NDN Blog

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.

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.  

Video: NDN Talks The Youth Vote with CIRCLE of Tisch College/Tufts (6/15/21)

Young people (ages 18-29) played a pivotal role in the 2020 election. They drastically increased their turnout from 2016, and their strong preference for Democrats was decisive in the presidential, Senate, and House races. But young voters’ continued participation is not a given, and will require concerted efforts to sustain—and improve—in 2022 and beyond.

On June 15th NDN hosted Kelly Beadle and Alberto Medina from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), part of Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life, for a conversation about the youth vote in 2020 and in the future. They shared exclusive data on youth voter turnout nationally and state by state, as well as research-based insights on what works to engage the youth electorate. Thy also dispelled some myths about young voters; discussed the role of social media; and talked about the laws, policies, and practices that support more equitable civic development and electoral participation for all youth.

The discussion was moderated by Tufts alum Simon Rosenberg.  You can find video recording of the event here, and a copy of the deck they produced at the attachment below.  You can find links to CIRCLE's compelling research here

The importance of young voters is also at the very core of our big presentation about American politics, With Things Get Better, which you can catch live most Fridays this summer.  Thank you!

The Presentors

Kelly Beadle - Kelly Beadle joined CIRCLE in 2019 and manages CIRCLE’s voter registration research project. Her role is to lead qualitative and quantitative analysis on voter registration and participation, in addition to program evaluation for the project. Before joining CIRCLE, Kelly worked on program development, running field experiments and fundraising in numerous national and state-based organizations. She began her career and worked for over a decade in Minnesota, which she considers her home.

Alberto Medina - Alberto Medina has worked at CIRCLE/Tisch College since 2013. He collaborates with CIRCLE leadership on strategic communications, provides key editorial support to disseminate research, and maintains CIRCLE’s digital presence. He also oversees a wide range of communications tasks for Tisch College, including preparing remarks and presentations for the Dean. A graduate of Yale University, Alberto previously worked as a freelance writer and editor and at national newspapers in his native Puerto Rico. He is a commentator and advocate on the issue of Puerto Rico’s political status.

Memo: Learning To Talk about Democracy, Patriotism and the GOP’s Radicalization

Learning To Talk about Democracy, Patriotism and the GOP’s Radicalization - As I learned during my stint with the DCCC from 2016 to 2018, Democratic pollsters have felt very strongly that Democrats needed to steer away from conversations about Trump’s manifest illiberalism, and keep focused on “kitchen table” issues like the economy, health care, defeating COVID.  It’s hard to argue with this rationale, as Democrats have, in the last few years, won the Presidency and retaken the House and Senate. 

But with Trump’s illiberalism now becoming the politics Republicans have chosen, even after their significant electoral losses in recent cycles, it is time for Democrats to elevate the threat the GOP poses to our democracy into one of those kitchen table issues.  It is not just the right and necessary the thing to do, but a new paper from Stanford suggests there is significant electoral opportunity here for Democrats too. In this study weak Republicans and independents were able to be pushed away from the GOP brand when exposed to a better understanding of the GOP’s ongoing attacks on our democracy. 

Many believed that the best way to confront the growing radicalization of the GOP was to defeat Trump and knock the GOP from power.  That strategy, however, has proven to be insufficient.  It is my belief that we must now take the illiberalism of MAGA head on, and not just defeat the party and its candidates but the argument itself.  Leaning into the radicalization of the GOP can bring several other benefits for Democrats: 

1)  It creates an opening to explain how radical the rest the GOP agenda has become – from the economy to guns to health care the GOP’s ideas are just as destructive as those about our democracy

2)   It creates an opportunity for Democrats to find a language grounded in patriotism and love of country, understanding that patriotism is a powerful, benevolent and perhaps necessary antidote to nationalism

3)   It is possible that creating more pain around their radicalization may be required to get the GOP to start taking an off ramp from MAGA – which has to be one of our goals now.  

There has to become a party wide effort to find the language and arguments required to make the dangers of the GOP’s current path understandable, salient. This will be particularly true for Democrats in swing states and districts where are just more Republicans and Republican leaners they have to talk. It is time, my fellow members of the great American center-left, to take on this battle, and recognize that defeating autocracy, perhaps the most intrinsically America project, begins this time here at home – and failure is not an option.  

More - Greg Sargent cites this memo in a new Washington Post column. 

House Making Important Progress in Strengthening the USPS for the 2022 Elections

House Making Important Progress in Strengthening the USPS for the 2022 Elections

Reps. Maloney and Comer should be commended for coming together behind a sensible bill to modernize and reform the United States Postal Service.  For Democrats, putting the USPS on a stable footing is an integral part of our election reform agenda, and it is great to see a bi-partisan approach emerge which will get this done in the coming years.   We are optimistic that when adopted this bill -- the Postal Reform Act -- should be able to pass a closely divided Senate and get to work soon in ensuring the USPS is in good shape for the 2022 elections.

We hope that Members in both parties step back from trying to load this bill  up (or another postal bill also to be considered) with things which will make it more difficult to pass.  Two ideas in particular - postal banking and efforts to alter the package pricing system – are incredibly contentious and difficult issues, and regardless of their merits, should be left for another day.  On package pricing, there is a provision in the main bill to mandate further study of the issue.  Passing the main bill, letting it take effect and then returning to the issue once a study is completed seems like a wise and prudent course.  We simply need to get this bill passed as soon as possible for the sake of the 2022 elections.

The GOP Chooses Autocracy Over Democracy

In the struggle between autocracy and democracy, the GOP chooses autocracy

The ouster of Rep. Liz Cheney from the House GOP leadership is a significant event.  For it signals that the MAGA extremism Trump brought to the GOP has outlived him and become the dominant ideology of the party itself.  As we wrote last week, this is a tragedy for the country - for what MAGA’s short term agenda only seems to be about is restructuring American politics so Democrats can never win elections again.  Any hope of the GOP taking an off-ramp from MAGA does seem, for now, a bit hopeless.  

But what should worry us even more about the Cheney ouster is how much what MAGA/GOP is doing now aligns with our understanding of what Russia has been working towards for years.  The 2017 IC report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election stated: Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order…. We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process.”

How is what Trump did in 2020 to the election/postal service/census/Jan 6th, and what the GOP is continuing to do now in Arizona/attacks on voting/refusing to renounce Jan 6th/Cheney’s ouster, inconsistent with Russia’s aims here in the US and around the world? In what is becoming the defining ideological battle of the next generation of global politics, autocracy versus democracy, it is as if the party of Reagan has chosen to side with Russia and its goals of weakening the West and democratic forces across the world.  

One of the great fears many of us had about Trump is that his diminution of American democracy would create a permission structure for autocrats throughout the world, left and right, to further erode democratic norms in their own countries.  We are seeing it here in the US; we are seeing it in Europe in Hungary and Poland; as Leon Krauze writes in the Washington Post we are seeing it in Latin America; of course we are seeing it with China and Asia too.  It is why Biden’s commitment to making the strengthening of democracy here at home and abroad is so central to his Presidency – for democracy, the greatest American export, is under threat here at home and abroad in ways not seen in generations.  

Essay: Biden’s Pragmatism, Republican Extremism

Essay: Biden’s Pragmatism, Republican Extremism

As we all try to come to understand what happened to the GOP, how an American political party could have become so lost and extreme, we come back to this basic idea – modern conservatism never really matured into a full-fledged political philosophy capable of governing a post-Cold War America.  It was an ideology that had its moment in the 1980s – a long time ago now – and has done more harm than good since. 

At its core the American right has seen itself as a corrective to a Democratic Party which had lost its way in the late 1960s and 1970s, and remains to this day most comfortable in seeing itself as a response to perceived excesses of the center-left (radical left, Marxists, BLM antifa now).  The problem for the right has been that a post-Clinton reformed Democratic Party was not excessive or leftist, but modern, pragmatic, successful; and thus the blocking of the Democratic agenda over time has became something reactionary and harmful to the national interest, not something virtuous. 

Consider the Dem agenda from Obama on.  A big stimulus, emphasizing clean infrastructure – cut in half, the clean part stripped out.  Slowed our transition to a low carbon economy, made the recovery slower than it needed to be. Immigration reform – blocked.  The ACA – relentlessly opposed, undermined despite it being an extraordinary success.  Min wage – blocked, leaving us with a ridiculous national minimum wage now. Iran nuclear deal – terminated, Iran restarts its nuclear program.  Efforts to make it easier to vote – rolled back, even authoritarian assaults on the Postal Service, the Census, the 2020 election, the Congress itself.  Climate – unyielding opposition, continued fealty to global oil and gas interests, including Russia and Saudi Arabia.  

Now, Biden.  His plan to defeat COVID, restart the US economy – opposed.  His plan to correct for years of chronic underinvestment in our infrastructure, hasten transition to clean energy economy – opposed, absurd arguments about what constitute infrastructure pursued.  Pragmatic steps to make it easier for all workers to succeed like universal child care - communism.  Immigration – hysteria and arm waving, no solutions (again, again).  

There are a lot of ways we can look at what Biden is doing now but to us here at NDN we think there is a deep pragmatism to it all.  COVID needed to be defeated – he is doing that.  The economy needed to be re-started – we are doing that. We need to transition to a clean energy future, modernize our infrastructure which we know from data has been underinvested in – we are doing that.  Globalization had made it harder for workers to compete – he has a plan for that.  Our immigration system is antiquated, and needs an update – he has a plan for that too.  Too many Americans, including those in red states and rural areas don’t have access to high speed Internet - well, we can fix that.  The Bush and Trump tax cuts were too big, and cut far too much from wealthy people and corporations – that can be fixed; and as learned from Clinton and Obama tax increases as part of a broader economic strategy can bring sustained growth to America.  Our democracy was attacked – we can protect it, strengthen it – and we must.  

The point is that none of what Joe Biden is proposing is radical, extreme, out of the mainstream, some lefty “wish list” not based on data and analysis. Everything he is proposing has extensive analysis to back it up, is based on years of policy debate and discussion. Consider that NDN, not a leftist organization, came out in 2005 for rolling back the Bush tax cuts and making major investments in child care/pre-k/community colleges/working training, raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, universal health care and universal broadband.  In 2007 we endorsed a series of ideas to once again make infrastructure investment central to our politics.  In 2008 NDN came out for the carbon tax, and a massive “clean infrastructure” plan as part our recommendations to use the 2009 stimulus to create long term, sustained growth. In 2012 we argued for a big agenda to strengthen our democracy, as even then the anti-majoritarian impulses of the GOP had begun to emerge.  All of these ideas are at the very center of what Biden is proposing now.  None of them are new, or out of the mainstream of thinking in the US.  

Looking back at all this it’s hard not to see the 2010s as a lost decade for America, one where so much progress on the things that matter most were blocked by the rise of the Tea Party and the GOP takeover of the House in 2011.  Yes Obama was able to get the ACA done before 2011, but all these other vital things, things needed by the US, not Democrats, didn’t get done. Progress stalled, and America fell behind (most of the House Members who served in senior positions in the Trump White House came from the Tea Party faction).  

The reason even a Senate institutionalist like Biden is considering pushing so much through reconciliation and not through regular order is because for a decade now the GOP has been more focused on fighting Democrats than fighting the problems we face; and if anything is more radical and extreme today than it has ever been.  It’s as if the GOP’s only agenda now is to lie about the intentions of Biden and the Democrats, and try to paint us as extremists – it is that old impulse to act as a corrective to leftist largesse. Their fight is with us, not the challenges facing America. There is no GOP policy agenda.  No COVID strategy, no economic strategy, no health care strategy, no immigration strategy, no climate strategy – but there is a big agenda to overthrown the election we won, and to make sure we never win elections again.  We are even at the point where several states have introduced bills allowing the running over of “leftist” protestors with cars (a new favorite tactic of the right).  

If Biden is forced to choose between making progress on long unaddressed problems or appeasing a radicalized political movement which is no longer operating in the same information reality as the rest of the world what course should he take? Of course he has to choose what’s best for America – that is his solemn obligation.  

Joe Biden is a pragmatist.  America has problems.  He wants to fix them.  He has offered reasonable proposals for how to do so.  The debate now should be about the how, not the whether; and if Republicans cannot join the debate then he should act alone – it is the pragmatic, and necessary, thing to do.  One could even call it patriotic.

PS - John Harwood has a new analysis up on CNN which does a good job at exploring how reasonable Biden's economic plans are; those who believe they are radical are letting us know who they are. 

Video: NDN Talks Dem Polling Challenges w/Jim Gerstein of GBAO (4/27/21)

On Tuesday April 27th NDN hosted a discussion about the struggles of Democratic Party polling in recent election cycles with Jim Gerstein of the polling and data firm GBAO.  Jim's bio is below, and can you watch a recording of our discussion here.

Jim and his firm were one of five Democratic polling firms to have produced an analysis questioning why some Democratic polling has been so wrong in recent years.  It was a brave thing for professional political consultants to do, and we are excited Jim will be joining us to discuss what he thinks went wrong, and what needs to be done to make it less likely mistakes occur again.  This NYT essay by Giovanni Russonello does a good job summarizing the challenge Democratic polling faces today.  

Called Revisiting Polling for 2021 and Beyond the memo states:

"Together, we represent five survey research firms for Democratic political campaigns. During the 2020 election, we worked on the presidential campaign, every major Senate and gubernatorial race, and congressional races across the country. Our main job as pollsters is to provide campaigns with a strategic roadmap for winning, guide their messaging, and help identify the right targets for those messages.

Every one of us thought Democrats would have a better Election Day than they did. So, what went wrong?

Two weeks after the election, our firms decided to put competition aside to discuss what might have gone awry and to collaborate on finding a solution. There were several factors that may have contributed to polling error in 2020, and there is not a single, definitive answer—which makes solving the problem especially frustrating. In the sections that follow, we seek to explain what we’ve learned thus far in our ongoing efforts to “fix” polling, and what we still need to learn."

While here do review our current schedule of upcoming NDN Talks events, and check out recordings of past events with. Rep. Suzan DelBene, Ari Berman, Fernand Amandi and many more thought leaders. 

Jim's Bio

Jim Gerstein is a founding partner of GBAO, and provides research-based strategic counsel for candidates running for office, non-profit organizations, arts and cultural institutions, and Fortune 500 companies.  Over the past 20 years, Jim has conducted hundreds of focus groups and surveys across the United States, Middle East, Europe, Asia, and Australia to help individuals, organizations, and companies devise strategies that will enable them to meet their goals and improve quality of life in the United States and around the world. 

Jim has served as the pollster to numerous candidate and independent expenditure campaigns for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and municipal elections.  He has also conducted extensive research in the areas of political beliefs and values, charitable behavior, national security and foreign policy, public safety, the courts, digital users’ experiences, health care, medical devices, museums, Millennials, and American Jews. 

Prior to establishing GBAO, Jim led two different non-profit organizations through periods of substantial growth and influence.  For 10 years, Jim served as the Executive Director of Democracy Corps, a non-profit organization that conducts public opinion research and provides strategic advice to the progressive community. Under Jim’s leadership, the organization increased its annual budget seven-fold and dramatically increased its impact on our national debate.  Prior to his work with Democracy Corps, Jim was the Executive Director of the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation, where he led public education campaigns, congressional visits to the Middle East, and convened Middle East diplomats in the U.S. for meetings with business and political leaders.  During the 1999 Israeli Prime Ministerial campaign, Jim joined Ehud Barak’s U.S.-based consulting team led by James Carville. He served as the team’s representative on the ground in Israel, overseeing polling, paid media, and message development for the campaign.

Jim began his career working on several U.S. political campaigns and holding different positions within the Democratic Party. In 1992, he worked on the field campaign for Carol Moseley Braun’s successful run for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. In 1996, Jim worked in the press office for the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and then directed the Clinton/Gore campaign for the north side of Chicago and northern Illinois.

Jim received an M.A. in Middle East History at Tel Aviv University and a B.A. in philosophy at Colgate University.  He grew up in the Chicago area and today resides in Washington, DC, with his wife and two sons.

Video: Baer and Cherny Reflect on Democracy Journal (4/20/21)

On Tuesday April 20th NDN hosted a very special event - an in-depth discussion with Kenny Baer and Andrei Cherny about their journey founding and nurturing Democracy, the center-left intellectual journal they founded more than a decade ago. 

You can watch a recording of the event here.

In a recent article reviewing Democracy's impact NYTimes media reporter Marc Tracy wrote: "It has only 500 subscribers. And yet Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, a 15-year-old quarterly run by a three-person staff out of a small office blocks from the White House, may be one of the most influential publications of the post-Trump era.  Six of President Biden’s 25 Cabinet-level officials and appointees, including the secretary of state and the chief of staff, as well as many other high-level administration members, have published essays in its pages, floating theories that may now be translated into policy."

Kenny and Andrei have been part of NDN's extended family for many years, and we were excited to host this wonderful conversation about their careers and the broader journey the Democratic Party has been since the 1980s. 

For fun, here is something I wrote back in 2007 celebrating Democracy's 1st anniversary.  NDN is proud to have been a supporter of Democracy's work from the very beginning.

Hope you can find the time to watch the recording of the event.  It was a great an inspiring conversation - Simon

Analysis: Understanding Trump's Betrayal

Understanding Trump’s Betrayal– Getting the story right about the historic nature of Trump’s betrayal of the nation remains one of the most important tasks of the new Democratic majority, and one which will be very hard given how complicit so many Republicans and center-right institutions have been in a many years long betrayal of the United States.  

For us, there was a single, ongoing betrayal.  It began with the decision to enlist Russia’s support in the 2016 campaign.  It continued with years of aligning US foreign policy around Russian aims, in Helsinki, with Europe/NATO, Ukraine, the G7, Syria, Venezuela, the renouncing of the Paris climate accords.  It took an even darker turn with Trump’s sustained Putinesque attack on core pillars of our democracy in 2020 – the post office, the census, the election – all of which were established in the Constitution itself. And it reached an apotheosis in Trump’s organizing and unprecedented attack on the Congress and the certification of the Biden Presidency on January 6th. 

What makes this all one betrayal, one profound historic betrayal, is that the American experiment was always really about one thing – creating a sustainable governing alternative to authoritarianism.  Trump’s alliance with Russia to cheat/influence/win the election in 2016, his joining of Putin’s illiberal internationale, his 2020-2021 blitzkrieg against our democracy together placed Trump on the side of autocracy against American democratic traditions.  The years of covering it all up by Barr, Nunes, McConnell, McCarthy and the unrepentant support of the Jan 6th insurrection makes the Republican Party complicit in this betrayal.  It may have begun as Trump’s betrayal, but without a process to formally renounce this rancid politics, it has now been become a betrayal of the party of Lincoln and Reagan’s too.  

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