Repudiating the Bush Era

Time to Lead on Energy and Climate

Buried in Wednesday’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll was this fact: 18 percent of Americans view energy and the cost of gas as the most important issues for the federal government to address. That number ranked third, behind the economy and the war in Iraq, and ten points ahead of health care. Add that to the 4 percent of Americans who see the environment and global warming and the environment as the number one issue, and 22 percent of Americans see some sort of energy concern as the most important federal issue.

Concern about the fact that only four percent see global warming as the most important issue notwithstanding, this is a welcome shift in political consciousness. The next step is for our leaders to explain why the top two issues, the economy and the war in Iraq, are actually related to energy and the cost of gas, and why confronting global warming relates to all three.

Unfortunately, political rhetoric and action is not yet where it needs to be on these issues. Instead of convincing dialogue about building a clean energy future that enhances energy and climate security, the American people get irresponsible talk from a supposedly pro-climate candidate about a gas tax holiday. The Senate debates cap and trade legislation, but won’t even extend the Solar Investment Tax Credit. Four dollar a gallon gasoline means that it is time to move forward to new sources of energy, not despair about the fact that the old ones aren’t working for us as well as we’d like.

High energy prices are here to stay, and the American people are struggling because of it. For now, it seems that many politicians are unwilling or unable to tell the American people that we have to innovate, not drill, out of this problem, and that there is no short-term solution.

Leadership means connecting the dots, from high energy prices, to climate change, to green collar jobs, to turmoil in the Middle East. It means realizing that four dollar a gallon gasoline is related to the Solar ITC. America is nowhere close to leading on energy, and the consequences will be grim should we take a pass on building the premier 21st century green economy. Thankfully, it seems that the market is taking hold. Companies like GM are starting to get the picture that we need to build plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt, and California is primed to install 200-250 Megawatts of solar in 2008 alone. Let’s hope political leadership can create the policy needed to support them.

Habeas Corpus

Normally I focus on green issues, but I want to post this morning about something equally important. 

America's resilience shone through the important decision of the Supreme Court yesterday to restore the right of habeas corpus petitions to Guantanamo detaineees.  In one more sign that the long, dark night of the Bush era is coming to an end, the Court rejected the Administration's suspension of civil liberties for detainees and its legal theory that because Guantanamo lies ninety miles off the coast of Florida, it is exempt from US law.  In an opinion likely to be ready by many law students in future course on Constitutional Law, Justice Kennedy laid out strict conditions for invoking the suspension of habeas corpus clause in the Constitution--namely that Congress must find that rebellion or foreign invasion is actually underway--a line in the Constitution that the Administration and Congress had chosen to gloss over.

Why care about habeas corpus?  The Latin words may sound unfamiliar to the Ipod-acclimated ear, but, in essence, they mean that people arrested have the right to a trial.  Countries that don't have what Britsh jurists dubbed the "Great Writ" can arrest someone and that's the end of it.  The person disappears.  Without the right of court review there is absolutely nothing to prevent Soviet-style "disappearances" of people down the memory hole beyond the reach of relatives, lawyers or a court.  Thus while on one level, the writ is just a piece of paper that a judge issues asking that a prisoner be brought before him for a hearing, practically speaking it is the guaranty of rule of law, freedom and the separation of powers.  For this reason, the right of habeas corpus is the only right mentioned in the Constitution itself--as opposed to the Bill of Rights--which was adopted later.  The Framers grasped its importance. 

It should be deeply gratifying to people that cherish freedom that five of the justices grasp it as well.  Justice Kennedy peering deeply into the history of the writ in his opinion, wrote that the political branches "must not have the power to switch the constitution on and off at will." 

Yet in equal measure as his opinion was heartening, the minority opinion was distrubing.  Judge Roberts, in describing habeas corpus as just a "procedural" matter argued this is all much do about nothing.

We should be mindful as today's New York Times notes, that the Court's margin was only 5 to 4.

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.


"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.



McCain talks climate

John McCain has a new ad up and is giving a speech today in Oregon on climate change, a signature distinction that he likes to draw between himself and President Bush. McCain’s strategy on this issue is to try to position himself as a moderate, and this will be a key issue for him to build his maverick image upon.

Take a look at the new ad:

This ad places McCain in the middle on climate and strikes at others as being "extreme," presumably mainstream Republicans on one side and Democrats on the other. Look for more messaging like this out of the McCain team as the campaigns move into general election mode and McCain tries to neutralize climate change as an issue for the Democrats as he hunts for the middle that he will need to win in November.

McCain’s plan, which David Roberts at Grist calls "better than expected but behind the curve," is part of an important moment in American politics, as it means that the next president will surely do something about Climate Change. It is important to remember, however, that the something on climate all the candidates offer is not the same.

Update: Today's Washington Post features an excellent article by Julie Eilperin entitled "Environmental Stances Are Balancing Act for McCain." A sample:

But an examination of McCain's voting record shows an inconsistent approach to the environment: He champions some "green" causes while casting sometimes contradictory votes on others.

The senator from Arizona has been resolute in his quest to impose a federal limit on greenhouse gas emissions, even when it means challenging his own party. But he has also cast votes against tightening fuel-efficiency standards and resisted requiring public utilities to offer a specific amount of electricity from renewable sources. He has worked to protect public lands in his home state, winning a 2001 award from the National Parks Conservation Association for helping give the National Park Service some say over air tours around the Grand Canyon, work that prompts former interior secretary and Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt to call him "a great friend of the canyon." But he has also pushed to set aside Endangered Species Act protections when they conflict with other priorities, such as the construction of a University of Arizona observatory on Mount Graham. 


Earth Day and the Crisis of Markets

Since its founding 39 years ago by John McConnell, the plastics pioneer and peace activist who first proposed a holiday to honor the Earth at a UNESCO conference in San Francisco, Earth Day has grown in into a global holiday observed by billions. But the idea espoused by McConnell of stewardship of our beloved planet has taken on a new urgency, with the outbreak of multiple crises, the ongoing threat of global warming, sky high oil prices and now soaring food prices and shortages. Indeed the crises are so many and so great that some are proclaiming a neo-Malthusian crisis in a world that has outstretched its resources. Whether one believes as Paul Krugman wrote yesterday—that lack of inventories suggest the world is truly in the grip of a crisis of supply--or like George Soros and many traders that we in the midst of the mother of all commodity price bubbles—it is clear that we are in a crisis.

My view is that human ingenuity is more than equal to the task of sustaining society but that something has gone awry. And what has gone awry is the functioning of markets. Whether one looks at turmoil in the credit markets, volatility in the currency markets where the dollar has undergone a freefall, the seizure of food markets that is exacerbating the food crisis or the hard-to-explain global surge in commodity markets across the board, it is clear that the market system undergirding the global economy is under stress.

In part, the problem is that as markets have grown rapidly in the last fifteen years due to globalization, they have outgrown market structures. Certainly in the area of management of derivatives and bank supervision, market governance has failed to keep up with technology. However, it also appears that markets are failing in agriculture and oil. And more broadly, the global trading system itself is experiencing a seizure as the impulse for free trade that has powered the last 60 years of global growth has stalled—in Doha and recently, in the case of a Colombian agreement, in the US Congress.

When markets seize up—as they do from time to time and did disastrously in the 1930s—the result is a regression to earlier forms of allocation of goods. Anthropologists have shown that markets are a relatively late development in the million year history of human. Allocation based on command and control, is far more basic and when markets seize up, this is what happens. We are seeing this currently in food markets as countries ban exports and hoard grains in the anticipation of riots and political unrest.

Markets are a far better way to allocate goods and essential to today's wealthy societies but they depend critically on confidence. Confidence, in turn, depends largely on transparency and comprehensibility. When economic historians assign a cause to the current recession in the United States, they may place the blame on a technology shock in the financial markets that has created securities that no one can possibly reliably value.

It is no good to repeat the nostrum that we need to let markets resolve the crisis when the crisis is in the markets themselves. Nor are the one-off activities of the Federal Reserve sufficient in the long term. While the Fed seems to have been successful in injecting liquidity into the system, its unprecedented actions are at best an emergency response and do not provide the predictability and stability needed to promote long term growth. Instead, we now have to undertake the painful process of reforming financial, agricultural and energy markets. However, this won’t be easy.

One critical element of the spirit of Earth Day is that people need to work together. When one country goes it alone, the result is mistrust, a decline in confidence and ultimately a downward economic spiral. This was the easily foreseen--but recklessly ignored--consequence of the unilateralist policies pursued by the Bush Administration in rejecting Kyoto, a variety of multilateral initiatives inherited from the Clinton years, and of course in Iraq and foreign policy in general.

The way out of the current crisis is to resume multilateral approaches to creating functioning markets that will replace fear and mistrust with cooperation and confidence. But for that we may have to wait at least until the next Earth Day, after the next Presidential Election.

The ABC Debates and the Death Throes of Old Media and Old Politics

As a former journalist, schooled in the great traditions of journalism of the 20th century, I have to add my voice to the chorus and say that I was deeply disappointed in the performance of the profession in the debate last night. Deeply disappointed, if not angry, and yes, maybe a bit bitter.

At a moment when America needs our journalists and commentators on politics to help the country move beyond the petty, bickering, red-herring politics of the past 25 years, the moderators of the debate went back for one long immersion. George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson spent the entire debate at this momentous time in American history trying to parse out the clauses of off-hand remarks, point out the support of people with seven degrees of separation from Obama, and trap the candidates in these gotcha moments that would put a ripple in another 24 hours news cycle. It was deeply disappointing.

I must say, in my opinion, Clinton did not do much to resist the flow back to those past norms. She cut her teeth in that kind of political environment, learned to play well at that game, won a lot, and lost some. She seemed perfectly at home going back to the gotcha, parsing, split-hair politics that defined the Bush Clinton Bush years.

Obama truly did try to do something different, tried to break into a new kind of politics, a new kind of framework, a new kind of discussion. He needed to show he could battle head-to-head, and not appear wimpish, but he genuinely tried to shift the conversation to a higher plain. He did ok in that – certainly better than anyone else on that stage.

It’s so disappointing because our country is at a moment in history in which we face a series of deep structural changes to the American economy and society, to the whole world order, and we are up against a series of 21st century challenges that are unprecedented and extremely complex. If anything we need to call upon the best in the American people, the best in American political leaders, and the best in American journalists, to rise to the occasion, face up to the challenges, and help figure this out for the country and the world.

At a moment when we need that, the last thing we need is to get completely mired in this old politics, in which we’re worried about who wears a lapel pin, or whose supporter was a radical Weatherman 40 years ago. At a moment when our country needs to fundamentally rethink how we run the economy, how we distribute wealth, reinvest in our infrastructure, shift to new energy sources, rebuild our schools, provide healthcare in a 21st century setting of biotech and genetics, Stephanopoulos is trying his best to get the candidates to say: read-my-lips-no-new-taxes. He’s trying to fiscally hamstring the country for the next four years, or catch the Dems in a way that will allow McCain, a throwback not just to Bush but to Reagan, to hammer them about raising taxes this fall. (Folks, how many more times can we retread tax cuts as the center of our economic policy? The deficit is in the trillions, our infrastructure is collapsing, etc, etc. Why are we still back in that old Reagan frame?)

It’s difficult to watch and not get angry, and maybe even bitter.

One thing that makes me hopeful that is a basic confidence in the American people, the bedrock of our democracy. It looks like people are not buying this. In the bigger context of the race, Obama, who is bucking this old framework and forging a new one, maintains a lead and momentum. In the smaller context of the upcoming primaries, these distractions do not seem to be pushing the poll numbers around much.

You have to hope that there is a core wisdom in this complex mix of classes and ethnic groups and races that makes up this amazingly diverse democracy. You have to hope that a collective wisdom will come out of this process that moves away from the old politics, built on that old media and old journalism, and moves towards a new politics, which is increasingly built on new media.

It’s worth remembering the YouTube debates. They were not perfect by any means, but they were far better than the debate driven by the best of ABC News. At least CNN and YouTube blended together and tried to pose questions from average people with real concerns, balanced by journalistic analysis. The candidates were able to mostly talk about real issues and not this gotcha stuff.

It’s good that politics now has a more open new media environment to turn to when the one-way broadcast media proves wanting. Now people can see Obama expound upon a gotcha race moment at great length via a 45 minute video of his speech. They can just go to the web and instantaneously see it. The environment of new media is allowing for a new politics, a new conversation, a higher plane of discussion that is woefully missing from the politics of the last 25 years.

Some people lament the collapse of broadcast TV ratings, the freefall of newspaper circulation and ad revenue, and there is a place in my heart that laments the undermining of the great journalistic tradition of Edward Murrow and the Watergate reporters. But when I see performances like those of Stephanopoulos and Gibson, it makes me think: bring it on.

Peter Leyden

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