Our Mission: Mastering the New Politics of the 21st Century

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, June 7, 2006

At presentations this month at Yearly Kos and NDN’s Annual Meeting, NDN and its affiliates will be laying out our vision for what will be required for a political party or ideological movement to become pre-eminent in the 21st century. We began this process in the foreword of the critically acclaimed book Crashing the Gate, and have also explored the theme in a series of essays on our site at http://www.ndn.org/conservativechallenge/.

It is our core belief that at this point in American history, neither party or movement has yet mastered the emerging politics of this new century. For a time it appeared that the Republicans and conservatives had gained an upper hand. But we believe that the utter failure of their government these past few years has leveled the playing field, setting up a great struggle over which side masters this new politics and rises to pre-eminence.

So what is our vision for this new politics? We submit that it has three dimensions, all of which must be mastered to ensure political success in this new century:

A new governing agenda that tackles the emerging challenges of our time – The list is daunting. Keeping the world peaceful and prosperous, once again creating broad-based prosperity here at home in a new age of globalization, addressing global climate change, modernizing our health care system, moving to energy independence and lowering our energy costs, managing the retirement of the baby boom, getting our budget under control and solving the immigration challenge are just a few of the pressing challenges before us. Future success will derive from offering real solutions to these great challenges, something the current governing Party has utterly failed to do.

The ways in which we speak to one another are going through profound changes – As FDR mastered radio and JFK television, future success will depend on the mastery of a post-broadcast communications environment that is more personal, more people-driven, more iterative, more participatory, more fragmented, more digital and certainly more fluid and changing. We’ve already witnessed the emergence of powerful new 21st century innovators – the Dean campaign, MoveOn, the DNC in 2004 and the blogs – whose success has come from early mastery of these new media. Expect much greater changes in the years to come as the velocity of the adoption of new media, and the spread of ubiquitous wireless and broadband Internet accelerates.

The American people themselves have changed – In recent decades America and its people have changed a great deal. We are more suburban and exurban, more Southern and Western, more Hispanic and Asian, more immigrant and Spanish-speaking and soon more Millennial than Boomer. Future success will depend on understanding the coming America of the 21st century, and building a modern majority coalition from its new realities.

As we will explain in greater detail in the coming weeks, we believe that this race to master the new politics is the most urgent political challenge of our time. Helping progressives understand and master this new politics has become NDN’s core mission. And while the conservatives and Republicans may today seem to be ahead in this great race, we believe the current failure of their government has been so profound that progressives have been given a remarkable opportunity to, as a good friend has said, “leapfrog” the other side.

To us this time feels a little like the early part of the 20th century. For thirty years prior the two sides had struggled for dominance. But it was the progressives and the Democrats, led by FDR, who created a new, successful governing agenda, mastered the new media and built a coalition around the America of their day to ascend to a sustained pre-eminence.

We are today in such a struggle. But remember, my friends, we’ve done it before. We can do it again.