Time Magazine's Validation of the New Politics

Peter Leyden, the Director of our New Politics Institute, just sent this out. It's definitely worth a read as we all take a look back at how new tools transformed politics in the past year.


The last year ended on a high note for the New Politics Institute, when Time magazine bestowed its prestigious Person of the Year Award not to a person, but to the bottom-up trend we have been tracking for the last 18 months. For those who missed it, Time’s Person of the Year is “You,” meaning all the people using the new tools and new media of the web to energize our society, our economy, and yes, our politics.

NPI is the only think tank dedicated to showing how these new tools and new media are transforming politics. We have been on that case from the beginning, inspired by one of our founding fellows, Markos Moulitsas, whose Daily Kos blog is the most popular progressive blog in the country. See his in-depth video interview where he gives a wonderful introduction and overview of the blog scene. We have held events in Washington, DC on the topic, and developed a groundbreaking report comparing the very different progressive and conservative blogospheres. And our recent 2006 Tools Campaign led off with a terrific memo on how progressives should Engage the Blogs.

The NPI website is also filled with written reports and video of events and talks that explore many other new tools and media. Check out the highlighted video off the front page on an event we held on Capital Hill in December, where we reviewed “The Next Wave of Tools for Progressive Politics,” including a big up-and-comer, Mobile Media. And besides tools, NPI analyzes the changing demographics of America that affect the changing media landscape, and ultimately profoundly effect politics. We have done some pioneering work in understanding the Millennial Generation, those young people born in the 1980s and 1990s who are masters of these new tools and who are starting to make their mark on politics.

If anything overshadowed the political impact of the blogs in 2006, it was the explosion of viral video on YouTube and similar sites. Millions went online and watched the "macaca video" of Senator George Allen taunting a Virginia honor student, and using what many consider a racial slur. In the weeks that followed, Allen went from a shoo-in for reelection to losing to Jim Webb by the narrowest of margins. Understanding the opportunities of this new type of video distribution needs to be a top priority for progressives. That's why next week NPI is launching a major paper on producing video for internet distribution, as the first paper in our "Re-imagining Video" series.

Time magazine’s validation at the end of the year reminds us that much of what happens next in progressive politics is up to "You." Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel wrote that some people denigrate this bottom-up era as an amateur hour. He continues: “But America was founded by amateurs. The framers were professional lawyers and military men and bankers, but they were amateur politicians, and that's the way they thought it should be."

We share the sentiment that getting more amateurs, more regular people involved in politics is good for progressives, good for politics, and good for the country. The tools that empower these people are to be celebrated. Time’s piece was a good omen for the coming year.