NDN Blog

Independents and Millennials Poised to Shake-up the California Primary towards Obama

Though Clinton still leads in the polls for the Feb. 5th California primary, Obama has two stealth forces that are poised to close that gap and potentially beat her: Independents and the young Millennial generation. Two recent articles in the San Francisco Chronicle help spell out how that might work.

1) Independents: California has huge numbers of independents who can ONLY vote in the Democratic primary. The Republican primary is closed to only registered Republicans. So even Independents who might want to vote for McCain only have the option to vote Democrat, and the candidate who clearly does best among independents is Obama.

The numbers are striking, as laid out by Mark Baldassare, the head of the respected Public Policy Institute of California, which does many state-wide surveys and polls:

“Since the 2000 presidential election, the number of major party voters has fallen by 800,000, while the "decline to state" (or independent) rolls have grown by 700,000 voters. Although Democrats still outnumber Republicans by nine percentage points (43 percent to 34 percent), independents, who account for 1 in 5 voters in California, have injected a new level of uncertainty into the state's partisan contests.”

2) Millennials: Large numbers of young people are now registered to vote in California and because they are new to the game, they are less clearly understood. Our New Politics Institute has done much work on this generation and it seems clear that they are more energized by an Obama candidacy at this point. So a critical issue going into he Feb. 5th contest will be the youth turnout, and the margin that goes for Obama. Again, today’s Chronicle has some striking numbers from the Public Policy Institute of California:

“Analysts and politicians have long lamented the low voter turnout among the 18- to 30-year-old set, which has fluctuated over the past three decades but never surpassed the 52 percent recorded in 1972, the first year 18-year-olds could cast ballots.

But this year, young voters and those who study them say things appear to be changing. In California, 63 percent of 25- to 34-year-old residents and 57 percent of 18- to 24-year-old residents are registered to vote, according to surveys conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California.”

The outcome of California is going to have a big bearing on the national race and so these two developments take on new importance in the next couple weeks. Simon lays the importance of California in a terrific post that you can continue to read here.

Hang tight.

Peter Leyden
Director of The New Politics Institute

Google.org Now Moving on Five 21st Century Challenges

At the end of last week, the leaders of Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, finally announced the five areas that they will focus their money and attention in the coming years. In the language that we use around NDN and the New Politics Institute, the areas are five 21st century challenges that the old politics of the 20th century has ignored but that the new politics of this century needs to address.

I sat in on the conference call they held with Larry Brilliant, the head of Google.org, and he outlined the plan to take an initial $25 million and support organizations or invest in companies in each of these five spaces. They are:

  • “Developing renewable energy cheaper than coal.” This is the holy grail of the green tech world, and Google is going to help make this happen as fast as possible.
  • “Accelerate the commercialization of plug-in electric vehicles.” Which ties into the first one, because once the electric grid is running off clean energy, then the plug-ins leverage that same clean energy source.
  • “Fuel the Growth of Small and Medium-sized enterprises in the developing world.” This fills the gap between the World-Bank level infrastructure projects, and the Grameen Bank micro-loan space. In between, there are the bulk of job-producing small business which need capital and resources too.
  • “Inform and Empower to Improve Public Services.” This leverages one of Google’s core competencies of aggregating good information and getting it into the hands of those who can make for change. It can involve simple things like getting the information of results about kid’s schools in rural areas to the authorities and international agencies who might be able to help.
  • Predict and Prevent.” This is all about getting early warning system in place to detect the outbreaks of any pandemics that might arise, like Bird Flu. This stems from Brilliant’s personal interest in this area.

I know Brilliant from pre-Google days, and his personal story is a fascinating one, one that I laid out in a lengthy magazine-length interview earlier this decade. In short, Brilliant was part of the team the helped eradicate smallpox in the 1970s, a daunting 20th century challenge that we definitively solved.

Onto this century’s challenges….

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Obama’s Online Organizing Tools and Amazing Offline Results

An interesting factoid was thrown into play today by Micah Sifry at TechPresident. He did a comparison of how the supporters of the three major Democratic presidential candidates are using online tools at the campaign websites to organize offline activities like throwing house parties, fundraisers and phone banking.

The short answer is that Obama is overwhelming Clinton and Edwards. The numbers are really striking. Take the state of California where the statewide polls still have Hillary up by a surprisingly large margin. Yet you look at grassroots supporter-generated events in some of the key cities:

  • Los Angeles: Obama 170, to Clinton 8, and Edwards 0.
  • San Francisco: Obama 189, to Clinton 9, and Edwards 29.
  • San Diego: Obama 55, to Clinton 6, and Edwards 30.

Even if you go to Hillary’s home state of New York, Obama numbers tower over hers:

  • New York City: Obama 292, Clinton 13, Edwards 0.

Obama has clearly encouraged a bottom-up campaign that empowers his supporters to make things happen in his name. They clearly are responding in ways that have almost no parallel in campaigns on the other side – let alone on the Republican side, where there is almost nothing of this sort beyond the Ron Paul phenom.

We’ll see how this plays out by the primary day on Feb. 5th. My guess is that this is a ticking time bomb that is unnoticed now, but that will have large repercussions as the day to vote approaches. It’s not clear whether it will be enough to close the current gap, but I’d much rather have hundreds of hubs of campaign activity in a city than a handful, let alone none.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

The Millennial Youth Vote Takes Center Stage

Literally. In Clinton’s victory speech last night, young Millennials filled the stage behind her. This was in striking contrast to her Iowa speech, in which she shared the stage with a crowd of older people from the 1990s, including Madeleine Albright right next to her.

Both Clinton and Obama are aggressively courting Millennials, both for their votes, and for their energized involvement in their campaigns. Millennials are not just voters, but actors. And actors who deeply understand the powerful new tools of politics on the Internet.

The early numbers out of new Hampshire show how clearing the youth vote is trending towards Democrats and becoming crucial to the two campaigns of the leaders. Here are some numbers from CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement:

Initial New Hampshire Youth Vote Numbers:

* The youth turnout rate rose to 37% in 2008 compared to 18% in 2004 and 28% in 2000.

* 61% of young voters ages 18-29 in New Hampshire chose Democrats over Republicans (raw numbers are Democrats 43,753, Republicans 28,288).

* Young people choosing Democrats over Republicans continues the trend we saw in Iowa where 52,580 caucused with Democrats and only 12,650 turned out for Republicans.

Among Democrats, 18-29 year olds outperformed older voters (CNN exit polling):

* 18-29 year old voters made up 18% of the New Hampshire Democratic primary.
* 30-39 year olds made up 15%.
* 65 and older voters made up 13%.

Young people were split between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (CNN exit polling):

* 18-24 year olds supported Barack Obama (61%) over Hillary Clinton (22%);
* 25-29 year olds supported Hillary Clinton (37%) over Barack Obama (34%);

This is all consistent with what we have been hammering at the New Politics Institute over the last couple years. For more info about what we have been putting out and saying, see a previous blog post explaining four of our key reports.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Techies and Geeks Tune into the Election

The giant Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week will devote one of its super sessions to “The Changing Face of America’s Elections,” though it’s really about the impact of new tech and new media on politics.

I will be one of the panelists on Monday discussing this with Grover Norquist, President for Americans for Tax Reform, and Dan Glickman, CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, among several others. It seems I will be holding up the more progressive end of how this technology is impacting the elections. Norquist and Charles Bass, CEO of Republican Main Street Partnership, will be holding up the other end.

The CES conference is a massive annual gatherings (among if not the biggest conference in the world.) It is where all the new tech products for the coming year are unveiled, and the tech tribe gathers to geek out on gadgets. However, it is a very important networking moment, and in the middle of it all this year, will be a discussion of politics.

If anyone in the NDN or NPI networks are in Las Vegas for this, come to the show on Monday morning, or ping me and we can connect.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute.

Millennials Behind the Obama Surge

If people still need evidence of the political impact of the young Millennial Generation on politics, look closely at the detailed results now coming out of Iowa. You could argue that Obama owes the thrust of his surge to the energized vote of Millennials.

Here are some initial statistics for youth (ages 18-29) turnout in Iowa, which come courtesy of the Young Voter PAC, and based on numbers coming out of CIRCLE, the Center for Information & research on Civic Learning & Engagement:

  • Young people made up 22% of the Democratic caucus goers, up from 17% in 2004. Young Democrats outnumbered young Republicans 4 to 1.
  • A total of 65,230 young people were caucus-goers in 2008. 52,580 caucused with Democrats and only 12,650 turned out for Republicans. That means of the young people that turned out, 80% were for Democrats.
  • The youth turnout rate tripled in Iowa. The youth turnout rate rose to 13% in 2008 compared to 4% in 2004 and 3% in 2000.
  • Out of all of Barack Obama’s support in Iowa, 57% came from young voters (CNN, MSNBC, FOX).
  • 60% of the caucus participants were first time caucus goers and of those 39% of them went for Obama.

The stats are even more remarkable because students are still on holidays in all the colleges around the state. And Iowa itself is demographically much older than many other states.

The New Politics Institute and NDN have been heralding this generation shift for the last couple years and teasing out the argument in various bits of information that would appear. The evidence has shown that this generation of young people, aged 29-11, are very engaged in politics, unusually civic-minded, hold progressive values and are voting for Democrats in high numbers. (Simon posted earlier on the various reports we have done on this subject.)

The Obama campaign recognizes this, and Obama himself has tapped into the energized idealism and optimism that this generation holds. Watch as this Millennial momentum just keeps growing through the primary season and onto the general election. This is a shift that will have a long tail of impact for many years to come. Political people who recognize it, and tap into it, will thrive. If you ignore it, like the Clinton campaign seemed to do, and you will get hurt.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

The Loss of the Man who Predicted the Millennials’ Huge Impact On Politics

Bill Strauss, a truly original thinker who predicted the impact of the young Millennial Generation on politics way ahead of his time, died at the relatively young age of 60. This is a big loss and he will be missed.

Strauss heavily influenced my thinking over the years and actively participated in New Politics Institute events, as well as an NDN annual meeting. In his work with NPI and NDN, he talked about the implications of the rise of the young Millennial Generation, those now in their 20s and teens, on politics. For example, he gave a 30 minute PowerPoint talk at a 2006 NPI public event that laid out the striking parallels between the Millennials today and the GI Generation that helped propel FDR and the progressives of that era to sustained majorities.

You can see his influence in much of our work: from an early essay I wrote on The Greatest Generation Yet, to the data-rich report on The Progressive Politics of the Millennial Generation, to a multimedia talk that NPI fellow Ruy Teixeira and I did this past summer and captured on video. You can also see video of Strauss in action at the 2006 NDN annual meeting on the NPI website.

Stauss’s body of work was larger than just thinking about the Millennials. In fact, he had one of the most original and thought-provoking theories of generational change that I have ever come across. He laid it out with his coauthor Neil Howe in their 1991 book: Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069. The book is still relevant today, and in fact the big ideas in there animate the next five books they wrote, including Millennials Rising.

Strauss and Howe have influenced a wide range of people, including Morley Winograd and Michael Hais, who are just about to publish their new book Millennial Makeover. I have been reading an advance copy of this book and we expect to have them involved in a NPI and NDN event in March. So people in this community will have a chance to see the ideas of Strauss live on.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Bush Another Hoover?

Simon and I made the case in a current Mother Jones magazine article that the 2008 election may well be like 1932. Among other things, Bush has the potential to do what Hoover did – tarnish the conservative brand for a generation or more.

Some have pushed-back that on the economic front Bush can’t be compared to Hoover, who was the steward of the biggest economic catastrophe in the nation’s history, The Great Depression.

But economist Joseph Stiglitz attempts to make the case of the enormity of the Bush economic catastrophe in the December issue of Vanity Fair magazine. We may not have to dig out of another Great Depression (thank goodness), but Bush’s economic legacy is going to be very bad. That legacy will include:

"…a tax code that has become hideously biased in favor of the rich; a national debt that will probably have grown 70 percent by the time this president leaves Washington; a swelling cascade of mortgage defaults; a record near-$850 billion trade deficit; oil prices that are higher than they have ever been; and a dollar so weak that for an American to buy a cup of coffee in London or Paris—or even the Yukon—becomes a venture in high finance.

And it gets worse. After almost seven years of this president, the United States is less prepared than ever to face the future. We have not been educating enough engineers and scientists, people with the skills we will need to compete with China and India. We have not been investing in the kinds of basic research that made us the technological powerhouse of the late 20th century. And although the president now understands—or so he says—that we must begin to wean ourselves from oil and coal, we have on his watch become more deeply dependent on both.

Up to now, the conventional wisdom has been that Herbert Hoover, whose policies aggravated the Great Depression, is the odds-on claimant for the mantle “worst president” when it comes to stewardship of the American economy. Once Franklin Roosevelt assumed office and reversed Hoover’s policies, the country began to recover. The economic effects of Bush’s presidency are more insidious than those of Hoover, harder to reverse, and likely to be longer-lasting. There is no threat of America’s being displaced from its position as the world’s richest economy. But our grandchildren will still be living with, and struggling with, the economic consequences of Mr. Bush.”

The piece is well worth reading, though I do think Stiglitz goes a bit too far in criticizing our economic prospects. Many fundamentals are still in place that should allow the American economy to kick back into shape and sustain a long boom of economic growth that spreads prosperity far more widely. But that’s the fodder for another post.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Matt Bai on the Fundamental Shift in Presidential Elections

Matt Bai has proven once again that he has that rare ability to see the meta-story within the myriad daily stories on the Presidential race. In his New York Times magazine column this Sunday, he points out one of the key shifts going on in politics – from highly controlled, top-down presidential campaigns to much more decentralized, bottom-up campaigns. The shift is underway, but most of the current presidential campaigns are resisting this mightily.

Bai looks at a few exceptions. There’s the crazy case of Ron Paul, whose campaign has been effectively taken over by libertarian techies who were able to raise $4 million in one day of online contributions – way beyond anything that the official campaign has been able to raise. And then he looks at how Obama has benefited from bottom-up energy, such as the Obama Girl and her video that has been seen more than 4 million times.

This fundamental shift is something that Simon and I laid out in our magazine piece The 50 year Strategy, still on newsstands for Mother Jones. We took a longer-range, historical lens to our current political situation, and pointed out that shift in the nature of campaigns, among several others things, that will be seen as the biggest development of the period we are now in.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

The Kids Are Not Us - Thoughts on the Republican YouTube/CNN debate

Many of you may have digested the basics of what happened at the YouTube/CNN debate of the Republicans presidential candidates last night in St. Pete, Florida. If not, check out the New York Times.

But I was there and had a different lens applied to it. I was one of the few people attending from the progressive side, as a guest of Google and YouTube, and I was watching it to see how the new format worked or did not work.

The gist of what I think was reflected in a San Francisco Chronicle story that I was quoted in and that I helped the reporter with. The short answer is that I think the hybrid version of new media (user-generated video) questions selected by old media journalists (CNN) did not work as well as in the first such debate with the Democrats in the summer. It seemed like the CNN filters were heavy-handed, looking to spark fights (like with immigration) rather than reflect the range of issues of concern to Americans (and the 5000 people who submitted questions.) How could there be no interest in health care, climate change, and new energy issues?

Another striking thing was how all the video submissions, with one or two exceptions, came from Millennials, those under age 30. And almost everyone in the audience was much older. In fact, before the show began, CNN host Anderson Cooper asked for questions on the format from the audience. One young guy from the balcony asked why so few tickets had been given to young people. Cooper shot back – the Republican Party gave out the tickets, not us. It’s another sign that the Republicans are having a hard time connecting with this massive generation of young people, as well as coming to terms with the new demands of the new online media.

I was also struck by how many times Hillary Clinton came up in the debate, and yet not once did Obama’s name come up. (I think Edwards and Kucinich each came up once). It seems the Republicans are on auto-pilot in accepting the old conventional wisdom that Hillary is going to be the nominee. They have completely missed the new dynamics of a race that is far from won.

Obama is getting new boosts from all kinds of quarters, including the powerful tech community who he wowed with his recent tech and innovation proposals laid out at Google. But that is another post of another time…

For now it is worth noting that almost every Republican candidate and most in the crowd expect Hillary will be the nominee and they clearly relish the thought.

Peter Leyden
Director of The New Politics Institute

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