NDN Blog

What Transformative Policies are up to the Challenge of Climate Change?

A growing political consensus is emerging that climate change is real, is only getting worse, and that something must be done to deal with it. But what? And at what scale? And at what kind of timetable?

Many, like former Vice President Al Gore, argue that we must make big changes very fast. We must put forward transformative policies asap. In fact, in his speech accepting his Nobel Pease prize, Gore called for a comprehensive shift to a carbon tax. Such a tax would shift the incentives of the economy towards clean energy and away from any energy that emits carbon, the critical gas that is a major contributor to global warming. But it also would send shock waves through the economy, creating a lot of new winners and a bunch of losers. Instituting a carbon tax, though arguably very beneficial in the long run, would be extremely difficult to get through in the short run.

Instituting a carbon tax in America sometime soon is something we can expect Elaine Kamarck to comment on in her appearance in next week’s event on “A Moment of Transformation.” Kamarck is at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government after a career in politics and government. She served in the Clinton White house from 1993 to 1997, creating and managing what was known as the reinventing government initiative. She then served as Director of the Kennedy School’s Vision of Governance for the 21st Century. Then she took a leave of absence to work as a senior policy advisor in the 2000 campaign for Al Gore.

Kamarck now is about to co-chair the Climate Task Force, a new organization bringing businesses and environmentalists together around the most effective ways to address climate change. Among other things, they will undoubtedly consider a carbon tax, or cap and trades, or any of the many other ideas out there for how America can become a global leader in responding to the changing climate.

We look forward to hearing what insights she can give about how transformative a time we are in. And we hope you will join us for this free, day-long event, next Wed. (March 12) in Washington, DC. If interested, just RSVP. See you there.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Shai Agassi and the Transformation of Transportation

One of the speakers at our Moment of Transformation day-long conference on March 12th will be a high tech entrepreneur with no experience in politics. But, like everyone else at this event, he is in the transformation business. And political people will find it useful to listen closely to what he has to say.

Shai Agassi is trying to transform the $1.5 trillion-a-year auto industry and eventually make the $1.5 trillion-a-year gasoline industry obsolete. He is the CEO of a Silicon Valley start-up called Better Place that is trying to jumpstart the electric car business with an approach to building an infrastructure for swapping out batteries in a practical, quick way.

Agassi is no wide-eyed dreamer. He was one of a handful of top executives at SAP, the third-largest software company in the world, and he barely was edged out for the top CEO position in 2007. When he did not get that job, he left to become the founder and CEO of Better Place. Since then he has successfully lobbied the Israeli government to back his plan to quickly scale up electric cars in Israel. He has raised more than $200 million in venture capital, and found a auto-company partner in Renault Nissan. This plan is for real. For the detaield version of this amazing tale, check out a recent BusinessWeek story.

Agassi will be speaking late in the morning on March 12th about his big, bold idea and what it takes to think and act in a transformative manner. With all the talk about change and even transformative change coming to politics, we will be stepping back and talking about just how transformative the changes could be in America and the world as we come off this historic election. Agassi will be just one of about a dozen people talking about the transformations happening in their fields of expertise.

We hope that you will come and join many others in giving your insights into what kind of change we will see coming in the months and years ahead. Spread the word about this free, open event among your friends and colleagues. And then make sure you come and RSVP. Thanks .

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Another Transformation: The New Geopolitics of China and India Rising

Any talk about transformative change in the world today must at some point look at the rise of China. The rise of China, along with the rise of India and Asia in general, is fundamentally restructuring the geopolitics of the early 21st century. So in our Moment of Transformation gathering on March 12, we will be looking hard at the emergence of China and its impact on US foreign policy. And we are extremely fortunate to have Orville Schell to help guide us.

Orville Schell deeply understands China and has been studying it since the 1960s as a student, academic, journalist and author. He is the author of no less than 9 books on China, including Mandate of Heaven: The Legacy of Tiananmen Square and the Next Generation of China's Leaders. His books are a nice blend of deep thinking that can be found in academic writing (he has a Ph.D. in Chinese History from UC Berkeley) with a contemporary understanding of a working journalist (for example, he covered the war in Indochina in the 1960s).

It is no wonder that when the New York-based Asia Society was looking for a director to head its new Center on U.S.-China Relations, they wooed Orville. To get a sense of Schell see his masterful interview of Henry Kissinger at the inauguration of the Center in New York about a year ago.

When he joined the Asia Society, Schell had just completed a decade as Dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where he helped move the program into the new multimedia digital age. Schell was known for opening the school to a variety of non-traditional teachers, often working journalists and writers who would give open lectures and teach classes for a time. He did much to move the school towards preparing students to be fluent in the ways of video and the web.

Schell now gets to China quite a bit and has done much thinking about how America should deal with this emerging giant. Come to the Transformation event to see him and a great lineup of people with similar stature in different fields. Just be sure to RSVP.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

A Different Kind of Event for a Transformational Moment

We’ve been talking a lot on the blog and our websites about our upcoming event called “A Moment of Transformation.” This is not a typical Washington DC event, but more like a new breed of conference that is appearing in the private sector. These conferences focus on presenting big ideas from many disciplines in a memorable way. They seek to bring together a remarkable collection of speakers and leave much room for discussion and networking.

The conference that set the standard in this realm is the TED conference, which originally stood for Technology, Entertainment and Design conference, but now is just known as TED. This week TED is being held in Monterrey California, on the Pacific coast, with a simulcast linked to Aspen, Colorado. You can get a good background of that conference here, or just watch video of past events off the TED site.

TED pretty much does not deal with politics or government. However, our Transformative Moment event does. (TED also costs $6,000 and our event is free.) We have pulled together a terrific group of speakers who will talk bout the transformations happening in their fields with an eye towards how they might impact politics and government. In the run-up to the conference in a couple weeks, we will highlight some of them, starting with Amory Lovins.

Amory Lovins has blazed a trail over the last couple decades in understanding how to build a sustainable economy with clean energy in very practical ways. He was one of the coauthors of the seminal book Natural Capitalism, which talked about how to use market mechanisms to reward energy efficient, sustainable behavior. He then coauthored the extremely practical Factor Four, which focused on very specific ways to improve energy efficiency by a factor of four. His latest book is Winning the Oil Endgame, which carries on in this tradition, looking at how to overcome our oil transportation hurtles.

Amory is cofounder and now Chairman and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a non-profit looking at a broad range of issues having to do with sustainability. RMI was way ahead of the curve on talking about sustainability, starting in 1982. They now have a staff of about 40 people based in Colorado.

Amory has been given many awards, including a coveted MacArthur Fellowship, known as a genius grant. I got to know him through his involvement in Global Business Network, a pioneering think tank on the future. He was one of their 120 remarkable people who helped many private sector companies to understand the big trends shaping the future. Amory is sure to do the same for us at the March 12th event. I hope you come and see.

In the meantime check out a two-minute video below of Amory at TED where he discusses how we can reduce oil dependency.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

The New Era of Distributed Politics

Another whirlwind week, and I want to point out three new examples that appeared to illustrate the new kind of distributed politics that we are lurching towards. That new brand of decentralized, bottom-up, broad-based politics was brilliantly summed up by Joe Trippi at this week’s event on Capitol Hill put on by NDN and the New Politics Institute.

Trippi, the chief strategist behind the 2004 Dean campaign and this cycle’s Edwards’ campaign (as well as a founding fellow of NPI), squeezed down the essence of what is happening in the Democratic race for the nomination. The Clinton campaign, the absolute best, most powerful example of the old model of top-down politics on the Democratic side, is getting beaten by only the second-ever example of the bottom-up new politics model, that of Obama. Watch Joe’s 10 minute exposition of this idea, where he talks about Dean’s campaign being the Wright Brothers, and now, only four years later, Obama is landing on the moon.

And so this week there were three new examples of how that new kind of distributed politics works. One comes from the supporters of Clinton. It’s a fantastic example of how ordinary citizens, without any control or even knowledge of the official campaign (or at least from what it seems), can come together to create moving media with the power to persuade. Check out Hillary Speaks for Me, which is reminiscent of 2004’s “Bush In 30 Seconds” by MoveOn, and creates an infrastructure where anyone can upload 30-second videos about why they support Hillary. It is extremely well done, and given that I have been pointing out many user-generated examples on the Obama side in recent weeks, I want to highlight this first. Bottom-up politics can benefit anyone who tunes into it.

Second is the Superdelegate Transparency Project, created partly by Jennifer Nix, a New Politics Institute Fellow. Jen herself posts about the project elsewhere on this blog so I won’t elaborate on it, but point out a couple things. This is a distributed project among what could be called citizen journalists, or bloggers, to just fill out the details of who the delegates are, who they are currently endorsing, and how the district or state they represent voted in the primaries or caucuses. Simply doing the legwork and shining sunlight in these murky corners both does a journalistic service that the understaffed mainstream media outlets can’t do, but the very fact they are doing the project at all may help change the behavior of the delegates themselves. There won’t be any backroom deals here. It’s all out in the open and out there early. Check it out.

Finally, the mainstream press, starting with the New York Times, “broke “ the McCain and Vicki Iseman story, about his uncomfortably cozy relationship to a lobbyist. I put “broke” in quotes because the blogs had been chewing on this beforehand, but it did take a respectable institution to force it onto the national agenda. However, once that crack in the dike appeared, the distributed forces started the next wave of stories. Check out the Brave New Films effort to broaden the notion of McCain’s friends, with a takeoff of the old television comedy series “Friends.” With the help of some other blogs they help fill out the famous couch with friends beyond Iseman. And they set up a petition process that people can join and virally send around.

And that was just this week. This is a mushrooming process that will continue in the weeks and months ahead. By the time November comes around, the  electorate will be churning with so many new efforts we won’t be able to track them all. Democracy, you gotta love it.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Yes It Can: The Mash-Up Viral Video Takes Off

The “Yes We Can” viral videos pinging around the internet in the last couple weeks have taken “mash-ups” to a whole new level in politics.

Video mash-ups are when you take video produced for one purpose and repurpose it in another context to make a different point. The first big example of this in politics came a year ago with the repurposing of Apple’s classic 1984 Super Bowl ad into a political statement about Hillary Clinton’s national conversation, and a warning about the rise of Obama. We’ve been talking a lot about mash-ups and viral video at the New Politics Institute in the last year, including an event with the creator of that “Vote Different” video.

But the “Yes We Can” by will.i.am and other stars raised the bar dramatically. This took a lot of creative work to blend a new song around the words of Obama from a primary speech. Their efforts have been rewarded with more than 4 million hits on YouTube and countless references on mainstream TV.

Now come the knock-offs and some of them are terrific. If you have not seen them, check out the john.he.is video that takes key passages from McCain’s speeches and has what looks like characters similar to the “Yes We Can” video trying to reinforce his words, but coming out puzzled and angry about McCain’s lines like “bomb, bomb Iran.”

Then there’s the “No You Can’t” video that has rich Americans singing off the Obama speech about how you can’t disrupt their status quo. It ends with the word “Vote” morphing into “GOP.” Very funny.

It’s true that these viral videos may only hit numbers in the 1 to 4 million range rather than the 10s of millions who might see traditional 30-second television ads. But many of these people viewing the viral videos are the activists and opinion leaders and journalists who can leverage it far beyond the numbers. They then send them out to their influential circles of friends and families too.

There are other factors that make these videos more powerful than they may appear on the surface. They can blast far beyond the boundaries of 30 seconds - for example, the “Yes We Can” video is a full four minutes. And it bears reminding, that the cost for distribution is zero. Nothing, compared to millions of dollars to try and force a quick message at TV couch potatoes who don’t’ want to see it, and increasingly, can zip past the ads with their digital video recorders.

And then there is the coolness factor. This is the indefinable quality that, as they say, is priceless. To have a guy from the Black Eyed Peas and his Hollywood friends volunteer to create a video for Obama is cool. To have creative young people all over the internet follow up with their versions is even cooler. Remember, this is America. To be cool is valuable. That translates into politics.

Then again, not all web videos are created equal. Some can really backfire on a candidate too, even if they are devised to help. Witness the “Hillary for You and Me” video which seems like it was created in the 1970s. But then, the 1970s are now hot. Or was that last year?

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute.

Super Tuesday Aftermath: Handicapping the Campaigns according to Four Key Drivers of the New Politics

There are four key drivers of the New Politics that Simon and I elaborated on in our recent magazine piece “The 50 Year Strategy.” These are four disrupters of the old politics that are restructuring how politics is carried out and will continue to be played in the coming decade. The ones we focused on are the new tools, the young Millennial Generation, the rise of Hispanics, and the emergence of a new 21st century agenda. What’s been incredible about this primary season is how fully realized and important they all have become.

One way to look at the success of the Obama and Clinton campaigns, and their relative strengths and weaknesses, is through the lens of their use of this New Politics. This perspective helps explain the results of Super Tuesday, including what happened in California. The boiled down essence is that Obama is ahead in the tools and Millennial categories, but Clinton is way ahead on Hispanics. As for the agenda, Obama is talking more transformation, while Clinton is talking change, through both are close to each other in specific policies, and they are not yet keeping up to their rhetoric with truly 21st century policy shifts. Let me explain a bit more:

Tools: Obama has done a phenomenal job in the new tools category, while Clinton has been solid and at least kept up. The most dramatic measure is in the online money category. Obama raised an unprecedented $32 million in January, $28 million of it online, and most of it based on 275,000 people who had given $100 or less. Clinton only raised $13.5 million in January, though she has raised $7.5 million since Feb. 1st , mostly online. However, Obama has raised another $7 million in just the 36 hours since Super Tuesday.

The other side of the tools is the online organizing and coordinating. Again, Obama has come out ahead, as I have talked about in other posts. He has an extremely active and virally growing network of people actively campaigning for him. This has been boosted in the last week with the endorsement of the 3.2 million member online organization MoveOn. Then there’s new media, such as the use of video. Obama had been masterful in reworking his campaign speeches via video, something again we have posted on. And his user-generated Yes We Can YouTube video is in a league by itself, now with close to 2.5 million views.

One of the best analyses comparing the two campaigns on this front is Micah Sifry’s recent post at techPresident. He frames Obama as the first in a long line of reform candidates like Ted Kennedy and Bill Bradley to have the staying power precisely because of the new tools. It changed the game.

Millennials: Much has been said about the Millennials in other posts, but it’s worth pointing out that turnout of young people under age 30 has been much bigger than in the past years. For example, of the eight states that were also part of Super Tuesday in 2000, seven saw increases in youth turnout, and in some of these states, youth turnout tripled or quadrupled, according to the numbers at CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. (The reason they use comparisons with 2000 and not 2004 is because they are non-partisan and the uncontested Republican race in 2004 led to few exit polls and poor data on the Republican side.)

The Millennials share of all primary voters in 2008 was in the teens, and even high teens, in all but three states. This category of young voters under age 30 as a share of all voters was up by 4 to 6 percentage points in all eight states that had the data for 2000. For example, in California youth went from 10 percent of those voting in 2000 to 14 percent in 2008. In Massachusetts, from 8 percent to 14 percent.

Obama took the youth vote in 10 of the states, with margins in the high 50s, 60s, and even 75 percent. Two of the states where Clinton took the youth vote were because of the high numbers of Hispanics in those states: Arizona and California. Clinton also nudged out Obama by one percent in Massachusetts. A good overview of all these numbers can be found in this PDF at CIRCLE.

Hispanics: This is the category that Clinton dominates and her campaign has to be credited with foresight on seeing how important this constituency is. The Obama campaign, meanwhile, seems to have grossly underestimated their importance and is playing desperate catch-up, though making good strides, particularly among young Latinos.

The Hispanic vote almost alone can explain what happened in California. As discussed elsewhere, Clinton overwhelmingly took the Hispanic vote in California, 69 to 29. In normal states, that margin could be offset by other factors, but in California, Hispanics made up a full 29 percent of the turnout, compared to 16 percent in 2004. In some calculations we made at NPI based on CNN exit polls, we found that if you took out the Latino and "Other" vote (which includes Asians) in California, Clinton and Obama would have been in a dead heat. When you put them back in, Clinton takes almost every age group, including young people. One thing we all learned here: Hispanics really matter.

Agenda: Change has become the mantra of the race, and implied is not just a change in leadership but a change in agenda. My sense is that craving for a new national agenda is more a part of the equation than the media or the campaigns even recognize. Because if you look closely at the specific policy agendas of Obama and Clinton, they are not representing as dramatic a change as their rhetoric suggests. Nor, in my opinion, are they transformational enough for what the country and the world needs to see. That may well be a function of the primary season. Perhaps we will see more ambitious plans once the nominee is settled and the campaign against the Republicans takes place. Or maybe it will have to wait til after the election.

This final piece of the New Politics equation is the least developed right now. It’s the agenda that boldly takes on the array of 21st century challenges and helps transform America and the world. With that in mind, NDN and the New Politics Institute are putting on a special one-day free event on March 12th in DC to explore whether we might be in a transformational moment. We have a great lineup of people who will be taking about the need for change on that plain. Anyone who is interested is invited to come.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Ten Days that Shook the World: Jan 26 to Feb. 4

It’s late Monday night before the Super Tuesday election and I’m reflecting back on the most extraordinary 10 days of politics that I have ever experienced -- 10 days, to borrow a phrase from John Reed, that could shake the world.

Only 10 days ago we watched the South Carolina primary, seen as a do-or-die moment for the Obama campaign. That Saturday January 26th primary was being held only a week after the Nevada Caucuses that Hillary won, a week that was marked by negative campaigning and the constant talk about the impact of race in the pending vote.

Obama had to win and win he did – big. The 55 percent landslide vote for him (versus Clinton 27) was decisive, but just as important was his victory speech. He delivered by all accounts an extraordinary speech that touched almost everyone who viewed it – and millions could via web video and YouTube. That speech beautifully framed the themes that he would continue to articulate for the next 10 days, as he continued to gain momentum day by day.

It’s worth briefly remembering the major developments each day, lest we forget how fast this all took place. The speed is jaw-dropping, but not inexplicable. This speed is part of the new politics of our hyper-connected world. Ten days in 1919 revolutionary Russia with barely any telegraph lines is one thing. Ten days in our over-mediated internet world is another.

Sunday: The Caroline Kennedy New York Times editorial that started the meme of JFK comparisons. It was the critical crack in the dam that started the whole outpouring of Northeast liberal support.

Monday: Senator Edward Kennedy’s endorsement at American University was jammed with ecstatic young people. The Kennedy meme gets turbo-charged, and the establishment Democratic pols who had held fast out of respect for Hillary begin to break ranks.

Overshadowed in all this is President Bush’s State of the Union address, which is countered by Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, (who the next day endorses Obama in the heartland), and Barack himself who does a web video response that catches a viral wave in YouTube and tops the charts as the most popular video 24 hours later (now at more than 1 million views).

Tuesday: The Florida primary is held amid a lot of acrimony for Democrats. The national party had said no delegate would be seated because of the state party pushing the primary to the front of the line. The Democratic candidates agree not to campaign there, but Hillary decides to go down to Florida for a victory party since the names are still on the ballot and, in fact, she comes out on top. All night CNN and other TV stations display the results and confuse the audience. Obama supporters seethe at what they consider dirty tactics.

Wednesday: The Edwards bombshell drops. After telling everyone that he was in the race til the convention, John Edwards decides to abruptly pull out before Super Tuesday. The great sorting process begins for former Edwards supporters, but more to the point, for the progressive wing of the Democratic party. They must figure out which of the remaining two will best carry out the progressive cause. MoveOn decides to hold an unprecedented “election” of its members to see whether a two-thirds majority will endorse.

Thursday: The morning does not start well for the Clintons. The New York Times publishes an above-the-fold front page article on former President Clinton’s shady dealings with the authoritarian leader of Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev. A crack team of Times reporters nails down the story of how a buddy of Bill’s is able to secure a lucrative uranium deal against all odds shortly after Bill and Buddy visit Kazakhstan for a sumptuous banquet with the strongman, who Clinton praises. The buddy makes a killing when the price of uranium skyrockets, and then proceeds to donate more than $130 million to Clinton’s charitable foundation. For many Times readers the whole deal reeks, and is reminiscent of the bad old days of Whitewater.

Hillary has her own bad media day when ABC News digs up old video tapes of her time serving on the board of directors of Wal-Mart, between 1986 and 1992. They show her remaining silent as the company waged a battle against any efforts to unionize the Wal-Mart workers.

By the evening, the Democratic Debate takes place in Hollywood, in none other than Kodak theater, the site of the academy awards. The stars come out for this one too, (though substantially less decked out). California, and the rest of the nation really tune in as the two candidates pretty much debate to a draw, but the newcomer Obama benefits more from two hours straight in the national media sun.

Friday: MoveOn does endorse, after 70 percent of members who vote choose Obama. This commits the powerful 3.2 million member organization to put its online organizational machine into overdrive.

The online money story starts to really make the rounds. Obama raised $32 million in the month of January, more than any presidential candidate has ever raised in a month during competitive primaries. But the real kicker is that $28 million of it came online, and 90 percent of those online donations were less than $100, meaning the campaign can come back to those people time and time again before they max out at the $2300 cap. Clinton meanwhile, declined to say what she raised, though it came out later that she raised only $13 million in the same period. In other words, Obama raised almost $20 million more than her.

Saturday: Time Magazine comes out with a cover story for the coming week on “Why Young Voters Care Again, and Why Their Vote Matters.” The text reads like an infomercial for Obama, who clearly garners the vast majority of Millennial Generation support. So Time ensures that in doctors and dentists offices across America this week, the talk among patients will be about these kids and why they love Obama.

Sunday: The Los Angeles Times comes out with a glowing endorsement of Obama, to join the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, and San Jose Mercury News. To top it off, Maria Shriver, first lady to popular Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, surprises the Obama camp by showing up to a big rally of women in LA and endorsing Barack.

Monday: Polls are now showing the critical state of California as a virtual dead heat. This is an extraordinary shift in fortunes. In the summer. Clinton led everyone by 30 percent, by December she still held a solid 12 percent lead.

Some national polls even put Obama ahead of Clinton. Again, this an extraordinary shift in fortunes. As of only Jan 20th, Gallop had Hillary 20 points ahead of Obama; by Feb 2nd she was only 2 points ahead – statistically tied.

By Monday night, when I am writing this, on west coast time near midnight, an incredible YouTube video tells the story. The Barack Obama Music Video, created only about 48 hours earlier by a group of popular young musicians, passes the mark of 1 million views. The title is appropriately called: Yes We Can.

If you have not watched it, do so. It explains, as much as anything, what it is about Obama that many people clearly love.

I don’t know exactly what the Tuesday elections will bring in terms of final results. But I do know that we have crossed a threshold of American politics where we are in uncharted turf. It’s very possible that what will come out of this primary will be very powerful indeed. It may well shake up American politics, and roll through the November election, and yes, it might just shake up the world.

We’re all spectators to what is now unfolding, but we’re also all actors. Whatever comes next is up to us.

Let’s see what the next 10 days will bring.

And please vote. Thanks.

Peter Leyden

Director of the New Politics Institute

Time Magazine Piles onto the Millennial Phenomenon with a Cover Story

One thing about the mainstream media, when they finally detect a trend, they go nuts with it. And the trend of this political season is the political engagement of the young Millennial Generation.

Time magazine coronates the trend with a cover piece that comes out this weekend on “Why Young Voters Care Again, and Why their Vote Matters.” The package pulls together all the pieces that have been emerging in primary contests of the last month and does a good job making the case about the power of the youth vote in this election. They also weave in the story of how the new tools are empowering this generation and increasing their clout. In doing so, they are a virtual infomercial for Obama, laying out how successfully his campaign has been in utilizing these tools and harnessing these voters.

time cover

For those who are familiar with our work at the New Politics Institute, we have long been championing both phenomena, and you can find more insights into both trends at our website. It really is gratifying to see how powerfully these new elements of the new politics are playing out in actuality in this election cycle. Who would have thought?

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

How Web Video Nationalizes Local Primary Campaigns and Raises the Value of Oration

Let’s take a moment in this busy political week to marvel at the wonders of web video. It is simply amazing what this nascent medium has done to change the presidential campaign less than 18 months after the debut of the shaky “Macacca” video.

Think about it for a minute. Before this cycle any of the 300 million Americans who wanted to hear the victory (or concession) speeches coming out of early primary states would have to hope to catch a significant snippet on the broadcast or cable news channels or try to randomly come across it on late-night CSPAN. Or they could read about what David Broder or some pundit who was present at the speech thought about it the next day in the newspaper.

These days when the polls close in South Carolina, anyone from any corner of America (let alone the world) can immediately watch the entire Obama speech, unfiltered, unedited, almost as soon as he gives it. Not only that, but that viewer in, say, California, can then send the link to that video to 30 of her friends and family, and half of them might watch it the next day, and then send the link to their network too.

We’re really only now digesting what that capability does to politics. For one, it nationalizes what once was a very localized event – candidate speeches. A good speech is not just for the consumption of the 1000 people crammed into a hotel ballroom or school gym somewhere in the heartland of America. The speech is open for all the country and all the world to see.

And it isn’t just primary victory speeches – it’s endorsement speeches or whatever else the campaign wants to put out there. Obama had well-packaged versions of the Kennedy endorsements and Obama’s response on the campaign website shortly after they delivered them. People hear some television anchor talk about the endorsement or about Teddy’s passion, and they leave the tube and pull it up on their computer for full viewing.

This is not just happening with journalists and political junkies, but with average Americans. Out here in California, I am getting barraged with links to web video in on online version of the old office water cooler. “Did you see that last night?”

One consequence of this is that average people are almost impulsively giving money to campaigns. They see a passionate speech and in the heat of that moment they click on the button right next to the video that says: “Donate here.” The Washington Post blog reported that just after the Obama speech in South Carolina, the website was processing campaign donations at the rate of $500,000 an hour. I just got off a media conference call with Obama Campaign manager David Plouffe and he said they have raised $5 million online in the two days since South Carolina.

The gap between the spark of passion about a candidate to the moment you can cross the line and give money to a campaign has shrunk to seconds. How long would it have taken you to span that gap just a couple cycles ago, back in the ancient days of the 1990s?

Another consequence of this web video development is that the dying art of political oration might be making a comeback. The political ecosystem of the second half of the 20th century did little to reward great orators like America has seen throughout its history. In that broadcast TV world it was much more important for you to package your message into 30 second sound bites.

But in the new world of web video, where length does not matter because 30 seconds costs the same as 30 minutes, your ability to connect with an audience and hold their attention is a huge asset.

I think that is partly why Obama has been faring so well in this environment (and why I have been focusing on him rather than other candidates in this post). Obama clearly has no peers when it comes to speaking ability. And his campaign has been the most adroit on using the new medium of web video. The Clinton campaign has done a solid job with keeping up with the basic web video capability, but Hillary does not have the same flair for speaking.

There’s been a lot of talk about old and new politics. Set aside what that means about policies, etc., and which candidate best embodies it. Clearly one piece of the new politics has to do with using the new tools, and the first among equals in that lineup is web video.

Just pinch yourself and remember that this web video phenomenon, and all its consequences, has only just begun….

Peter Leyden

Director of the New Politics Institute

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