NDN Blog

Obama campaign showed up, and saw results

When my mother told me that Obama had opened a field office a few months ago in the southwest corner of Michigan where I grew up, I was in disbelief.

"In downtown St. Joseph?" I asked, and she assured me, she had not misspoken.

"Michigan's Great Southwest," as it is called in tourist pamphlets, is solidly Republican. The sixth congressional district encompasses much of the area, and has been represented for 20 years by Republican Fred Upton.

Granted, McCain dropped out of the state, but as Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post predicted last May, Michigan's conservative southwest held the potential to swing the state from blue to red:

Polling shows the race between McCain and Obama in the Wolverine State as competitive, yet there is no swing state where Republicans feel more confident about their chances. While GOP strategists grant that Obama will run extremely strong in Detroit and the surrounding areas, Republicans believe that in the Upper Peninsula (U-P in Michigander-speak) and in southwestern Michigan -- both more culturally conservative areas -- McCain will dominate.

And yet that office led to my mother knocking on doors, my sister making phone calls, both of them proudly displaying yard signs. When the votes were tallied last night, Obama won Michigan's three southwestern counties by about the same margins as his national totals (Berrien: 52% to 46.5; Van Buren: 53.5 to 44.7; Cass: 51.2 to 47.1), via the New York Times.

Of course, other factors are in play for this area of the country -- I've already noted that McCain ceded the state after the financial crisis. Waves of Illinois volunteers could have flooded the area (it is also only about 2 hours outside of Chicago), and the state's 98% registration level probably helped.

Nonetheless, the Obama campaign showed up -- just like they did across the country. I'm sure this is not the only example where this small, but significant, act paid dividends.

On Earmarks

Earmarks, pork, district development -- the American people have heard a lot about how federal money comes to their hometown. And we obviously have the McCain-Palin pledge to "shake up Washington" to thank for that...

Politics aside -- plenty of others have pointed out the half-truths, disturbingly misleading ads, and the endless repeating thereof -- what is an earmark anyway? The original term is actually "pork-barrel spending," which came about in the early 20th century. From Merriam-Webster's:


pork barrel
: government projects or appropriations yielding rich patronage benefits; also : pork 2

Two quick points. Let's be clear: lots of politicians use earmarks, including Sarah Palin. But not all of them use it as a rallying cry like McCain has.

Second, earmarks are one of those little paradoxes in politics that are important to understand. People have a low opinion on Congress as an institution, but many members of Congress have individual approval ratings above 50%. People say that want to elect a leader who sticks to his principles and doesn't consider public opinion polls, but then say "Hey why doesn't he listen to us?" when elected officials ignore public opinion (See Bush, George W.). 

Earmarks fall nicely into this category. It may be a good buzz word for how McCain will change Washington with the veto pen, but generally people favor the federal funds brought to their districts. Keep that in mind next time you hear the word.

Obama and The Post-American World

Before the speeches and other primary news started dominating the blogosphere yesterday, I saw this interview by Nathan Gardels with Fareed Zakaria. It's about Zarakia's new book The Post-American World, which Gardels claims is on Obama's reading list. This sobering statement opens the article:

If Barack Obama succeeds in his campaign against John McCain and
becomes president of the United States, he will have to deal with much
deeper issues beyond Iraq, namely the "rise of the rest" as China,
India and the developing world aspire to catch up with America and want
a seat at the table of global power.

Just last week, our own Simon Rosenberg has commented on the the book--which takes the long-run view on the challenges facing our nation and our economy. Considering the similar view coming out of the Globalization Initiative at NDN, it's safe to say that we're fans of the book.

Good News on the Minimum Wage

Among other things, hopes increased today for raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour. Senate Minority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell look prepared to work with Democrats on a number of things. From The Washington Post:

Senate Minority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell (Ky.) described as "easy stuff" much of the Democrats' opening agenda, including a proposal to boost the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour and a congressional ethics package that would ban gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists, as well as impose new controls on the budget deficit. These issues, however, have not proved to be easy before.

McConnell said he is urging bolder action. He challenged House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader-elect Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to push for a long-term solution to financing the Social Security system and for a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.

It's nice to see that Republicans will be willing to work with us, especially in the Senate where the majority is slimmer. But isn't it a bit ironic that McConnel is urging Dems to act in areas where the 109th fell short? Time to pick up the slack...

Winning in the West

"The West is growing," said Senator-elect Jon Tester, "It's where the action is."



In Newsweek, Howard Fineman describes how the old narrative of North-South, Mason Dixon, the solid South, etc. is changing--and the West is at the forefront. With the Tester win in Montana last week, the opportunity for Democrats to stake a claim in the region is growing.  (On a side note, who would have thought that Montana would have two Democratic Senators?)

We have a lot to gain from looking westward. According to our very own Simon Rosenberg, quoted in the article, "It's our 21st-century-majority strategy."

The President's Press Conference...

"Say, why all the glum faces?" President Bush began his press conference today--it seemed from the outset that the press conference today, after Democrats had taken control of the House (and at least half the Senate seats at the time of this post) and the announcement of the resignation of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, would be one to watch.

But besides the mishandling of the English language and the quasi-sexist comments about helping soon-to-be Madame Speaker Pelosi "pick out the new drapes in her new offices," the most surprising quote from the press conference today would have to be this:

My point is is that, while we have been adjusting, we will continue to adjust to achieve the objective. And I believe that's what the American people want.

Somehow it's seeped in their conscience that, you know, my attitude was just simply Stay the course. Stay the course means let's get the job done, but it doesn't mean staying stuck on a strategy or tactics that may not be working. So perhaps I need to do a better job of explaining that we're constantly adjusting.

If you haven't seen this DNC ad from two weeks ago, now would be a good time to take a look.

It's not difficult to see that since May 2003, when the President declared "Mission Accomplished," that the news cycle regrading Iraq hasn't changed much--rising US-casualties, sectarian violence, and a President who wanted to "stay the course until the job is done." In electing Democrats yesterday, the American people showed their distrust that the President's "course" (and staying that "course") was something that would benefit America.

Common Sense: Raise the Minimum Wage

We've worked hard here at NDN to make raising the minimum wage an issue in this election, specifically in Arizona and Colorado. And we're not the only ones who realize the value in doing so.

Ezra Klein notes that Republicans have framed the issue successfully (for the last nine years), making it "an article of faith...that minimum wage increases lead to widespread unemployment, and such an intuitive argument, that society would have to be a pretty bizarre place not to abandon the wrongheaded policy altogether." A commentor on that site calls it a "rabbit-out-of-the-hat excuse," but either way, Republicans aren't spitting much evidence.

If anything, the graph Klein shows, depicting employment in San Francisco and Alameda (SF had increased its minimum wage) should be enough to dislodge the argument that has dominated this debate and allow a minimum wage increase to pass:



If the plain and simple lines of this graph don't suit you, the Economic Policy Insitute defends the idea extensively. Perhaps the most persuasive argument, which Klein also notes--"Hundreds of Economists Say: Raise the Minimum Wage."

Voila! Using new web tools for democracy

Ever heard of the website opensecrets.org? How about MAPLight.org?

Aimed mostly at hackers and others of superior techie skill, Wired reports on how the web is mobilizing into the Web 2.0. The goal is simple: “grassroots participation, forging new connections, and empowering from the ground up. The ideal democratic process is participatory and the Web 2.0 phenomenon is about democratizing digital technology.”

At a time when we seem to think that everything is as good as it can get and technology has advanced about as far as it can go, it is still a field of constant innovation. Cell phones get smaller, computers get faster, and some envision an internet community that allows for transparency by tracing campaign dollars. Not only that, but Web 2.0 would be used to track other problems, and create better, faster solutions.

Echoing the passions of Kos, our technology can create “new ways to make government responsive to the public, and to magnify the individual power of each educated and informed voter.”

The Minimum Wage: Turning common knowledge on its head

Throw everything you thought you knew about raising the minimum wage out the window. Only benefits high school students working summer jobs? Not quite. Hurts small business? Nope. Results in more unemployment? Again, no.

Our friends at the Economic Policy Institute released a study today entitled, "Minimum wage trends: Understanding past and contemporary research." In the report, the "new economics of the minimum wage" is outlined, and it drastically alters how the minimum wage should be viewed. Some facts:

  • If the minimum wage were increased nationally to $7.25:
    o 14.9 million workers would receive a raise,
    o 80% of those affected are adults age 20 or over, and
    o 7.3 million children would see their parents income rise.
  • Families with affected workers rely on those workers for over half of their earnings.
  • 46% of all families with affected workers rely solely on the earnings from those workers.

Virtually all the general categories of dispute are addressed in this new research, including job growth, small business growth, and unemployment. In plain English, the report concludes, "The positive effects of the minimum wage are difficult to dispute. The minimum wage sets a floor for the value of work and lifts the living standards of low-wage workers." A common sense argument that's difficult to dispute.


ONE Campaign Stresses GOTV

ONE, the campaign to make poverty history, came out with a new TV spot yesterday:


To quote the ad, "Saving lives in the world's poorest countries, winning the fight against global AIDS and extreme poverty. There aren't two sides to these issues. There is only one--please vote." And somehow, I think there's only one party that's willing to take on these challenges...

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