed, With Democrats Things Get Better, here

For more from us about defending our democracy feel free to watch our recent interviews with Professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Ari Berman and Glenn Kirschner; and read Simon's recent essay on what Democrats need to be focusing on this summer. 

Norm Ornstein's Bio

Norman Ornstein is an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He is a contributing editor and writer for The Atlantic and has been an election eve analyst for CBS News and BBC News. He is also Chairman of the Board of the Campaign Legal Center. His family foundation, the Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Foundation, www.mornstein.org, sponsors a summer debate institute for public school kids in the Washington area through the Washington Urban Debate League, and created and funded the documentary The Definition of Insanity, that was broadcast on PBS in April 2020 and tells the story of how a remarkable judge in Miami-Dade County, Florida, transformed the way its criminal justice system deals with those with serious mental illness, saving lives and saving money at the same time.

He serves as a senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission and co-directed the AEI-Brookings Project on alternatives to the Independent Counsel Act. Mr. Ornstein led a working group of scholars and practitioners that helped shape the law, known as McCain-Feingold, which reformed the campaign financing system. He was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. His many books include Intensive Care: How Congress Shapes Health Policy; The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, with Tom Mann; and The New York Times bestseller, It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, also with Tom Mann (2012, named Book of the Year by Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog, one of the ten best books on politics in 2012 by The New Yorker, and one of the best books of 2012 by The Washington Post. An expanded edition, retitled It’s Even Worse Than It Was, was published in 2016. His latest book, with EJ Dionne and Tom Mann, One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate and the Not-Yet-Deported (2017) was immediately on the New York Times and Washington Post bestseller lists. Ornstein has a BA from the University of Minnesota and an MA and PhD from the University of Michigan. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from his alma mater in 2007. Ornstein was spotlighted as one of 2012’s 100 Top Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy Magazine.

With Democrats Things Get Better - July 30th

To help celebrate and promote Joe Biden's two big economic proposals, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, and the Senate's bi-partisan USICA and new infrastructure framework, NDN has rebooted its signature presentation, With Democrats Things Get Better, and will be showing it once or twice or a month this summer.  We think the data and arguments in the deck are essential in understanding why the Biden proposals are needed now, and why the nation should be confident they are going to work if enacted.  

With Dems is updated with every showing, so it is always new and fresh. Right now we are taking RSVPs for our July 30th presentation.  If you can't make that one, feel free to watch a recording of our July 16th presentation which includes a lot of new economic analysis relevant to the current economic debate. 

To learn more about the big arguments in With Dems start with our recently published analysis More Jobs Created in Biden's 5 Months Than Last 3 GOP Presidents Combined and an essay, The Case for Optimism, Rejecting Trump's Poisonous Pessimism. which was the basis of the earliest version of this presentation. We also strongly recommend reviewing David Leonhardt’s recent NYT essay "Why Are Republican Presidents So Bad for the Economy?" It makes very similar arguments and has lots of terrific and useful charts.  We also just released a new analysis which shows that more jobs have been created in Biden's first 4 months than in the 3 Presidencies of the Bushes and Trump combined. 

Finally, Mike Tomasky’s rave review of With Dems in a recent Daily Beast column is a great read.  Mike writes: “Simon Rosenberg heads NDN, a liberal think tank and advocacy organization. He has spent years advising Democrats, presidents included, on how to talk about economic matters. Not long ago, he put together a little PowerPoint deck. It is fascinating. You need to know about it. The entire country needs to know about it."  We agree of course. 

You can find even more background below.  Thanks for your interest, and we hope to catch you at one of our upcoming presentations!

Background on With Dems

The impetus for With Dems comes from the big argument Donald Trump started making in his 2016 campaign - that this new age of globalization ushered in after the end of the Cold War had weakened the United States, leading to his infamous phrase "American carnage."

At NDN we always found that argument misguided and wrong. When Trump came to office the US had a very low unemployment rate, record high stock market, declining deficits and rapidly growing incomes for American workers. The uninsured rate was the lowest of the modern era, crime rates were half of what they'd been, and the flow of undocumented immigrants to the border was a fraction of what it was in the Bush and Clinton years.  The world was largely at peace, a great deal of the world was modernizing and growing, and a global effort to address climate change was picking up steam.  While things weren't perfect, what President Trump inherited when he came to office were some of the best overall geopolitical, societal and economic conditions America had seen in decades.  It is something Simon discusses at length in this Medium essay.

So over the past few years we've been talking about just how wrong former President Trump was about this great country and its achievements.  It has driven a great deal of our research and advocacy and the creation of an earlier version of With Democrats Things Get Better called Patriotism and Optimism.  In the spring of 2020 we retooled Patriotism and Optimism into our new presentation, With Dems, which is a data filled look at America during this age of globalization, and how each party has navigated its challenges while in the White House. 

Central to this presentation is the notion that the Democratic and Republican parties aren't mirror images of one another, but rather that they have followed separate, organic pathways in a big, diverse country like the US. The result of this differing evolution is that the Democrats have been a remarkably successful governing party since 1989, while the Republicans have presided over three straight recessions, historic foreign policy failures and a deeply dangerous embrace of illiberalism.  

One thing we discuss in With Democrats is how Americans who have grown up in this post-1989 era - those under 45 - understand this divergence, and view the parties very differently as a result. In 2018, voters under 45 voted for Democrats by a margin of 25 points, whereas in the seven elections from 1992 to 2004, voters under 45 (who had grown up in a fundamentally different political era) voted for Democrats by an average margin of just 0.3 points. 

We hope you enjoy this new project and do note that one of our existing programmatic areas, Countering Illiberalism's Rise, has some overlap with the work you will find here.  We are pleased that CNN Commentator Maria Cardona featured our work in her recent column in The Hill, and it got a wonderful rave from Mike Tomasky in a new Daily Beast column, writing  "It is fascinating. You need to know about it. The entire country needs to know about it." 

Simon recently published an essay, "Build Back Better/Reconstruir Mejor - Joe Biden's Historic Opportunity" in the Mexican-based intellectual journal Letras Libres.  It addresses many of the themes we explore in With Dems and offers some thoughts on the big challenges ahead for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. A passage: "A President Biden would have an extraordinary opportunity to do what he calls “build back better” here in America, and around the world.  It would be wise for Biden to view this moment as the beginning of a new era, a generational long project to reset America and the world after a collective trauma.  Perhaps the most analogous moment in our history would be the years after World War II in which new institutions were established around a new vision for humankind."

We hope you enjoy With Dems, and if you do, please invite others to come experience it too. It is free and open to the public – all are welcome. 

Background Readings

Build Back Better/Reconstruir Mejor - Joe Biden's Historic Opportunity - Simon Rosenberg, Letras Libres, 10/1/20 - In a new essay for the influential journal Letras Libres, Simon offer his thoughts about what Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the Democrats should fight for if they prevail in the election this fall (English and Spanish). 

Crossing the Rubicon - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 1/29/20 - The GOP's increasing acceptance of illiberalism and actions at odds with our democratic tradition to gain/maintain power has become the most important political story of our time.

To Defeat Illiberalism, Democrats Must Embrace Their Success As A Governing Party - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 12/14/19 - Over the past 30 years, the Democratic Party has been the most successful center-left party in the developed world.   It is time it started acting like it, and begin to far more purposefully lead the fight against rising illiberalism here and abroad. 

Americans Under 45 Are Breaking Hard Toward The Democrats - And For Good Reason - Simon Rosenberg and Chris Taylor, NDN, 8/2/19 - Among the most significant political developments of the Trump era is the dramatic shift of under 45 year old voters towards the Democrats. From 2000 to 2016 D margin w/under 45s was 6 points. In 2018 it was 25. 

In New Global Age, Dems Have Produced Prosperity, the GOP Decline - Chris Taylor, Medium, 1/29/19.  Since 1989, Democrats have overseen strong and inclusive economic growth when in the White House, while the Republican Presidents have repeatedly seen economic under-performance and even recession and decline. 

The Case for Optimism: Rejecting Trump's Poisonous Pessimism, Simon Rosenberg, Medium, 6/2/17. In an essay that originally was published on Medium, Simon argues that the great rationale of Trump's Presidency  –  that America is in decline – simply isn't true, and must be challenged more forcefully. 

Chin Up, Democrats, Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 1/20/17. In his column, Simon argues that Democrats should have pride in their historic accomplishments and optimism about the future of their politics. This one is very relevant to the presentation itself. 

A Center-Left Agenda for the Trump Era - Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 12/9/16.  In the early days after Trump's election, Simon layed out a possible agenda for the Democrats centering on prosperity, security, shoring up the American led liberal order and ambitious efforts to reform our political system. 

Older, Related Work

An Enduring Legacy: The Democratic Party and Free and Open Trade Jan 21, 2014 - The global system created by Presidents FDR and Truman has done more to create opportunity, reduce poverty and advance democracy than perhaps any other policies in history. 

TIME Features NDN Economic Analysis, Chart, Labels It "Most Important Chart in American Politics" Feb 5, 2013 - Michael Scherer of Time reports on the influence Dr. Rob Shapiro's analysis has had on shaping recent thinking about how the American economy is changing.

"Forward, or Backward?" - The Descent of the GOP Into A Reactionary Mess 10/25/12 - In a new magazine essay, Simon argues that the more the world moves away from the simplicity of the Reagan moment the more angry and defiant the Republican offering is becoming.  In both Spanish and English.

Crafting an American Response to the Rise of the Rest, January 21, 2010, Cross posted on NDN.org and Salon.com.  Simon argues that the second generation Obama narrative must be a strategic response to the most significant transformation taking place in the world today, the rise of new global economic powers, or what Fareed Zakaria has called the “rise of the rest.”

The 50 Year Strategy, November/December 2007, Mother Jones. Simon and Peter Leyden offer a landmark vision for how progressives can win and prosper in the decades to come.

Memo: A Summer To Do List for Democrats - Defeat COVID, Defend Democracy, Keep Creating Jobs

This essay was first published on Medium

While there is much on the plate of the new majorities, Democrats should consider making it clear they have three priorities for the summer – defeating COVID, defending our democracy and keep creating jobs.  By firmly establishing what we are fighting for and getting done now, Democrats will potentially be able to take on even more in the fall and winter, including tackling climate change, investing in infrastructure, long overdue reforms of our immigration system and other elements of the President’s economic proposals essential to the country’s future.  Let’s take each of the three summer priorities in turn: 

Defeat COVID– While we have made a great deal of progress here at home, COVID will not be defeated here in the US until it is defeated everywhere.   Democrats must continue to lead the effort to end COVID in America, while also launching a massive very American effort to end throughout the world.   

Creating a successful global mobilization against COVID has many benefits for the US beyond protecting our people (and allowing the economy to come back to life) and the obvious humanitarian imperative – it can help reinvigorate the global liberal order; strengthen American alliances throughout the world;  renew American soft power; and prevent societal and economic erosion in the developing world that will both set countries back for decades and can in some cases lead to destabilizing, extremist politics.  

For me, the moment Biden faces now is more akin to 1945-1946 than 1932-1933, or 1964-1965.  The world is suffering a collective trauma, and we must defeat the enemy and then do what Biden is so committed to doing – build back better, here, and throughout the world.  The opportunity for American global leadership here is immense, and should be seized by the heirs of FDR and Truman.   

Defend Democracy– Joe Biden has repeatedly said that we are now in a renewed and very American struggle of democracy versus autocracy throughout the world, and that America must demonstrate that “democracy still works.” And while the President will begin to further define his vision for what this means for American foreign policy in his European trip this week, the urgent front in this new battle is here in America, as a radicalized GOP/MAGA has launched an all-out assault on the world’s oldest and most important democracy, our own. 

Democrats must cobble together our various initiatives – HR 1, Jan 6thCommission, John Lewis Voting Rights Act, stopping the Republican sabotage in the states, redistricting, reforming the filibuster – and turn them into a clear agenda that we start talking to the American people about.  We simply must learn how to talk about what has happened to the GOP, and make sure all Americans understand both how dangerous Republicans have become, and what we are doing to prevent them from doing permanent harm to the country.  This is a hard conversation to have; this is not a fight Democrats thought they would be having now.  But it is a fight we must take on with extraordinary intensity, and we simply cannot lose.  It has to become seen as something as important to us as these other big priorities – defeating COVID, creating jobs, tackling climate, creating more equity in America - It is that important, and perhaps needs to be seen as foundational to all our other priorities.   

Like previous generations of Democrats, who signed up to defend democracy when called, we must now understand that this battle could be a long one, taking many forms over many years here and throughout the world.  But we’ve fought these battles before as a Party, and have prevailed. We must now do it again.  

Keep Creating Jobs – The economy has roared back this year because of Joe Biden’s ambitious and timely American Rescue Plan.  It provided the strategy and funds to defeat COVID, something that simply wasn’t a priority for Republicans; and it made critical investments in our economy and people which have led to very strong job and wage growth this year.  Democrats must make clear to voters that the recovery they are feeling is because of what we did, that not a single Republican supported the plan. 

While Democratic economic proposals have been broadly popular, the job of making sure that people understand the recovery has happened because of what we’ve done is not finished.  A recent Harvard CAPS/Harris poll found that only 46% of Americans give Joe Biden credit for the current economy recovery.  In a recent Navigator Research poll when asked who was better at rebuilding the economy, voters said 45% Biden, 44% the GOP.  These numbers suggest Democrats have work to do to get the credit they deserve for the economic recovery the country clearly understands is underway.  It also suggests that Republicans retain a great deal of credibility on economic issues despite their intransigence and long history of poor economic stewardship when in the White House.    

Democrats should learn from the Obama Presidency – we were never able to get adequate credit for economic policies which created a long-sustained period of economic growth, pulled the country from the Great Recession, raised incomes and wages, and reduced the deficit.  It would be politically reckless right now to move on to other parts of the Biden agenda before this basic link is firmly established in the public’s mind – the recovery that is happening is because of Democrats and the American Rescue Plan. A summer dedicated to telling that story above all other economic stories would be the smart thing to do now. These recent ads from Majority Forward are an excellent example of what the entire party can and should be doing this summer.   

And while we are telling the story of the success of the American Rescue Plan, we can establish that yes creating lots of jobs after GOP mismanagement of the economy is what Democrats have been doing for decades now.  Bill Clinton did it after the Bush recession of 1992.  Barack Obama did it after the second Bush’s Great Recession of 2008-2009.  Joe Biden is doing it now after the Trump recession of 2020.  During this era, the post-Cold War era, Democrats have excelled at creating jobs. Clinton and Obama created 34m jobs. Joe Biden has created 2.2m in just 4 months.  All three of these GOP Presidents created just 1.9m jobs over all three of their Presidencies.  Democrats have an incredible opportunity to help voters understand just how effective Democrats have been when in the White House these past 30 plus years, and just how much Republicans have struggled to do their part to keep the country moving forward – and why electing them again in 2022 would be so risky.   

As a veteran of the Democratic battles after our last two Presidential victories, I can tell you that power can be fleeting.  Despite our repeated electoral success, we’ve only held the White House and the House at the same time – something required to control the agenda in Washington – for 4 of the past 40 years.  Both Clinton and Obama came to Washington with bigger Electoral College/popular vote margins and Congressional majorities than Biden, and both still lost the House. This time, given what has happened to the GOP, losing the House simply isn’t an option in 2022.  And so yes we must be ambitious, and do hard things as a Party, but we must be smart, and first show the American people that we can be trusted with the power they’ve given us.  

If we can convince the American people that we’ve done what we said we would do – defeat COVID, get people back to work – more will become possible for us in the months ahead.  But if go too fast and neglect to provide a clear explanation for what we are trying to achieve, or if we get too far out ahead of the voters, or do things they don’t like, however well intentioned, and lose the House, we will all wake up in November of 2022 without the ability to move any aspect of our agenda, and will have allowed our democracy itself to be put at risk.  Our goal should be four years of controlling the agenda under Biden, not just two – so much more would be possible then, and it would be as many years of controlling the agenda as we’ve had over the past 40.  It would be an extraordinary achievement.    

So, let’s focus on defeating COVID, defending democracy and creating more jobs this summer – these are big things, potentially world altering things, things that we must do first in order for other important things to happen next.  And we can never, not for one moment take our eye of the most important political objective of the 2022 cycle – keeping the radicalized Republicans from retaking the House.  

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