Pick up Matt Bai's "The Argument" today

This month a new book arrives from an old friend, Matt Bai, the talented New York Times Magazine writer. The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics - like everything Matt writes - is a good read, insightful, full of ideas big and small, and certainly worth picking up and making it one of your end of summer books.

The Argument takes an in-depth look at a process that NDN and its family have been at the center of these last few years: the re-invention and modernization of progressive politics. It is perhaps one of the most important and least understood stories in American politics today.

Whatever the short-term electoral outcomes of this decade in American politics, it will be remembered as one where the progressive movement, so dominant in the 20th century, shook off a generation-long period of drift and began to do what was necessary to take on a very powerful and modern conservative politics. The reasons for this are many: changes in campaign finance law, the Iraq War, the manifest failures of Bush and the conservatives to govern, even while they accrued more and more power. Today the progressive movement is much more 21st century than 20th, and is better able to play on the modern battlefield of today's politics. We've seen the creation of many new institutions: the Democracy Alliance, Media Matters, Center for American Progress, Center for Progressive Leadership, Democracy Journal, Catalist, America Votes; a whole new slew of internet-based players in the emergent "netroots" like MoveOn, DailyKos, Talking Points Memo, MyDD and the Huffington Post; and we've seen the emergence of a whole new set of leaders from Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Howard Dean, Markos Moulitsas, Rahm Emanuel, Andy Stern and Rob Stein.

Perhaps most importantly, all the new tools we have at our disposal today have made it easier for millions of Americans to partner with us in this critical effort to offer America a better path. Their arrival has brought more passion, more debate, more resources and is creating an entire new generation of leaders capable of serving the nation for years to come.

What Matt's book points out is that this process is still in its infancy, or in a start-up phase; and as such, it is in a very messy and emergent state. Overall Matt's assessment of all this, and of the people involved in this effort, is a little rougher than I would have liked, but that's the business we are in. But if Matt is correct in his assessment - and for this you should read the book - it means that there is much more for all of us to do in the coming days. Our work in building this modern progressive movement is far from finished. That is very exciting to me.

Looking ahead it is important to realize how much American politics has changed in the last few years. Just two years ago Bush and the conservatives were triumphiant. They had greater ideological control of the government than any time in the last 75 years. The progressives and Democrats appeared weak, in retreat, and unable to adapt to modern realities. But then the conservatives collapsed. Democrats won an historic victory in 2006. All measures of Party strength show the Democrats in the strongest shape they've been since before Reagan's election in 1980. The movement's infrastructure has become much more robust and modern. Progressives are way ahead in adopting a whole new set of 21st century tools to engage the Americans of today. Critical emergent constituencies - the new Millennial generation and Hispanics - are moving deeply into the progressive camp. And Democratic leaders are slowly re-orienting the debate and our government around the daunting array of 21st century challenges, many ignored by the conservatives in recent years, and many made much tougher to manage because of the conservatives' many mistakes.

So yes, Matt is right: there is work left undone. But left of center politics is so much more exciting, so much more passionate, so much more entreprenurial than its been since I joined it 20 years ago. We also have more wind at our back than at any time in the last political generation, and for all of this, I remain optimistic that this movement of ours, as imperfect as it is, is poised to take the reins and lead America with confidence and grace to meet the emerging challenges of our new century.