New Progressive Politics

Eliot Spitzer's Inaugural Address

As a native New Yorker, I'm very excited about Governor Eliot Spitzer's agenda for reform that starts on "Day 1."  Governor Spitzer is an old friend of NDN and the need for new, progressive government was at the heart of his inaugural address this morning:

The reform we seek is substantial in size and historic in scope.

It will require a new brand of politics – a break from the days when progress was measured by the partisan points scored or the opponents defeated. No longer can we afford merely to tinker at the margins of the status quo or play the politics of pitting one group against another. We must replace delay and diversion with energy and purpose in the halls of our capital.

What we needed now more than ever is a politics that binds us together, a politics that looks to the future, a politics that asks not what is in it for me, but always what is in it for us.
We must embrace a progressive vision of government once more – a vision that upholds the values of individuality and community; of entrepreneurship and opportunity; of responsibility and fairness. No one any longer believes in government as a heavy hand that can cure all our ills, but rather we see it as a lean and responsive force that can make possible the pursuit of prosperity and opportunity for all -- by softening life’s blows, leveling its playing field and making possible the pursuit of happiness that is our god given right.

Governor Spitzer also looked back to two of New York's most famous former Governors, calling for a sense of shared responsability and hard work, as Teddy Roosevelt did before him:

As New York’s former Governor Theodore Roosevelt once remarked, there can be no great progress without first entering the arena.

My fellow New Yorkers: join me in that arena.

Lend your sweat, your toil and your passion to the effort of building One New York of which we can all be proud.

And recalled the energy of FDR, while channeling his optimism:

Franklin Roosevelt advised us to be, "bold," and to recognize that people demand "action, and action now." matter how great the hardship, no matter how daunting the challenge, the promise of our democracy makes it possible to overcome the greatest odds so that we -- individually and as a society -- may arrive at a greater good.

Here at NDN we applaud Governor Spitzer's modern, forward looking agenda, and committment to creating new politics in the Empire State.  We'll be watching his administration closely in the days, weeks and years ahead.

Read the entire speech

Update 1/3/07: watch video of the speech

Edwards uses new tools

John Edwards has been doing a lot since he announced his candidacy for president in New Orleans last week. He's held town halls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, and attended a rally in his home state of North Carolina. While his travel strategy might not shock you, he's also getting his name out by using new tools like text messaging (join OneCorps by texting 'hope' to 30644), YouTube and his blog to reach out to folks from around the country.

(It's great to see Edwards employing the new tools that NPI has been discussing. Hopefully when Mitt Romney and others file/announce, we'll see the same from them.)

In his e-mail entitled "Tomorrow Begins Today," Edwards lays out his plan, telling us that "we know what we need to do."

Changing our country means:

  • Providing moral leadership in the world -- starting with Iraq, where we should begin drawing down troops, not escalating the war
  • Strengthening our middle class and ending the shame of poverty
  • Guaranteeing health care for every single American
  • Leading the fight against global warming
  • Getting America and the world to break our addiction to oil

**To learn more about the NDN blog's coverage of the 2008 presidential election, click here.

Daily Kos is the Best Blog, period.

At least that’s according to the 2006 Weblog Awards, the world’s largest blog competition, with more than 525,000 votes cast this year. The best blog, not just the best political blog, was deemed to be the blog of the New Politics Institute’s fellow Markos Moulitsas.

Markos is a founding fellow of NPI and has participated in many of our events and gatherings. He is featured off the front page of NPI’s new website, where you can also find a terrific video interview with him where he lays out his take on the blogosphere and its impact on politics.

Congratulations, Markos. Keep up the great work.

Peter Leyden

Time Magazine’s Person of the Year is – All of Us

I could not have designed a better cap on the theme of my posts for the last week. I have been hammering at the theme that the new progressive agenda, the new ideas that will truly solve the challenges of the 21st century are emerging all around us. The answers to our problems won’t come from the one great candidate, they will come, and are coming from all of us in an explosion of creativity that we have not seen for a long time.

And now Time magazine validates that theme by giving their prestigious annual award not to some one individual who happened to stand out, but to all the people who emerged from the bottom-up - enabled by the new Web 2.0 tools that are just starting to really transform our world.

Here’s Time’s opening passage that sets up their frame:

The "Great Man" theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men." He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year.

To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear too. Meanwhile nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn't make enough PlayStation3s.

But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web. Not the Web that Tim Berners-Lee hacked together (15 years ago, according to Wikipedia) as a way for scientists to share research. It's not even the overhyped dotcom Web of the late 1990s. The new Web is a very different thing. It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it's really a revolution.

And we are so ready for it. We're ready to balance our diet of predigested news with raw feeds from Baghdad and Boston and Beijing. You can learn more about how Americans live just by looking at the backgrounds of YouTube videos—those rumpled bedrooms and toy-strewn basement rec rooms—than you could from 1,000 hours of network television.

And we didn't just watch, we also worked. Like crazy. We made Facebook profiles and Second Life avatars and reviewed books at Amazon and recorded podcasts. We blogged about our candidates losing and wrote songs about getting dumped. We camcordered bombing runs and built open-source software.

America loves its solitary geniuses—its Einsteins, its Edisons, its Jobses—but those lonely dreamers may have to learn to play with others. Car companies are running open design contests. Reuters is carrying blog postings alongside its regular news feed. Microsoft is working overtime to fend off user-created Linux.

We're looking at an explosion of productivity and innovation, and it's just getting started, as millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity get backhauled into the global intellectual economy….

This bottom-up revolution has hit politics and will continue to transform it in the coming years. The New Politics Institute has been all over this story for the last 18 months. We’ve seen it coming and have been doing all we can to help progressives adjust to the new realities, to restrategize and retool.

Thanks Time, for adding to the chorus that this is not any old development, this is a transformative moment that will have repercussions for a long, long time.

Peter Leyden

Worldchanging: the community, the website, the new book

To finish up my theme of the week, about the explosion of  new ideas to deal  with our 21st century problems, I point out Worldchanging.

I have watched this effort from the very beginning, and I know the founders, Alex Steffen and Jamais Casio, well. It pretty much started as a two person blog with the idea of pointing out all the new tools and ideas and people who are already creating a 21st century world that is sustainable and works for all, in their language, one that is bright green. Worldchanging is a positive place, with none of the gloom and doom talk that so many traditional environmental sites have. As their tag line says: “Another world is here.” The solutions are all around us, we just need to catalyze them, scale them up, and make it all work for everyone.

Over the years they have grown from the two of them to a vibrant worldwide community. They got a boost a couple years ago  when the elite TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference chose them as one of three places for their affluent attendees to support. Since then they have taken off and are building a national infrastructure to spread their ideas into the mainstream.

Their most recent effort is a book, Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century. It acts more like a reference book, not something you would read cover to cover. But you can flip through it and find all kinds of new ideas and heartening developments. It is broken up into sections that pertain to huge areas that need to be radically reworked, like the business world, cities, and, yes, politics. The politics they talk  about is more people-powered and less about inside legislation. And it also has a very global viewpoint, as do the solutions throughout the book. But it is well worth reading for those in DC and state government and politics. This is particularly true for those who want to focus on solutions that deal with  our myriad environmental challenges, like climate change.

It’s a heartening book, one that hopefully will  inspire other similar efforts.  A good gift for the holidays…

Peter Leyden

Government Doesn’t have to Lead, but Align

The Wall Street Journal had a nice story today about the shift in mindset in the Venture Capital sector from investing in startup companies dealing wit the Internet to those dealing with clean energy. It came in the form of an interview with two top Kleiner Perkins partners, the legendary John Doerr, and Ray Lane.

What’s interesting from the political perspective is that it shows that many actors in the private sector and the world outside of politics already are moving headlong towards 21st century solutions to our problems. Like the smart money of Silicon Valley.

Smart progressive government needs to help catalyze those efforts and align them. It needs to draw them together, and highlight the best of them, building popular consensus around a clear way forward. Government also needs to fill in the gaps, stimulate efforts and solutions where none exist now.

What we don’t need is some one candidate to step forth with all the answers. That can’t happen, and waiting for it paralyzes our politics and government. Washington and old style politics in general is so caught up in commander-in-chief mode. Look to the president for all the answers. Wait for the guy at the apex of the hierarchy to give orders. That is so 20th century. The future is all about enabling and coordinating many, many actors.

Anyhow, back to  the WSJ story, which you can read in full here (they generously opened up the link to those without an online subscription). Here is a choice section to pull you in:

WSJ: Why is there so much interest in clean tech now?

Mr. Lane: We have always said that we do well by focusing on sectors, not companies. So when we saw changes happening in the semiconductor and microprocessor industry, and when we saw changes happening around the Internet, [we knew] these were major sectoral changes that occurred that would essentially displace the economics that were in place at the time.

The Internet is an example. Billions were made, billions were lost. You take that cataclysmic change that occurred over the last 10 years and you say, 'This looks like it could occur in energy.' Now we are dealing not with a sector of billions, but we're dealing with a sector of trillions. The venture business does well if it gets involved early because we're willing to take the risk.

It's a natural thing for Silicon Valley. We like very large markets. It doesn't make sense to go into small markets. It is huge sectoral change in one of the biggest industries on Earth, if not the biggest, and then it's being driven by technology, hot technology change.

Does this look to be bigger than the Internet or as big?

Mr. Lane: This is bigger than the Internet, I think by an order of magnitude. Maybe two.

If you thought the 1990s was a ride, hold on for this one….

Peter Leyden

First Draft of a National Health Care Plan – In California

This falls in the theme I have put out here before about California being the incubator of a progressive future. The State Senate’s top Democrat, and probably the second most powerful elected official in the state, announced a comprehensive plan to make sure all workers in the state have health insurance in the next few years. That’s 6.6 million uninsured, at an annual cost of about $7 billion.

Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said it was “fantastic” that the majority Democrats that control both legislative houses wanted to join him in overhauling health care. He’s been devising his own plan to really take the problem on first thing in the next session.

So now you have the progressive Democrats who control both houses putting concrete, comprehensive proposals on modernizing health care to the front of the debate. And you have the lone powerful Republican in the state, Arnold, trying to outdo them. I have argued elsewhere that Arnold can best be seen as a new kind of Republican that we have not seen for a long time, a progressive Republican. He’s making the early moves of what a progressive Republican will look like in the 21st century.

This could all be taken as idle talk if there had not been tremendous strides taken last session around a progressive agenda that really started to take on the  true challenges of the 21st century. The San Francisco Chronicle story of today put it this way:

Last year, Schwarzenegger and Democrats worked together on landmark  legislation to restrict greenhouse gases, raise the minimum wage and provide discounts on prescription drugs. If they can work together as well on changes in health care law, some believe the product could serve as a national model.

I’m one of those who thinks that California should be viewed as a model of what happens when progressives do take control of government in the early 21st century. With Arnold’s recent progressive shift, the whole state is controlled by progressives who are increasingly getting emboldened. They’re just really starting to catalyze the full agenda, and there are many missing parts. Plus their efforts are far from perfect and many things about California politics should not necessarily be emulated.

That said, there’s no better place to look to when we think about how, on a national stage, a Democratic progressive Congress might work with a new (progressive?) president to solve the real challenges of our times.

Peter Leyden

The Problem is Not Lack of Ideas

The Sunday New York Times magazine ran its 6th annual Year In ideas edition, which is the full magazine devoted to some of the most intriguing ideas to surface in the United States in the last year. Of course, the list is not comprehensive, and rather idiosyncratic. But what it does show each year is how fertile the intellectual terrain is out there in America.

This insight is not inconsequential for politics right now. Some of the frequent laments you hear is that no one in politics knows how to solve all these problems we face, or the Democrats have no agenda, or where are the big ideas? This is more a function of the state of Washington politics rather that the actual dearth of new ideas, or big ideas, or big solutions out there. Ideas and solutions are out there, they just haven’t permeated our political world yet. So the big progressive political ideas are to raise the minimum wage, or save social security – ideas that were innovative in the middle of last century. That’s not to say that we don’t raise the minimum wage, but we need to throw the net wider on possible solutions to the economic challenges of our time.

That’s where the Times edition is refreshing. It is not about  politics, though it  does have some applicable political entries, like “The Myth of the Southern Strategy,” or “The New Inequality.” But it shows how irrepressible American brains are as they try to figure out the 21st century, improve our lives, and reengineer the system to work better over time.

The good news is that the people-powered politics that is emerging is tapping into that same resource for politics. We’re starting to feel the effects too.

Peter Leyden

Winter Edition of the Democracy Journal

Democracy Journal is a new publication, but it is already a heavy-hitter in the progressive ideas business.  Founded by two of NDN's good friends Andrei Cherny and Ken Baer, this quarter's edition includes:

Peter Bergen and Michael Lind taking on the conventional wisdom on what makes someone a terrorist; a similarly iconoclastic piece by Aaron Chatterji and Siona Listokin on the problems with the corporate social responsibility movement; Jeff Faux's critical look at the development of the global economy; Erwin Chemerinsky on the problem with sweeping judicial theories; Kevin Mattson on what we lose when historians disengage from public life; a group of essays on American foreign policy by Joshua Kurlantzick, Gayle Smith, and Suzanne Nossel; and much more.

We'll have more on Democracy Journal later this week, but for now, visit their site to read articles, learn more about the publication and become a subscriber. 

A Video from the Future on How to Solve Climate Change

People often get stuck when they try to contemplate how we can solve an array of intractable 21st century problems, like climate change. The problems are often very different from the 20th century problems, and the solutions have not yet permeated our politics. However, in fields outside of politics, there are many great emerging ideas about how to solve these problems. I’m going to talk more about these in coming weeks.

For now I want to point out a very interesting video that lays out a positive scenario about how the United States and the world can tackle climate change. It was created by an innovative firm called Free Range, which does great work using animation to help move social and  political issues. In this case, they created a mini documentary from 2050 that looks back on how the world solved this most difficult of problems. It’s a very effective use of how to use scenarios to get people to see alterative ways forward. Plus it’s just an enjoyable and heartening thing to watch. We could do this.

Peter Leyden

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