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More evidence of an Obama bounce, other thoughts on the fall election

As Andres reports below, MSNBC and the Wall Street Journal have released a new poll showing it 47-41 Obama-McCain, very similar numbers to previous polls over the the last two weeks. Some thoughts on where the race seems to be now:

There should no longer be any doubts about Obama's general election appeal, or his ability to put together a winning coalition - four major polls now show the same thing - an African American with a funny name is clearly defeating a celebrated and universally known American war hero, who in this race is more incumbent than challenger. While we have a long way to go, consider this passage from the new MSNBC analysis, which shows Obama winning among Hispanics, women, white women, Catholics, independents and blue-collar workers:

In the head-to-head matchup, Obama leads McCain among African Americans (83-7 percent), Hispanics (62-28), women (52-33), Catholics (47-40), independents (41-36) and even blue-collar workers (47-42). Obama is also ahead among those who said they voted for Clinton in the Democratic primaries (61-19).

Yet among white men — who made up 36 percent of the electorate in the 2004 presidential election — Obama trails McCain by 20 points, 55-35 percent. “That is the reason why this election is close,” Hart notes.

In addition, McCain leads Obama among white suburban women (44-38), group which makes up about 10 percent of all voters that Hart calls “absolutely critical” for both candidates in the fall.

However, Obama has a seven-point advantage (46-39) among all white women. How important is that lead? Newhouse explains that Republican candidates always expect to win white men by a substantial margin, but it is white women that usually decide the race. “If a Republican wins among white women, we usually win that election,” he says, noting that George W. Bush carried that group in 2000 and 2004.


Among Hispanics McCain is showing surprising weakness Obama surprising strength - As we've written before, McCain is now 15 points net below Bush's 2004 numbers with Hispanics. This shift with this community, voting at much higher numbers than 2004, could end up swinging four states Bush won to the Democrats - CO, FL, NM, NV - and perhaps making AZ and TX competitive.

McCain is not ahead in a single state Democrats won in 2004 - New polling out this week shows Obama now leading McCain in MI and WI, two states he had previously been ahead in. One of the arguments the McCain camp has been making is that he has the ability to play on Democratic turf. NDN has long believed this argument to be more spin than reality, as the it is hard to believe that in this year of a very damanged GOP brand with a weak, wobbly candidate at its top that McCain could break the lock of the 19 states equaling 248 electoral votes Democrats have won in each of the last four elections. With the only two (MI, WI) of these 19 states McCain had been leading in moving to Obama, the race is now moving to nine states Bush won in 2000 or 2004 - CO, FL, IA, MO, NC, NH, NM, NV, VA and perhaps other states like AZ, MT and TX (see these electoral college maps NDN has produced to help visualize all this).

I am not in any way suggesting that states like MI and WI won't be contested by McCain, but the notion that there is a clear opening for him in these 19 states with 248 electoral college votes is more spin than reality. Look for the candidate time and TV ads to begin moving to these other states, which are the true 2008 battlegrounds now. For more on the emergence of a new post-Southern Strategy electoral strategy for the Democrats see our recent magazine article, a 50-Year Strategy.

We are seeing a very new electorate emerge in 2008 - Every poll has to make assumptions about the composition of the electorate to produce its results. Given the huge increase in turnout this year of African-Americans, Hispanics, Millennials and women, and an enormous shift in party ID towards the Dems, this electorate will look very different from any electorate any pollster has ever seen before. This electorate will not only be much more non-white than any electorate we've ever seen, it will be much less white and male than any electorate we've ever seen, and have fewer Republicans than we've seen since at least 1982, perhaps even 1966 (see this essay for more on the growing power of minorities in American politics).

It will also be important to not overstate the role of independents in the race. In the hyper-partisan era of Rove and Bush the number of unaffiliated voters has dropped, with independents only making up 26 percent of the electorate in the last two elections, significantly down from the general rule of thumb of one-third D/R/I. Bush has created more partisans, and from 2004 to 2006, more votes shifted in the two parties than it did among independents, as partisans now outnumber independents by 3:1. Democrats owed their victory in 2006 more to what happened with the two party's partisans than what happened with independents.

Thus, one of the key numbers to watch this year is how well each candidate is doing with their own partisans. If Democrats continue to outnumber Republicans in the electorate by 10-15 points as they do now, it will be just as important for Obama to keep 92-95 percent share of Democrats as it is for him to win independents. And the same is true for McCain. If his weakness with the GOP base causes his share with his own partisans to drop below 90 percent, he will have a very, very hard time winning this election. See this post for more on the declining clout of independents.

Remember that Kerry won both independents and moderates in 2004 and still lost. Bush did much better with his partisans than Kerry did with his. For both Obama and McCain, their partisans will outnumber independents in their own coaliton by at least 3 to 1, and thus at least as much attention needs to be paid to these voters as the media's holy grail of the independents. Thus, in this election I think you will be seeing much more attention being paid to each party's base - for different reasons - than in past elections. Given the intensity and much more highly networked Democratic base, this is a big, big problem for McCain.

One question pollsters should start asking this cycle should involve the likelihood to take an action on behalf of a candidate. My guess is that Obama supporters are twice as likely to do something for their man than McCain supporters, which in this networked age when a supporter can do so much more than ever before, could become a huge differentiator in the fall election.

Overall, in our much more partisan and networked age, when the barrier to enter into politics has been so lowered, the partisans in both camps have become much more important than they were in late 20th century politics. There are more of them then before, and with all the new tools, there is much more they can do to help their candidate - money, advocacy to their social networks and neighborhoods, voting.

Thursday Update - Gallup has a look at all this today. While the number of independents in their analysis is the traditional one-third, they look at what the Party ID shift means for the fall. In their current polling Obama is only getting 78 percent of Democrats. Kerry got 89 percent. If nothing else changes in the election if Obama simply matches Kerry's number with Democrats - as one would expect he would - he will win with 51-52 percent of the vote.

Thurs 415pm Update - Josh Marshall posts a new WI poll showing double digit leads for Obama in a head to head with McCain and and the Dems in Party ID. Further evidence that the McCain "playing on Democratic turf" argument isn't holding up very well.

Thurs 6pm Update - Chris Cillizza has own take on the Party ID shift and the collapse of the GOP brand.

Fri am Update - This am EJ Dionne examines the Party ID gap and the new emerging dynamic in this year's election.

San Francisco Bay Area Money Behind Obama, as Northern Donors Challenge Southern California

Follow the money. That’s the mantra that can go a long way towards explaining a lot in life, and often much in politics. Starting last fall there was a palpable sense in the San Francisco Bay Area and its Silicon Valley that people were moving their money to Obama. Only now are the analyses coming in that definitively show the shift – that the political money center of gravity for Obama is the north and not the south of the state. The San Francisco Chronicle has a terrific original research project that lays it out, complete with some great graphics. Some highlights:

California contributions to presidential candidates have surged so much
during the current campaign that if it were a state, the area would
rank fourth in the nation.

The rise is a reflection of the influence of Silicon Valley and a flood of donations to Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who has raised a great deal of his campaign money through Internet fundraising and social networking.


Six of the top 10 ZIP codes for fundraising in California are in the northern half of the state. That includes three in San Francisco and one each in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Burlingame.

"It's not that Southern California is giving less, it's that Northern California is giving more" said Anthony Corridor Jr., a professor of government at Colby College in Maine, who specializes in campaign finance. "Silicon Valley has become much more engaged, and the new technologies of social networking and Internet-giving have made Northern California much more involved."


Obama raised $18 million in Northern California - $1.5 million more than he raised in the southern half of the state. He collected $1 in Northern California for every 17 cents raised by McCain and for every 62 cents raised by his primary contender Sen. Hilary Clinton, who did most of her fundraising in the southern part of the state. In Southern California, Obama raised $1 for every 41 cents raised by McCain and every 97 cents raised by Clinton.


This story gives grist to the argument that Josh Green laid on in this month’s Atlantic Monthly about the critical function the fundraising machine from Silicon Valley played in Obama’s rise. It also comes packaged with a database where readers can easily do searches about who gave what, and from what neighborhoods. Definitely worth checking out.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

The Growing Influence of NDN's Hispanics Rising Report Reflected in the Media

On May 28, NDN released its most recent report, Hispanics Rising, which, using U.S. Census Bureau and exit polling data, documented the emergence of a new, highly energized and increasingly pro-Democratic Hispanic electorate. By all accounts, this bloc will have an enormous impact on the 2008 election. In Hispanics Rising, NDN identifies a trend that is underway and articulates the significance of the Hispanic vote and the differences within the Hispanic community.  After having been reviewed by experts, media, public officials and members of the private sector for weeks, we continue to see how the data collected by NDN, our analysis and the issues we highlight are influencing debate, and we would like to share the coverage of our report with our readers.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote that the old electoral map had been thrown out with new southwestern states in play in an article by Bill Lambrecht  

"...Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg contended that McCain's ad buy in the Southwest was a 'sign of weakness, not strength.'  Despite Obama's problems with Hispanics, Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network think tank, argued that McCain has no chance to match George W. Bush's success in drawing 40 percent of the Hispanic vote.  'Obama is going to be able to communicate in Spanish that John McCain threw Hispanics overboard when he dropped the immigration bill,' Rosenberg said, referring to McCain's decision to renounce some of his moderate views on immigration."

However, while discussing NDN's report with columnist Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald, Simon also was quick to point out Barack Obama's challenges with the ever-growing Hispanic electorate:

Hispanics will be Obama's big challenge. "The latest national polls show that Obama is showing surprising strength among Latino voters, given the weakness that he showed in the primaries," says NDN president Simon Rosenberg.  In the same article, our friend and pollster, Sergio Bendixen, explains the relevance of our NDN's research by pointing out, "The Latino vote will be more important than ever in this year's election....The election may be decided by Florida, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, where the Hispanic vote can decide who wins in those states.''  According to Bendixen, Obama needs to win the Hispanic vote by a margin of more than 55 percent in Florida, and by more than 65 percent in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. And if likely Republican nominee Sen. John McCain gives the Democrats a fight in New Jersey, California and Pennsylvania, Obama will need to do even better than that in these states.

Full article on Hispanics Rising II:  Josiah Ryan, of CNSnews, quotes Simon at length to explain the importance of Hispanic voters and writes about NDN's position that John McCain may lose the general election if he fails to have at least as much support as George W. Bush obtained in this demographic in 2000 and 2004.  Mr. Ryan cited the statistics gathered by NDN throughout the article.  Also discussed in the article, the notion that Barack Obama is unpopular with Hispanics; before making such conclusions, Simon Rosenberg pointed out, "Things play out very differently in primaries then they do in the general."

Andres, quoted by Edward Luce in the Financial Times:  This article comments on the strategic shift in the Obama campaign, which is becoming increasingly concerned with Spanish-speakers and Hispanics.  Andres Ramirez speaks on the challenges Sen. McCain faces: "Senator McCain is not nearly as strong in the south-west as you would expect him to be," said Andres Ramirez, who heads the Hispanic centre at the New Democratic Network, a liberal think-tank. "And Barack Obama is not as weak among Hispanics as some people believe. He has spent more on Spanish language ads than any candidate in history."

The Kansas City Infozine:  In this article, NDN explains the increase in Hispanic voter turnout and the shift towards the Democratic Party among Latinos.  Simon is quoted, explaining how candidates use new tools and technology to reach Spanish-speaking audiences, "The Democratic Party has woken up and gets it. This is why the Republicans should be very worried. I think John Kerry's campaign was a little bit slow. That is not the case in 2008, the Democrats clearly understand the Hispanics' relevance," said Simon Rosenberg, president and founder of NDN.  Additionally, Andres refutes the idea that Obama is struggling with Hispanics: Andres Ramirez, vice-president for Hispanic Programs for NDN, said that Clinton's "aggressive" and "innovative" campaign for the Hispanic community is a part of the energy behind the pro-Democratic Hispanic electorate.

Marshall News Messenger:  Cox News Service's Bob Deans reported on NDN's projections on Hispanic turnout for the 2008 elections.  The article references the statistics presented by NDN and quotes Simon as he reflects on the influence of the immigration debate on voting trends and elections in key swing states, "This is a community that is much more Democratic than it was in 2004 and is going to be voting in much greater numbers," Rosenberg told reporters..."It is a new day. Hispanics are poised to play a very major role in the 2008 elections....The immigration debate has fundamentally altered the desire for civic participation in the Hispanic community," said Rosenberg. "They are blaming the Republican Party for the anti-immigration sentiment, the anti-immigration rhetoric in America today."

Andres is also cited, as he explains the challenges that John McCain will face with the Hispanic/Latino electorate: "It's a dramatic reversal from the 2004 elections, when George W. Bush won a second term in the White House with 40 percent of the Hispanic vote," said Andres Ramirez, vice president for Hispanic programs with NDN.  "Right now the GOP is nowhere near that level,"said Ramirez. That's a problem for the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, who hopes his Arizona background will help him with Hispanics.  "He needs to claw his way back up to 40 percent....I'm not sure he'll be able to do that," said Ramirez.

San Jose Mercury News: Frank Davie's article highlights the importance of key Western states with high Hispanic populations in determining the outcome of the presidential election and includes comments by the RNC's coordinator of Latino Outreach.  Additionally, it focuses on NDN's findings and employs quotes found in NDN's report regarding the importance of the Hispanic electorate:  Simon explains, "Those states are enormously consequential, and the large Hispanic vote there means McCain will face an uphill climb in keeping them."

San Francisco Chronicle:  Tyche Hencrick's piece explains the importance of the Hispanic vote in swing states, several of which have a surging Latino population and voter participation, as well as intensifying preference for Democrats.  Simon is cited throughout: "Hispanics happen to fall in these very consequential battleground states and may determine who the next president is," said Simon Rosenberg.  Simon added, "This is adding a whole new dynamic in this election that didn't exist in 2004 and may change this election."   Simon also discussed the shift that's taken place over the last few years, demonstrating Latinos are increasingly inclined to favor Democrats, "Starting in the fall of 2005, the Republican brand was severely degraded" in the eyes of Latinos, Rosenberg said, as a result of harsh rhetoric surrounding Wisconsin Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner's immigration enforcement bill that would have made felons of illegal immigrants and people who help them.  According to Simon, "That caused a huge swing toward the Democrats," he said.  There was also, " enormous increase in voter registration, citizenship applications and all measures of civic participation. ... Spanish-language media is spending an enormous amount of time on voter participation in a way that was not done in 2004."

And along with Spanish-language voter outreach, NDN's report was covered in Spanish Language Media/Press:

1) Univision:  The article is a translation of the article from the San Jose Mercury News, quoted above.  Univision highlights the increase in voter registration and turnout, and calls the Latino shift toward the Democratic Party "bad news" for the Republican Party.  The article includes comments by the RNC's coordinator of Latino Outreach, and uses the statistics from NDN's report, as well as quotes from NDN's report, for example, by Matthew Dowd. 

2) La Opinion:  Pilar Marrero reports that the Hispanic vote grows and becomes increasingly Democratic. Simon is quoted as stating that the growth of the democratic vote in swing states could provide the Democrats with a victory in this Presidential election.  Pilar also explains that NDN attributes this change to a reversal of the treatment of Hispanics by the Republican Party from the elections of 2000 and 2004, with the immigration debate being perceived as increasingly anti-Latino.  Simon explains, "McCain will have to win over a community that is less friendly towards Republicans, and he abandoned the immigration reform proposal that he had proposed, which will make it more difficult for him to regain Latino votes."

3) El Financiero:  The article emphasizes NDN's position that the anti-immigrant debate has been increasingly perceived as anti-Hispanic, which might shift the Latino vote, and quotes Simon as he describes this more "energized" electorate.  Andres is also quoted as he addressed concerns of the alleged rift between Hispanics and African-Americans; "he pointed out that these differences have not manifested themselves in elections."  Andres also explains that the shift in the demographics of states like Florida, where most Latinos were Cubans who usually supported Republicans, has changed with the arrival of Puerto Ricans and South Americans in the same area.

4) EFE News/Wires (AOL):  Highlights NDN's report that almost 80% of all Latinos who voted in the 2008 primaries voted for a Democratic candidate. The article also includes comments from an RNC spokesperson, head of Latino Outreach.  Simon is quoted, pointing out that Republicans face a challenge in obtaining the popularity among Latinos enjoyed by George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.  Known for his keen ability to detect trends long before a tipping point occurs, the article shares Simon's insightful summation of NDN's report: "it is impossible to understand U.S. politics in the 21st century without taking the Hispanic community into account," as Hispanics have, "tripled their participation in primary elections from 2004." 

5) CNN Espanol:  This article mentions Barack Obama's discussion of Latin America policy and highlights Simon's comments regarding McCain's shift on the immigration debate, and how that could hurt him among Hispanics.

Additional references: 

Simon was quoted in a GOPachy, article entitled: "Political map could be redrawn on election day": "Democrats start with a core of 248 electoral votes," said Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, a Democratic advocacy organization. Adding four Southwest states, including Arizona, would give Democrats the presidency with 277 Electoral College votes. Adding Florida and Ohio brings it to a knockout of 324, and adding New Hampshire and Iowa would deliver what he called an "enduring Democratic majority" of 335.  Pointing to polls that now show Obama leading McCain in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia as well as nationally, Rosenberg said the election "is leaning very heavily Democratic right now. Obama has the ability to win a landslide victory both in the popular votes and the Electoral College based on early trend lines."

Blog hit on Robert Ranting:  "Polls now show Obama leading McCain in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia as well as nationally. The election is leaning very heavily Democratic right now. Obama has the ability to win a landslide victory both in the popular votes and the Electoral College based on early trend lines."  Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN

Project 1 Voice:  "With nearly eight in ten Hispanic voters backing Democrats over Republicans in presidential primaries this year, the Latino vote could swing several key battleground states come November," said Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, formerly the New Democrat Network.  "This is a community that is much more Democratic than it was in 2004 and is going to be voting in much greater numbers," Rosenberg told reporters during the release of a report by the organization looking at the growing political heft of Hispanic voters. "It is a new day. Hispanics are poised to play a very major role in the 2008 elections."

MyDD  Direct Democracy:  On Obama campaigning in the West and South West:  "Obama clearly has work to do," said Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, a progressive think tank and advocacy group that has studied immigration and the Hispanic vote.  But Rosenberg and Democratic strategists say, despite the slow start, the Illinois senator will win over the constituency, if only because the issue environment favors him . Hispanic voters, like other demographic groups, feel the effects of the economic downturn and have turned against the war, they say.  The article also mentions that the Obama campaign is mapping out a strategy that will include exposure in the Spanish language media and heavy campaigning in Hispanic areas - elements that have been part of NDN's recommendations to political campaigns for some time.  NDN has emphasized the importance of having paid advertisements in Spanish language media, registering Hispanic voters, and sending well-known Latino leaders and surrogates out on the campaign trail.

Lastly, NDN's Hispanics Rising report was discussed during Andres Ramirez's presentation at the "State of Latinos" symposium in Denver, CO.  Andres's participation was publicized in: Hispanic Business, PR Newswire, and the Denver Post.


Simon and Kos talk politics

Thanks to our friends at, we now have video from last week's event in San Francisco with Daily Kos founder, Markos Moulitsas. Check it out below:

Push Global Communications: iPhone G3

I just watched the video of Steve Jobs' keynote presentation at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco. In it, he unveiled Apple's widely anticipated iPhone G3. Now while I am an unabashed Apple fan, unlike Tim Chambers and Jed Alpert I'm not an expert on mobile media. So some of the specifics of the presentation flew over my head.

But what was obvious was that the product on display is very likely to continue a theme we at NDN and NPI have thoroughly discussed. As Simon recently described in his post, aptly titled "The power of mobile", the role of mobile media in the global communications network cannot be ignored.

Surely that point was on display in San Francisco this afternoon.

Now the iPhone will not have the ability to impact everyone as the price of it alone is a barrier. But after seeing some of the initial applications developed for it, it's obvious that it has extraordinary capability to impact many sectors. Politics is of course no exception. Take for example the applications by TypePad, which allows seamless blogging from your iPhone, and the Associated Press, which lets you both consume and report news.

Pair that potential with the fact that the iPhone 3G will be available in seventy countries and you'll understand why Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers helped launch the iFund. If only every country was able to become connected - through the iPhone or some other device - imagine what that would look like. If nothing else, it would give former Vice President Gore, who was in the audience, another reason to be a proud Board member of Apple.

"In Search of the Hispanic Vote"

In an article today in "La Opinion," Pilar Marrero comments on how both, Barack Obama and John McCain, recognize the importance of the Hispanic/Latino vote, and both will face challenges in courting Hispanic voters.

The general election campaign is taking off, and by all accounts, the success of either candidate will largely depend on the key swing states, formerly considered Republican strong holds, which are also largely Hispanic - states like Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Florida.

Alluding to Republican anti-immigrant campaigns and general unpopularity of the current administration, NDN's Simon Rosenberg was quoted by La Opinion, as he explained, "Obama has much work to do, he can't assume that the Latino vote will turnout for Democrats because they are upset with Republicans." Simon also pointed out that, "[Barack Obama] has one thing in his favor: on the important campaign issues, Obama is much more in line with Latinos in general than McCain."

It appears the candidates are taking different approaches with the Latino block. John McCain aired a Spanish-language radio and TV advertisement calling on Latinos to "look past party lines", arguing that he understands the economic uncertainty of our times. The intentional distance placed between himself and his party implies that he recognizes the damage done by the Republican anti-immigrant campaigns, largely perceived as anti-Hispanic, and the discontent with the Administration.

In the meantime, Barack Obama is appealing to Latinos on a more personal level, probably to address the challenge posed by complaints of some Hispanics feeling that they "don't know him," even speaking in Spanish throughout an entire ad aired in Puerto Rico.

What is truly amazing about this presidential campaign is that never in my life had I seen something like the video below - famous artists, artists that for years have been known in Mexico but until recently unknown in the United States, become interested and involved in U.S. politics. Artists like these are part of the estimated 48% of foreign born Hispanic voters, and, like any campaign surrogate, they could have an impact on Latino voters and abroad. These are people admired and looked up to by Hispanics throughout the continent, and in the U.S. they are recognized by both immigrants and native-born Latinos; and the kicker is that these are not even campaign videos! These videos are yet another example of the new tools being utilized by individuals all over the country. The first in the series of these videos was in English, the famous "Yes We Can" video (later adopted by the campaign) created by a musician,; which was followed by another video "We Are the Ones" which featured a few more famous Hispanic comedians, actors and actresses, like Kate del Castillo, speaking in Spanish; and finally this video, all in Spanish, "Podemos con Obama." It looks like the trend of Hispanics Rising is catching on.



Connecting the Dots of the Obama Phenomenon

No offense intended, but I do not normally look to Roger Cohen, the older New York Times/ Herald Tribune columnist in Paris, to give insights about the power of social networks and connectivity. Yet his recent column on “The Obama Connection” did just that. In fact, it starts:

It’s the networks, stupid.

More than any other factor, it has been Barack Obama’s grasp of the central place of Internet-driven social networking that has propelled his campaign for the Democratic nomination into a seemingly unassailable lead over Hillary Clinton. Her campaign has been so 20th-century. His has been of the century we’re in.

Cohen goes on to make more analytical points based on the flow of history, and how the world is shifting from the paradigm of the divisive Cold War that defined the last century to the new paradigm of hyper-connectivity and sociability. His own insights stay on that historical geo-political plane, rather than at any tactical, or certainly technical level.

Along the way he cites the work of others who have helped him understand this meta-shift going on – starting with Joshua Green in the most recent Atlantic Monthly. Josh did do a fantastic job in explaining the fundraising phenom behind Obama, by going to Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area in general and reporting on that untold story. I helped Josh with that story and highly recommend it to anyone. Check it out here.

Cohen also references a new book by David Singh Grewal called, “Network Power: The Social Dynamics of Globalization” that describes the core tension in the world as: “Everything is being globalized except politics.” I have not read the book yet, but I have been talking about similar themes for awhile. In the tech, business, private sector world where I came from before getting involved with the New Politics Institute three years ago, the globalization of everything is the key phenomenon reworking everything. Yet from what I can see, our politics is only barely beginning to adapt to this. Perhaps, as Cohen says, Obama can help change that in a big way.

There is one other book that I would also highly recommend to anyone trying to come to terms with the new world of social networks: Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations.” Clay does a terrific job of explaining in plain language the power of social networking in its broadest sense. Too many people think “social networking’ simply means Facebook and MySpace. That is an extremely narrow way to understand what’s happening – one that Clay will help correct. The better way to think about all this is as a wide range of social tools or social media that acts very differently than media as we have known it. It’s about communications and content and media and all things that get passed around and are collectively worked on and commented on and recommended or just viewed from afar.

I’ve been telling journalist friends of mine to read Chapter 3, “Everyone is a Media Outlet” to really understand what is happening around them in the big picture. Clay makes the best explanation about what is happening to the journalism and news business that I have ever seen. For that and many other reasons, check it out.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

New Politics in China: Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on Facebook

Following the massive earthquake in China, there was much discussion of the new media and communications technology that Chinese were using to spread news and opinions about the earthquake and the response to it. It seems that this earthquake and the use of this new media and new political tools has lead to the emergence of a new politics in China. From Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed in the New York Times last week:

In the aftermath of the great Sichuan earthquake, we've seen a hopeful glimpse of China’s future: a more open and self-confident nation, and maybe — just maybe — the birth of grass-roots politics here.

In traveling around China in the days after the quake, I was struck by how the public and the news media initially seized the initiative from the government. Ordinary Chinese are traveling to the quake zone to help move rubble, and tycoons, peasants and even children are reaching into their pockets to donate to the victims.

"I gave 500 yuan," or about $72, a man told me in the western city of Urumqi. "Eighty percent of the people in my work unit made donations. Everybody wants to help."

Private Chinese donations have already raised more than $500 million. That kind of bottom-up public spirit is a mark of citizens, not subjects.

This political cycle in America, the Obama campaign has revolutionized fundraising through the internet by enlisting supporters as partners in the campaign, not just voters. Just as American politics has changed, so too are Chinese taking politics into their own hands through individual giving. As Kristof argues, China is going through a fundamental change, as its people think of themselves as "citizens, not subjects." Kristof continues:

China may claim to be Marxist-Leninist, but it’s really market-Leninist. The rise of wealth, a middle class, education and international contacts are slowly undermining one-party rule and nurturing a new kind of politics.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is hard-working and blessed with nearly a photographic memory, but he also may be the second-most boring person alive (after his boss, President Hu Jintao). Both Mr. Hu and Mr. Wen rose through the system as classic Communist apparatchiks — Brezhnevs with Chinese faces. Yet Mr. Wen has seen the political landscape changing and has struggled recently to reinvent himself. When the earthquake hit, Mr. Wen flew immediately to the disaster area and appeared constantly on television, overseeing rescue operations.

Heroic tidbits seeped out. Mr. Wen fell and cut himself but refused medical attention. He bellowed directions to generals over the telephone and then slammed the handset down. He shouted to children buried in a pile of rubble: "This is Grandpa Wen Jiabao. Children, you’ve got to hold on!"

Mr. Wen’s conduct is striking because it’s what we expect of politicians, not dictators. His aim was to come across as a "good emperor," not to win an election. But presumably he behaved in this way partly because he felt the hot breath of public opinion on his neck.

Yesterday, the world (and Mike, who tipped me off to this) was shocked to find Prime Minister Wen on Facebook. That’s right,, the social networking site started by Harvard students and spread through America’s universities, is now impacting Chinese politics. As of this posting, Wen had just surpassed 16,000 supporters.

China's transition from a compltely closed society in the three decades ago to one in which individuals are coming together to develop civil society - in large part with the help of these new tools - is indicative of broader change happening in that country. Kristof predicts that within two decades, the Chinese Communist party will transition to a "a Social Democratic Party that dominates the country but that grudgingly allows opposition victories and a free press." Indeed, there is already evidence of this in the aftermath of the earthquake, as the Chinese government realizes a free but professional press is of great use to them in that it provides important services that free-wheeling and unaccountable media cannot.

In this short period of time since the US chose to normalize trade relations with China, there has been much improvement in economic freedom. China's economy is moving toward a free market model and many sectors are extremely entrepreneurial and open. There can be no doubt that the liberalization of relations with the west and the opening of China and its markets to American goods, services, and ideas has worked. Time will tell if a market of ideas, that ultimately leads to a more democratic and liberal China, takes hold, even if that process does begin on Facebook.

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