NDN Blog

A day of reckoning for the conservative movement

I was 17 when Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980.  Since then the great back story of American politics has been the ascendency of the conservative movement, and its ally, the Republican Party.  One of the big questions we will all be talking about in the days to come will be whether or not this story of conservative ascendency has come to an end, and whether we are entering a new period in American history. 

I believe we are.   

The last 100 years of American politics can be put into three rough historical periods.  Period 1 ran from TR to FDR, and was a battle for the mastery of a new reform-minded and modern politics eventually captured by the Democrats, and philosophically located squarely in the progressive camp.  Period 2 was FDR to Reagan, and was an era of Democratic ascendency and consolidation of power, and a triumph of progressive values.  Period 3, the conservative ascendency, began in 1980 and saw great triumph in 1994, and again in this decade.  Today as a result of their recent success, the Republican Party and the conservative movement has more political and ideological control over the government than any time since the 1920s. 

The question about conservatism has always been could it mature enough as a governing philosophy to replace 20th century progressivism, and provide America with a true alternative governing approach? I believe the Bush era has answered that question, and the answer is no.  Given the extraordinary failure of conservative government to do the very basics - keeping us safe, fostering broad-based prosperity, protecting our liberties, balancing the books and not breaking the law - I think history will label this 20th century conservatism a success as a critique of 20th century progressivism, but a failure as a governing philosophy.  It never matured into something more than an ivory-tower led and Limbaugh-fed correction to a progressivism that had lost its way.

Despite the many billions spent in building this modern conservative movement, history will label it a grand and remarkable failure.  And I think we will look back at 2006 as the year this most recent period of American history - the conservative ascendency - ended. 

So like two heavy weight boxers stumbling into the 15th round of a championship fight, the two great ideologies of the 20th century stumble, exhausted, tattered and weakened, into a very dynamic and challenging 21st century.  My own belief is that this next American era will not be one dominated by these two exhausted ideologies of the past, but will be a battle for the mastery of a new, as yet unarticulated 21st century governing approach suited to the challenges we face today and built around the media and people of our time.  The core direction of this battle is not the left-right one fought at the end of the last century, but will be more about forward and backward. Meaning that the way we will have to measure progress from now on is to look at how a party or ideological movement captures the three main dimensions of this emergent, post-liberal/conservative politics of our day - a new governing agenda capable of tackling the challenges of our time, and new political arrangements built around the emergent media and people of the 21st century. 

I believe 2006 will become known as the year American conservatism reached its peak, and our 20th century politics fought one its very last battles.  The future will belong to those who master this "new politics" of the 21st century.  Friends, we have a lot of work to do to ensure that it is our movement, and our values, that leave these old and tired battles behind and get about mastering this new politics of the 21st century. 

For a video presentation of about this idea of the "new politics," visit our New Politics Institute site at http://www.newpolitics.net

Democratic Leaders ask Administration to intervene to stop disturbing robocalls

TPMmuckraker has a copy of a letter sent by John Conyers and John Dingell to Justice, the FCC and FEC:

Dear Chairmen Martin, Toner and Attorney General Gonzales:

We write to demand an immediate investigation concerning allegations of unethical and possibly illegal prerecorded phone calls designed to confuse voters in Tuesday’s election. These misleading calls are made late in the evening, or during the night, in an effort to generate anger at the Democratic candidate, who is in no way associated with this harassment. In fact, the calls are being funded by the National Republican Campaign Committee, which has reportedly provided $600,000 to fund this deception.

There have been numerous media reports about these calls, which appear to be occurring in dozens of districts. It is also our understanding that the Republican Party has been forced to stop the calls in New Hampshire.

According to the Associated Press, one individual “received three prerecorded messages in four hours. Each began, ‘Hello, I’m calling with information about [Democratic candidate] Lois Murphy [in the Philadelphia area].’” The Philadelphia Daily News reported that “[t]he calls, which begin by offering ‘important information about Lois Murphy,’ are designed to mislead voters into thinking the message is from her.”

The New Hampshire Union Leader reported that a “national Republican group yesterday scuttled a pre-recorded phone call effort the state Attorney General’s Office said may have violated New Hampshire law by contacting residents listed on the federal Do Not Call registry.”

In Illinois, The Barrington Courier-Review reported that a resident received the following phone call – “Hi. I’m calling with information about [Democratic Candidate] Melissa Bean.” She received the same call a total of 21 times since October 24. Others reported receiving the same calls, none of which were paid for by Ms. Bean or any Democratic group.

If true, these allegations could violate a number of federal laws and legal requirements. Among other things, 47 CFR 1200 (b)(1) provides that prerecorded telephone messages must “[a]t the beginning of the message, state clearly the identity of the business, individual, or other entity that is responsible for initiating the call.” Section 441h of the Federal Election Campaign Act provides that no agent of a federal candidate shall “fraudulently misrepresent himself or any committee or organization under his control as speaking or otherwise writing or acting for or behalf of any other candidate or political party.” Section 441d(d)(2) specifies that communications must provide a statement as to the party responsible for it, and the campaign finance laws generally prohibit fraudulent and deceptive activities. A number of state laws also appear to be applicable, such as New Hampshire’s which prohibits calls to individuals on the federal Do Not Call registry.

Given the magnitude and seriousness of these charges, we ask that you immediately investigate and take action to protect the integrity of our electoral process and hold the culpable parties responsible.

Crist snub shows how far Bush fallen

The President is slouching back to Texas tonight, unable to get even his handpicked candidate in Florida to show up at a rally designed to help him:

PENSACOLA, Florida (AP) -- The White House did not hide its irritation Monday at Florida GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist for ducking President Bush at a campaign rally in the Republican-friendly Panhandle.

Crist said he considered the Pensacola area so firmly in his camp that it made more sense to campaign elsewhere in the state as the race to replace outgoing Gov. Jeb Bush tightened.

On a tarmac in Texas where the president boarded Air Force One for the trip east, Bush political strategist Karl Rove mockingly questioned what kind of alternate rally Crist could put together that would rival the expected 10,000-person crowd that Bush was expected to draw at the Pensacola Civic Center.

The White House already had distributed schedules saying Crist would introduce Bush at the rally.

Crist's opponent, Democratic Rep. Jim Davis, seized on the news.

"Now that the president is so unpopular, Charlie refuses to stand side by side with him," Davis said. "It says when the going gets tough, Charlie won't stand up."

Crist's chief of staff, George LeMieux, said the candidate already has strong support in the heavily Republican Pensacola area and thought his time would be better spent campaigning elsewhere. LeMieux said the decision had nothing to do with the president's job approval ratings.

Jeb Bush will attend the Pensacola event in Crist's place. Rep. Katherine Harris, who is mounting a lukewarm challenge to Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, will also be with the president. Before the September primary, Republican leaders failed to support Harris.

Bush is using the last day of his 10-state campaign swing to flush out GOP and swing voters needed to keep Republicans sitting in the governor's offices of Arkansas and Texas as well.

Making the Republicans continued efforts to discourage voting a national issue

Reports from all over America, coming in largely through the blogs and associated listservs, are showing Republicans and their Party Committees stooping to new lows to confuse voters and discourage people from voting.  in some cases laws have clearly already been broken.  In other cases - like the new flyer from MD shown on Kos tonight - they have brought shame to their politics. 

One of our greatest message opportunites in future years is for us to make the simple case that we want ever one to vote, and the other side doesn't. 

We need to use their systemic efforts to discourage and deny folks the right to vote - in a terrible version of the "whatever it takes" argument of the Bush campaign in 2004 - something that hurts their brand and their leaders across the country. 

Their systemic efforts to gain and hold on to power at any costs is a national disgrace. 

Georgia10 on Dailykos has a good roundup of things to be on the lookout for tomorrow.

Charlie Cook also doesn't buy the "tightening" argument

Earlier today we released a memo arguing that there was no conclusive evidence that the national race had "tightened."  Charlie Cook, respected election handicapper, agrees:

.....November 6, 2006

Going into Election Day, we see a 20-35 seat gain for Democrats in the House, a four to six seat gain for Democrats in the Senate and a six to eight seat gain for Democrats in the governor's races.

All Monday there was considerable talk that the national picture had suddenly changed and that there was a significant tightening in the election.  This was based in part on two national polls that showed the generic congressional ballot test having tightened to four (Pew) and six (ABC/Wash Post) points.

Seven national polls have been conducted since Wednesday, November 1.  They give Democrats an average lead of 11.6 percentage points, larger than any party has had going into an Election Day in memory.  Even if you knock five points off of it, it's 6.6 percentage points, bigger than the advantage that Republicans had going into 1994.

Furthermore, there is no evidence of a trend in the generic ballot test.  In chronological order of interviewing (using the midpoint of field dates), the margins were: 15 points (Time 11/1-3), 6 points (ABC/Wash Post), 4 points (Pew), 7 points (Gallup), 16 points (Newsweek), 20 points (CNN) and 13 points (Fox).

In individual races, some Republican pollsters see some movement, voters "coming home," in their direction, and/or some increase in intensity among GOP voters.  All seem to think that it was too little, too late to significantly change the outcome.  However, it might be enough to save a few candidates.  None think it is a major change in the dynamics of races, and most remain somewhere between fairly and extremely pessimistic about tomorrow's outcome."

NDN Final Polling Analysis: Democrats Maintain Historic Advantage

An NDN analysis of the 7 most recent national election polls show Democrats with a striking 12 percentage point average lead in the generic Congressional ballot. This 12 point lead is almost double the 7 point advantage Republicans had in the days before the 1994 election in which they won the Senate, and gained a net of 52 seats in the House.

The two newest polls released by CNN and Fox News show Democrats with 13 and 20 point generic advantages respectively, among likely voters, sternly repudiating any argument that the race has “tightened” in recent days.

Generic Congressional Vote







11/01 - 11/05




FOX News

11/04 - 11/05





11/03 - 11/05




USA Today/Gallup

11/02 - 11/05




Pew Research

11/01 - 11/04




ABC News/Wash Post

11/01 - 11/04





11/02 - 11/03





11/01 - 11/03




Beyond the national polls, Republican weakness is best seen in what is happening today in Florida. The President’s last major event of the campaign is in a hard Republican area of the state, Pensacola, where there are no competitive Senate or House races. Republican Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist even announced yesterday he wouldn’t be able to join the President. So who will be on stage with President Bush today in Florida? Their failed Senate candidate, Katherine Harris, the architect of the electoral debacle in Florida in 2000, and now a national embarrassment for the GOP. What a remarkable ending to this amazing election year.

Bottom line: look hard at the last minute data, and the only responsible conclusions are that Democrats hold a historic generic Congressional advantage. There is no reliable evidence of any late breaking Republican trend. And Tuesday is looking very bad indeed for those in power.

(Be sure to read my 2004 post-election analysis for a baseline on how to understand tomorrow's election results.)

GOP group uses cutting edge technology in a disturbing way

The blogs this weekend have been full of talk of over-the-top phone calls coming from Republican groups.  Josh Marshall at talkingpoints memo has done a particularly good job collecting the stories, including how the NRCC had to stop their calls in NH.  And the Times details how an outside Republican group is taking what are often called robocalls to a new level:

"New Telemarketing Ploy Steers Voters on Republican Path


An automated voice at the other end of the telephone line asks whether you believe that judges who “push homosexual marriage and create new rights like abortion and sodomy” should be controlled. If your reply is “yes,” the voice lets you know that the Democratic candidate in the Senate race in Montana, Jon Tester, is not your man.

In Maryland, a similar question-and-answer sequence suggests that only the Republican Senate candidate would keep the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. In Tennessee, another paints the Democrat as wanting to give foreign terrorists “the same legal rights and privileges” as Americans.

Using a telemarketing tactic that is best known for steering consumers to buy products, the organizers of the political telephone calls say they have reached hundreds of thousands of homes in five states over the last several weeks in a push to win votes for Republicans. Democrats say the calls present a distorted picture.

The Ohio-based conservatives behind the new campaign, who include current and former Procter & Gamble managers, say the automated system can reach vast numbers of people at a fraction of the cost of traditional volunteer phone banks and is the most ambitious political use of the telemarketing technology ever undertaken.

But critics say the automated calls are a twist on push polls — a campaign tactic that is often criticized as deceptive because it involves calling potential voters under the guise of measuring public opinion, while the real intent is to change opinions with questions that push people in one direction or the other.

The calls have set off a furor in the closing days of a campaign in which control of Congress hinges on a handful of races...."

The Saddam verdict shows how little we have to show for our time in Iraq

As I wrote yesterday, if this is cause for celebration in Washington then it shows how little we have to show for the lives lost, money spent, roads not taken and prestige squandered in Iraq these past four years.

There is a quiet desperation emanating from the White House these days.

Americans not cheering the economy

In one of its final desperate acts before the Tuesday elections, the White House is pointing to a slight improvement in some last minute economic news to argue that the economy is going well.  The problem with this argument is that most Americans don't believe it. 

In the latest CBS/New York Times poll, Bush's economic performance rating was 38% approve, 54% disapprove, down from 43/51 this time two years ago, when in theory the economy was not doing as well.  And in a Washington Post poll from last week fully 74% of Americans say their personal economic circumstances have either stayed the same or declined in recent years.  Pulling these two stands together this means even though we have been in a sustained economic recovery that has brought a strong stock market, record corporate profits, significant GDP and productivity growth somewhere between 3/5s and 3/4s of Americans do not believe the current economy is working for them. 

At NDN's Globalization Initiative, we've been writing a great deal about why most Americans feel the economy isn't working for them - simply put, it isn't.  The income for an average family in the Clinton era climbed by more than $7,000.  In the Bush era it has declined by over $1,000.   That's whats driving the poll numbers.  People feel like it was easier to get to ahead in the Clinton days, when Democrats were in charge.  And it was (for more on the performance of the Bush economy vs the Clinton economy visit here.)

Figuring out how to restore broad-based prosperity is one of the central governing challenges of our time, and one we've been working a great deal on in recent years.  While we should be pleased with today's numbers on income and unemployment, we also have to understand that there are many signs of economic danger ahead, and finding common ground between Bush's view of the world and the world the rest of us live on economic policy will be as tough as finding a working path forward on Iraq and foreign policy.  But that doesn't mean we all aren't going to try. 

While progressives may have found their voice on Iraq, we have not yet found our voice on the economy.  In poll after poll, voters have made it clear that they believe the economy is as central a concern as Iraq, and give the President similarly failing grades on the economy as they do on Iraq.   As vital as it will be for us to help steer a new and better course in Iraq next year, we will also have to be doing a great deal of work to find a new path on a whole basket of economic issues to clean up the mistakes and address the issues not addressed in the age of Bush. 

Conservatives, military in open rebellion over "stay the course"

We begin this final weekend with two new, remarkable stories that show what is at stake in Tuesday's elections.  A new Vanity Fair piece has two of the War's neocon architects opening up on Bush and the "failure" in Iraq; and on Monday, four leading military newspapers will publish a joint editorial calling for Rumsfeld to step down. 

Driving this unexpected criticism is the growing sense of how out of control and dangerous Iraq has become for our security interests.  As the now famous NIE from earlier this year reported Iraq is now fueling the spread of global jihadism, not containing it, meaning, to paraphrase Bush, our time in Iraq is making it more likely we will be fighting them here than over there. 

The "blowback" now inevitable from Iraq is why the historical analogy America needs to be focusing on is not Vietnam, but the Soviet experience in Afghanistan.  In that lost war the global Soviet brand was significantly damaged, a new generation of jihadists including Bin Laden where born, and the Soviet pull out left behind a nation that became the global breeding ground for jihadism which is still a virulent force in the world today. 

My own sense is that the charade of the Saddam verdict tomorrow will only help to reinforce what a farce our occupation of Iraq has become, and why so many seem in open rebellion against the majority party these days.  What is the positive spin from the Saddam verdict? That we got him again, and we were right to go into Iraq? We all know the guy was a bad guy, and essentially he had been tried and convicted in our minds along time ago.  But that is not the issue now, and trumpeting his demise again will only reinforce how little we have to show for the money, the lives, the time and prestige we've lost in our time in Iraq.

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