NDN Blog

NDN: Finishing Strong

As we prepare for the home stretch, I am proud of the contribution NDN and its family and affiliates have made this cycle.  Over the next few weeks I will be writing about the transformation of NDN over these past few years, from a centrist PAC called the New Democrat Network to the advocacy and strategy center now called NDN.  We may no longer have a federal PAC, and be endorsing candidates as we did, but we are making an important contribution to restoring the promise of our great nation, and giving others the tools to also make themselves more effective at this critical time. 

Expect a great deal of activity from NDN and our affiliates these next two months.  We will be focusing on three distinct campaigns: mas que un partido, tools and wages.  The first, conducted by our affiliates, the NDN political fund, is speaking to the hopes of Hispanics through a sustained national Spanish-language media campaign.  NPI's tools campaign is helping progressives learn and use four new tools - cable, search, blogs and Spanish-language media.  Finally, our wages campaign, begun 18 months ago, is working to put declining wages front and center in the national debate. 

Of course there will be more, as there always is, with NDN.  But these three powerful campaigns is how we are closing in this critical year.  Each of them have already made a significant impact, but there is much more we can and must do together. 

New NPI Report on "Mobile Media in 21st Century Politics"

We just released a terrific new report today on mobile media in politics that you can get in pdf form on the New Politics Institute website. It's written by Tim Chambers, one of our new fellows who has been posting on this NDN blog, and his business partner, Rob Sebastian. You can go there directly through the links above, or read the preface that I wrote to get an overview below:

The impact of new Internet tools on politics is getting all the attention in the fall of 2006, but a whole new terrain is opening up that will also have big political consequences in the year or two ahead. The mobile phone has evolved from simply a voice communicator to a hub for mobile media. That small screen on your phone is beginning to take its place alongside the personal computer and television as an important way to connect to Americans.

Each of these screens has unique capabilities that can be used in politics. Mobile phone media, unlike media channeled through TV and PCs, allow people to connect anytime, anywhere. Today 80 percent of voting age Americans have mobile phones and an increasing number are becoming savvy at using them to create and consume media.

Some constituencies are more savvy or dependent on mobile phones than others. Two key groups in are of special concern to progressives. Any majority political movement of the early 21st century will need to connect to the massive young generation of Millennials, and the booming population of Hispanics. Both groups are among the top users of mobile phone media.

The development of mobile media is not going to take place in the distant future. As this report points out, mobile media has already proved to have had big political impacts in other countries, and it played a key role in the immigration demonstrations all over the United States this spring. Now is the time for progressive political practitioners to start to engage this new technology and media. The report ends with seven concrete steps to begin mastering this new world.

The very first step, though, is to get an overview of the whole booming field by reading this comprehensive paper. It is filled with startling facts and figures that will help even those who think they understand what is going on:

Did you know that mobile video services already reach more users than the 8th largest cable operator in the country? That by 2008 as many as 30 percent of wireless phone users will not own a land line? (What will political pollsters do?) That last year U2’s Bono got 800,000 people to sign up for the One Campaign to eradicate poverty by sending a test message through their mobile phones at his concerts?

Much is already happening, but much more is to come. The New Politics Institute wants to help progressives figure this out. This report was done by one of the New Politics Institute’s new fellows, Tim Chambers, and his business partner Rob Sebastian in a new wireless company. They are generously passing on what they know to up the game of the progressive movement as a whole.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Two Great Anti-Gop Quotes

Last night I did two things. First, i began reading The Plan, Rahm Emmanuel and Bruce Reed's new book. Second, i had an argument with some friends online about the merits of Paul Krugman. The first task I approached with a degree of resignation. Pre-election books written by senior politicians (Emmanuel) or clued-in wonks (Reed) can often have a ghost-written "will-this-do?" feel to them. So imagine my surprise that the first couple of chapters make for very, very entertaining reading. The book is one of the sharpest overviews of the current political set-up i've come accross of late. The second task, on the other hand, was prompted by this post over at Brad De Long's website, where De Long says he finds "a certain horrifying fascination in watching the right wing's minions and useful idiots in the press attempt to attack Paul Krugman on matters of economic substance.... [which resembles an] air assault by a circular firing squad of flying attack monkeys."

Anyway, in the course of my night's activities i came accross two splendid quotes i thought worth sharing in full. The first, from the book, was from President Clinton giving his overview of Compassionate Conservatism:

"This 'compassionate conservatism' has a great ring to it, you know? It sounds so good. And I've really worked hard to try to figure out what it means. I mean, I made an honest effort, and near as I can tell, here's what it means. It means: 'I like you. I do. And I would like to be for the patients' bill of rights. And I'd like to be for closing the gun-show loophole. And I'd like not to squander the surplus and, you know, save Social Security and Medicare for the next generation. I'd like to raise the minimum wage. I'd like to do these things. But I just can't. And I feel terrible about it.'"

The second, from Krugman himself, is his reposte to people who acuse him of excessive partisanship.

Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the Bush administration was, in a fundamental way, being dishonest about its economic plans. Suppose that the numbers used to justify the tax cut were clearly bogus, and that the plan was in fact obviously a budget-buster. Suppose that the Social Security reform plan simply ignored the system’s existing obligations, and thus purported to offer something for nothing. Suppose that the Cheney energy report deliberately misstated the nature of the country’s actual energy problems, and used that misstatement to justify subsidies to the energy industry......In this hypothetical situation, what sort of columns should I have been writing? Does the ideal of “nonpartisanship” mean that I should have mixed my critiques of Bush policies with praise, or with attacks on the hapless, ineffectual Democrats, just for the sake of perceived balance? Given what I knew to be the truth, would that even have been ethical?

Keepers, the both of them.


Dems Launch Social Networking Site

This is fun, from the National Journal:

The DNC launched Party Builder, its online social organizing and fundraising tool, last Friday. It's the answer to MyGOP.com. Both programs offer similar features, but most notable is how the GOP uses a homepage as its base (think MySpace), while the DNC's new tool looks a whole lot like The Facebook. Why re-invent the wheel, when it already runs so smoothly? MySpace and Facebook are in the top 20 sites in the country.

A quick comparison of what can be done with both sites: The DNC has put all of its action tools under the Party Builder, except for the blog which can be accessed via the main home page too. Supporters create a profile, join groups, make "friends," create/join events, fundraise, sign petitins and send letters to the editor. Unlike the RNC's blog, users comments are a free-for-all under the post while the RNC's blog comments are listed by user.
 The RNC's Action Center and its MyGOP.com portal are seperate features on the site, but link to many of the same functions. At the Action Center, users can host a party, take a survey, contact their Rep., call talk radio, get GOP paraphenalia, join teams, recruit volunteers and register people to vote. At MyGOP, supporters can do all the above and show off their progress.

Rothenberg says Anti-GOP tide rising

From today's Hotline. It seems Simon's talking point about this being an anti-republican year, not an anti-incumbent year, is being increasingly borne out. 

Conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt interviewed Roll Call's Stu Rothenberg 8/29 on the GOP's '06 prospects (audio/transcript). Rothenberg told Hewitt:


The environment is not improving for Republican candidates around the country. There's no indication that it will. And increasingly, I am familiar with ... there's both public, but also private polling suggesting real problems for Republican incumbents. The Republican polling shows the Republican vote down. It shows Democratic challengers who are unknown getting a surprisingly large percentage of the vote. What we're really seeing is that voters are simply inclined to change, for change, and that's hurting Republicans.



Once again: it's the economy, stupid

With all the economic news in the last few days, Simon and Rob just sent out this e-mail to NDN's list.



TO: NDN List

FROM: Simon Rosenberg

Re: Once again: it’s the economy, stupid.

A lot of attention this week has gone on two of the worst failures of conservative governance, the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the civil war in Iraq. But there is a third problem that is also beginning to rise up the agenda: the fact that economy is not working for most Americans. This administration seems almost indifferent to the fact that even as GDP and productivity have increased, the wages and incomes of most Americans have declined. And while the economic story is the most complicated of the three, its long-term damage to the country will be no less severe.

This week we’ve seen new data on incomes and wages. Yesterday the Census Bureau released figures that confirm deep economic problems for most Americans. The Bureau reported one of the smallest increases in median income on record for this stage in an economic recovery. Yet, even after this increase, median incomes are still 5.9% lower today than when President Bush took office. Even more worryingly, yesterday’s rise is entirely explained by gains for richer and older Americans. The median incomes of people of working age actually fell, by $275, over the last year. In short, our growing economy is not working for ordinary Americans.

Declining wages lie behind yesterday’s disappointing figures. As NDN’s Robert J. Shapiro said at the launch of our Globalization Initiative earlier this year “we’ve seen the strongest four-year growth spurt since the early 1970s – with no meaningful increases in real wages.” In fact, four full years into an economic expansion, real wages are actually falling for most Americans. If the economy begins to slow significantly there is a very real chance that this will be the first economic expansion in modern times with no real increase in American wages.

Put simply, most Americans are getting paid less than when Bush became President. This administration has the worst record on incomes and wages since World War II.

Does the administration have a plan to fix this? No. In fact, not only do they rarely admit the problem, they are actually deceitful in presenting the figures. Yesterday Bush’s budget director Rob Portman was quoted as saying “wages are rising” in America. The President himself, speaking on July 10th, said productivity gains were “leading to higher wages and a higher standard of living for our people.” Yet anyone who saw the front page headline of Monday’s New York Times – “Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity” – knows that the Republicans are not being truthful with the American people over wages.

Most Americans aren’t gaining from this economy today. But long-term the situation looks even worse.

  • America is borrowing billions of dollars daily from foreign governments to fund our huge current account deficit.
  • The debt is up more than $2 trillion, passing the bill onto our children.
  • Nothing has been done to prepare for the retirement of the Baby Boomers.
  • Healthcare costs continue to rise, while the number of insured falls.
  • The Doha round has failed, the cost of the war in Iraq grows ever larger, more Americans live in poverty, and the price of basic goods continue to go through the roof.

All of this represents an historic failure of economic stewardship. Progressives have an obligation to help Americans do better. And we all have an obligation to hold the administration to account for its three biggest failures of governance: Iraq, Katrina, and the economy. Next week NDN will be releasing a report which will give an overview of the administration’s economic failure. We are doing our bit to put the economy – and the issue of declining wages – on the agenda. We hope that everyone in our community will help us put these conservative failures front and center in the run in to November’s elections.


Simon Rosenberg




Cable v. Broadcast in the WSJ today

Good piece in the WSJ today on the continuing discussion about the use of cable tv v. broadcast tv in politics.  Check it out here.  It's in the free section, so you will be able to view it without registering.

Winds of change are blowing, hard

Respected students of Congress, Thomas Mann and Stu Rothenberg, now predict the House will flip to the Democrats.  Polling data is coming out of 2nd and 3rd tier House races showing Democrats leading.  New polls showing Democrats now very competitive in the VA and TN Senate races, ones needed to gain Democrats the Senate.  No incumbent Democrat is trailing in a race for Governor, Senate or House.   It is increasingly looking like a nationalized election against Republican governance. 

But no one should be that suprized.  As we've been writing in this space for close to three years, the central political development in America today is the utter failure of conservative and Republican governance.  Even without the aid of hundreds of millions of dollars of television ads that are about to be launched, the American people have figured out, on their own, that the guys running Washington today have blown it.  Big time.  Bush bet the house on Iraq and huge tax cuts for those with means, and has lost. 

Washington is about to change.  The corrupt, arrogant, ineffective and partisan era of Bush, Cheney, Frist and DeLay is coming to an end.  New people will rise to power.  New issues will be tackled.  A new agenda will be pursued.  Those on the losing side will suffer as those who have come before them have, as many of us have on the progressive side who have stuck it out in DC these past few years. 

For progressives, we now have two important tasks.  First, as we plan our governing agenda, we should focus on a few important things and get them right - bringing a lasting peace to the Middle East, creating greater fiscal integrity, making efforts to restore broad-based prosperity, passing immigration reform.  We should avoid the temptation to do too much, or punish the losing side to too great a degree. 

Second, we should work hard on attaching the words arrogant, corrupt, ineffective, partisan, etc to the Republican and conservative brand.  While I do not have partisan animus to those that have run the country this past few years, I do have incredible American animus towards them.  They have weakened our country.  They have worried about themselves and their power and not about us.  They have run up trillions of debt.  Hurt our prestige.  Left our people poorer.   Not attended to urgent national challenges.  Left people to die in New Orleans. 

We have an obligation to not let them get away with their time in power.  We need to label their movement and their politics for what it has been, and do what we must to prevent this kind of government from returning.   We need to work on finding the words to capture this time, and invest a great deal of energy in defining it for future generations. 

While NDN no longer has a federal PAC and has not been involved in these elections by supporting candidates, I am proud of all that we have done to help bring a new path for the nation, and end this disapointing era.  We have spoken out, aggressively, about these conservative failures; offered a new agenda for the nation; worked hard on two critical issues, immigration and making globalization work for all Americans; we've helped teach progressives how to use a new set of powerful tools to get our message out; we've studied and discussed the changing demographics of the nation, helping progressives imagine and build a new majority coalition around a New America;  we've run cutting edge media campaigns across the nation in English and Spanish, reaching tens of millions with our modern and optimistic message; we've helped create a new whole new way of investing monies into building a modern progressive infrastructure suited to our day, our media and our challenges. 

No matter what happens this fall this period of American history is drawing to a close.  Let us committ ourselves, as a network and community, to ensuring that the next era, whatever it is, restores the great promise of our extraordinary nation.  I am proud of what we've done here at NDN, but remain humbled by all the work that must be done. 

Oh My God: They've Left Bushy

A bravura day of GOP bashing in the New York Times Opinion pages today is capped with this splendid riff on how the fissures in the Republican coalition have left behind even the "South Park Republicans." And the last line of this quote - i love it:

The G.O.P. used to have a sizable libertarian bloc, but I couldn't see any sign of it at the conference. Stone and Parker said they were rooting for Hillary Clinton in 2008 simply because it would be weird to have her as president.  ''We're the long-suffering, battered spouse in a dysfunctional political marriage of convenience,'' said Nick Gillespie, the editor in chief of Reason. ''Most of the libertarians I know have given up on the G.O.P. The odds that we'll stick around for the midterm election are about as good as the odds that Rick Santorum will join the Village People.''


The Global Economic Threat Level: Brown

Gordon Brown, likely future leader of Britain, writes in this morning's FT on the need for extra vigilent support for free trade and open markets.

Across the world, we are seeing not only the impact of terrorism and geo­political uncertainty on our economies. We are also seeing a surge of protectionism. Whether it is called “populism” in Latin America, the promotion of “national champions” in Europe or “nativism” in the US, the same sentiments are sadly fuelling isolationism in parts of the world, anti-Americanism in others and anti-globalisation forces almost everywhere.

These are now magnified by one of the most ominous summer setbacks – the damaging collapse of the world trade talks. We must all wake up to the reality that, without the forward momentum a new trade agreement would give, we risk rolling backwards to the age of beggar-thy-neighbour protectionism and the further threats to stability that would flow from it.

We couldn't agree more, Gordon. Simon and Rob are working on a new NDN memo outlining opportunities to support and defend the open trade consensus in the run in to the elections.

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