New Progressive Politics

California and the New Progressive Agenda

People keep asking what the House Democrats and Pelosi will do if they get in power. There is a constant refrain that progressives don’t have a vision and an agenda about where to take the country. But that does not seem to be the case standing here in California. This last legislative session saw a wave of innovative progressive initiatives pass into law now that Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is tacking not just moderate, but progressive in many of his stances. However, the actual progressive agenda is being driven by the overwhelmingly Democratic state House and Senate. Arnold is mostly responding and going with the very popular flow.

Nowhere is this progressive agenda more clear than in energy and the environment. For those who missed it on Friday, the New York Times ran a huge front page story on California’s many innovative policy experiments to curb greenhouse gases and shift to alternative energies. Many of them are ground-breaking and could well point the way towards how the nation deals with these new 21st century challenges.

So what is the new progressive agenda? What will national progressives do if they run Congress? What will Pelosi do when in charge? Many of the elements are coming together in bluer-than-blue California, Pelosi’s home base. It’s worth watching….

Peter Leyden

Meet the Millennials

The front page of the Saturday New York Times had a picture of an earnest young man over the headline: "At 26, Baby-Faced Mayor Takes Over an Aging Pittsburg."

If the New Politics Institute were writing the headline it might have been: "Meet the Millennials."

Luke Ravenstahl is in the front lip cohort of the Millennial Generation, the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s. This generation is as big as the Baby Boom and promises to have as big an impact on American society and politics.

Luke (age 26) is to the Millennials, as Bill Clinton (age 60) is the Boomers. Was any Boomer running a major city at age 26?

Peter Leyden

Dems Launch Social Networking Site

This is fun, from the National Journal:

The DNC launched Party Builder, its online social organizing and fundraising tool, last Friday. It's the answer to Both programs offer similar features, but most notable is how the GOP uses a homepage as its base (think MySpace), while the DNC's new tool looks a whole lot like The Facebook. Why re-invent the wheel, when it already runs so smoothly? MySpace and Facebook are in the top 20 sites in the country.

A quick comparison of what can be done with both sites: The DNC has put all of its action tools under the Party Builder, except for the blog which can be accessed via the main home page too. Supporters create a profile, join groups, make "friends," create/join events, fundraise, sign petitins and send letters to the editor. Unlike the RNC's blog, users comments are a free-for-all under the post while the RNC's blog comments are listed by user.
 The RNC's Action Center and its portal are seperate features on the site, but link to many of the same functions. At the Action Center, users can host a party, take a survey, contact their Rep., call talk radio, get GOP paraphenalia, join teams, recruit volunteers and register people to vote. At MyGOP, supporters can do all the above and show off their progress.

Cable v. Broadcast in the WSJ today

Good piece in the WSJ today on the continuing discussion about the use of cable tv v. broadcast tv in politics.  Check it out here.  It's in the free section, so you will be able to view it without registering.

Republican learning curve on the new reality of bottom-up video

The front page of the San Francisco Chronicle has a column on the recent run of Republican gaffes now brought to the nation via user-generated video. The New Politics Institute’s Theo Yedinsky is quoted above the fold on the paper edition. The story recounts how Senator George Allen, Senator Conrad Burns, and Florida Congressional Candidate Tramm Hudson have blundered their way into the national spotlight by being caught on video saying dumb things that ordinarily would have gone unnoticed.

I do not think it is a coincidence that this is happening more to Republicans. It’s not because Democrats don’t (occasionally) say dumb things. It’s more that the phenomenon of bottom-up video is playing to progressive strengths. The progressive blogosphere is much more active, innovative and powerful than the conservative one. The Millennial generation, those young people who are most into video-blogging, etc., are also trending much more progressive. And progressive politicos are more attuned to the sensitivities of different groups because diversity and tolerance have been hallmarks of progressive politics for decades. I also think progressives, for better or worse, are more used to the rough and tumble of more open forums and debates.

So I think these early stages of the development of bottom-up video in politics will largely benefit progressives. The conservatives, as they tend to do, will be relatively fast followers and adapt to the new realities, probably by trying to maintain more control and throwing money at the problem. But for a while, the conservatives are going to be knocked around a lot. It will be interesting to watch.

Peter Leyden

The arrival of bottom-up video into politics

I’ve been posting recently about watching politics adapt to YouTube, thinking this would be a development that would take a while to sink into the mainstream. But this Sunday the New York Times had a story on the cover of its Week in Review Section on The YouTube Election.

I have been involved in the tech and new media world for a while, and spent good chunk of the 1990s at Wired magazine. We always figured that when a trend or new technology hit the front page or a section cover of the Times, then it was mainstreamed. Then the ruling elite of the country sat up and took notice.

Well, bottom-up video has arrived.

Peter Leyden

Rallying the Democratic Base

The Post today covers the slow downfall of Republican incumbents in the Northeast, a sign for optimism for Democrats this fall. Says Rep. Jim Gerlach of suburban Philadelphia of his party's predicament:

"It is a combination of things, from the war in Iraq to gas prices to what they are experiencing in their local areas."

A multitude of issues, all seeming to make the R into a scarlet letter, like Michael Steele suggested. It also curiously coincides with some observations made by NPI Fellow Ruy Teixiera in his study of exurbia. Things are certainly changing, just how much we'll find out in November.

Liberal Bloggers Are Closet New Dems. Discuss.

TNR's Noam Schreiber's can't exactly be accused of trying to build bridges between his magazine and its blogging critics. His latest collumn accuses Lamont supporters and associated bloggers of being - gasp! - secrret New Democrats. Schreiber is a talented writer, and his case is worth reading, especially for the links to research by PEW looking at self-identified political tribes within the two parties:

An interesting thing happened between 1999 and 2005, when Pew conducted another detailed analysis of the electorate: The New Democrats had entirely disappeared as a group while the liberals had doubled in size. The strong implication was that the New Democrats had been driven into the liberal camp by the extremism of the Bush administration. .... Of course, there are other reasons affluent Democrats might have moved leftward on economics in recent years. Certainly the consequences of globalization--outsourcing, the decline of traditional pensions, et cetera--have raised voters' economic anxieties. But, as a group, the former New Democrats tend to be more insulated from these trends than most. They are, by and large, still society's success stories. As such, they generally benefit from a smaller and leaner (though nonetheless active) government, which suggests to me that Bush is behind most of the group's leftward drift.

Schreiber's ultimatel conclusion is, it seems to me, less good. He seems unable to avoid taking a rather odd pot-shot at Libertarians (via, predictably, a Daily Kos post.) Instead, what seems to me to follow from his piece is much more interesting. Kos and his allies, as exemplified in Crashing the Gates, always have shown a pragmatic, heterodox "winning is what matters" streak, contrary to many of their more orthodox liberal followers. This pragmatic approach to politics used to be wholly owned by the centrist Dems. Thus, is it too much of a stretch to say that while moderate "New Democrat" politics has been on the backfoot in oppostion, that the Lamont-ites might find it more palatable as a governing philosophy when the Dems return to power?

NDN in the News

NPI Fellow Jennifer Nix is in the San Francisco Chronicle today discussing the impact of the netroots in yesterday's CT Primary.

Finding Progressive Theoretical Roots

The Times this morning has an interesting piece that reveals how conservatives are propelling their philosophy using "boot camps." The Ronald Reagan Leadership Academy kicks off with a class of 26 young people who read the ideological underpinnings of the conservative movement - the conservative canon beginning with none other than Russel Kirk . However...

"Every political movement has its texts. But James W. Ceaser, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, argues that the conservative focus on core thinkers has no exact parallel among liberals. 'It doesn’t mean they’re not interested in ideas,' Professor Ceaser said. 'It means their approach to politics doesn’t rest on theory in the same way.'"

I beg to differ: liberalism's tenants were described much earlier. John Stuart Mill defended it 150 years ago in his essays. The Bush administration should read what he has to say about differences of opinion, namely "We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still." Others have realized the importance of updating the groundwork to confront modern challenges. In an excellent op-ed in the LA Times, Kenneth Baer and Andrei Cherny, founding editors of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, recognize just that. They end with these goose-bump-giving lines:

"Having seen the failure of a generation of conservative ideas on fiscal and foreign policy, Americans are ready to listen to an alternative. Now is the moment for Democrats to offer a set of breakthrough ideas that will create a governing majority for a generation. But this will happen only if they are willing to be more than the railroad conductor making sure the trains run on time, and instead put America on a new and different track."

Let's hope we can do just that.

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