21st Century Agenda for America

Invite: Today - Celebrate New Hais/Winograd Book on Millennials, w/Ron Brownstein

Please join us for a terrific and timely event - the celebration of a new book by NDN Fellows and critically acclaimed authors, Mike Hais and Morley Winograd.  Called "Millennial Majority:How A New Coalition Is Remaking American Politics," this is the latest installment in years of research and work about American's changing politics which began all the way back in 2007. 

From Mike and Morley: "We predict today's political tensions and conflicts will lead to a new consensus on the role of the federal government that will be as powerful, distinctive and long-lasting as the New Deal. We take a deep dive into how the Millennial Generation, at the heart of a new coalition that includes minorities and women, will reshape American politics, government and public policy for the next forty years."

We very pleased that Ron Brownstein, the editorial director of the National Journal, and prominent commentator on how America's demographics and politics are changing, will be joining us for a panel discussion. 

Our event will take place on Tuesday, May 14th with lights drinks and snacks at 5:30pm.  The panel will begin at approximately 6:00pm. RSVP now by registering here. In case you cannot join us, the event will also be streamed online

Watch for Millennial Oriented SOTU from President Obama


As demonstrated in the presidential exit polls and rehashed in countless articles and blogs since the election, Barack Obama’s decisive reelection victory over Mitt Romney was a triumph for a still-emerging, majority Democratic Obama coalition, which we said in a pair of preelection articles would define a new civic ethos, or consensus on the role of government, for the nation.

The president even more forcefully reiterated his civic ethos vision–that America and its individual citizens advance only when “We, the People” work “together”–in his Inaugural Address. He is sure to return to that formulation in his State of the Union speech given how popular  his policy preferences are on his side of America’s two new 21st-century political party coalitions.

The Democratic coalition is centered on the millennial generation (young voters 18 to 30), women (especially single women), minorities, and the highly educated, and is geographically focused in the Northeast and West.

All of these groups gave at least 55 percent of their 2012 presidential votes to the president. In fact, without the support of 60 percent of millennials, Obama would have lost the election. For some parts of the coalition, support for the president’s reelection verged on unanimity.

More than nine in 10 African-Americans voted for him, as did about seven in 10 Asians, Hispanics, Jews, and single women.

On the other side, the groups in the Republican coalition were equally loyal to Mitt Romney. Solid majorities of men, whites, seniors–especially those living in the South and Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states–voted for the GOP candidate.

For instance, the majority of women, millennials, African-Americans, Hispanics and college graduates, as well as those living in urban and suburban areas and those in the Northeast, all support controlling gun ownership over protecting gun owners' rights. The president enters the fray with the full support of his coalition on this issue and many others such as immigration reform, climate change and gay rights. 

Futhermore, his economic prescriptions focused on investing in infrastructure and research and making all forms of eduction from pre-school through college more accessible and affordable, speak directly to the most important issues for Millennials. 

The president seems intent on mobilizing his coalition to enact his policy agenda. If he is successful, the nation will see the enactment of an array of domestic policies as sweeping in its scope as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, but aligned this time with the ideas and beliefs of another president and his winning 21st-century coalition.


A Millennial Era Approach to Preventing Gun Violence

President Obama’s comprehensive proposal for preventing gun violence in America is to be commended. The focus for policy makers shouldn’t be to try and sort out which of his ideas are politically feasible but rather which ones will work to accomplish the goal of preventing gun violence of all types, while preserving the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Linking the ideal outcome to a focus on the pragmatic steps we can take now to make progress toward the ultimate goal is how the Millennial Generation (born 1982-2003) approaches this type of challenge and, in this case, it holds great promise for actually fixing one of the most intractable problems facing the United States. 

As with many other social issues, Millennials have a much more liberal perspective on solutions to gun violence than their older siblings--members of Generation X, who grew up when Ronald Reagan was president. By a 55% to 36% margin, Millennials favor taking steps to control gun ownership over protecting the right to own guns. Only seniors, normally more conservative on these types of issues, approach this level of support for government action to make our cities and neighborhoods safer. By contrast, Generation X, born 1965 to 1981, is the one generation which , even after Newtown, believes it is more important to protect gun ownership rights than to control the use of firearms (by a 48% to 42% margin). 

A recent report from the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force sponsored by the Roosevelt Institute’s Campus Network (RICN), underlines both Millennials’ support for taking on the issue and their focus on pragmatic steps to do so. Starting with its title, “Young People’s Concrete Policy Recommendations to Address Gun Violence Prevention in America,” the report analyzes each side of the debate solely in terms of what solutions are likely to work. The recommendations correctly focus on steps to decrease access to semiautomatic weapons and any ammunition clip with more than ten rounds. It strongly endorses the creation of comprehensive databases that would have to be accessed for any gun transaction to take place, with a special emphasis on ensuring the names of those with serious mental illness are included in the database.  With special insight, the report, by a group of progressive Millennials, properly dismisses the distracting idea of making the current debate about culture or media coverage, as opposed to taking action.

There is plenty of evidence in the nation’s successful efforts to reduce crime to suggest that this Millennial approach to the problem will work. As Simon Rosenberg, has pointed out, violent crime, with the sole exception of gun violence,  particularly in country’s largest cities, has dropped dramatically since 1993. The principle reason for that decline was the introduction of the CompStats process by Bill Bratton as police chief of New York City, which led to a  77% decline in crime  in that city alone since then.  Vice President Al Gore’s reinventing government initiative, recognized the efficacy of this program and spread knowledge of Bratton’s approach to  police chiefs  across the country. This is one of the key reasons why there has been a continued decline since then in the nation’s crime rates. Despite economic hard times, major increases in our juvenile population as Millennials became teen agers, and a series of other societal developments that traditional sociologists and criminologists had predicted would cause an increase in crime, the progress continues. 

CompStats uses current, accurate information to analyze where crimes are being committed and by whom. The goal is to get bad guys off the streets and to flood high crime areas with police resources. The gun violence analogy to this simple and effective approach would be to keep people who lack the intention or ability to use guns responsibly from buying firearms and to heavily penalize those who use them irresponsibly. A comprehensive assault weapon and ammunition clip ban of the type the RICN advocates has proven to be effective in other countries in limiting access to guns, and a fully developed and federally mandated background check for all gun transactions should be instituted to  keep the wrong people from being able to buy guns.  

This still leaves the problem of existing weaponry, but buy-back programs both in the US, and elsewhere, have been effective in further  reducing gun violence. The attempts of  NRA supporters to short circuit such efforts by trying to buy the guns being offered instead of letting the police destroy them testifies to the ultimate effectiveness of this approach to reducing  the nation’s stockpile of unnecessary weapons. And the success of the state of Virginia, a gun lover’s and seller’s paradise, in reducing gun violence by making it clear that criminals who use guns will be prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law has proven its value as the right public policy approach to go after those who should never be allowed to use a gun. 

CompStats and the RICN report provide one further valuable lesson to keep in mind as the debate over President Obama’s proposals heats up. When Bratton first introduced the concept to his leadership team, its members told him he could never accomplish his initial goal of reducing crime in NYC by 40% within three years. Their argument was that since the police had no control over the causes of crime—poverty, ethnic and racial tensions, or educational levels--it was not possible or even fair to hold the police accountable for its reduction. But Bratton made it clear that it was not necessary to address the underlying causes of bad behavior to reduce it substantially by simply focusing on the individuals committing crimes and eliminating places where they might be tempted to do so. 

Similarly, it can and probably will be argued ad infinitum whether or not violent entertainment creates a fascination with guns that leads to gun violence. And an equally unproductive debate can be held over the media’s role in glorifying those who commit such acts. But no matter who is right, there is no reason to have that debate delay the country from doing something to keep guns out of the hands of those who would use them improperly. With technologies much less sophisticated than what is available today to sift and sort big databases, Bratton’s CompStats process was still able to pinpoint where to direct efforts to take bad guys off the street and dramatically change the safety of our cities.    

The nation’s consciousness has been stirred by the slaughter of innocent children in Newtown, Connecticut. But as Newark Mayor Cory Booker correctly points out, gun violence takes the lives of more than thirty people, about as many who died at Virginia Tech,  every single day. Now that Newtown and the President’s proposals have focused the nation’s attention on the problem of how to end such senseless slaughter, attention must be paid to the Millennial Generation’s ideas on how to meet this challenge. More than any other generation, it is their future that is at risk if we fail to do so.  


2012: Another Millennial Triumph

In an election as close as this year’s presidential contest, any group can make a credible claim for having made the critical difference in the outcome. But there is certainly no denying the impact the Millennial Generation (young voters 18-30 years old)  had on the outcome of the  2012  election. Because it was so surprising to so many (but not us), there was as much commentary among the chattering classes on the day after the election about  the impact on American politics of the Millennial Generation as the more  conventional conversation about the continuing rise in the influence of Hispanic-Americans.  It is possible that this sudden discovery of the power of the Millennial Generation will last beyond this week’s instant analysis, but whether it does or not, the size and unity of belief of the Millennial Generation will continue to be felt for the rest of this decade and well beyond.

            Millennials made up 19% of the electorate in 2012, a point or two more than their share

of the 2008 electorate. Unlike four years ago when the Millennials’  share was equivalent to that

of senior citizens, this time they outpaced the senior share,  which fell to only 16% of the

electorate. Although final turnout numbers are difficult to calculate until all the votes are

counted, CIRCLE research data Even as Hispanic voters reached an historically high level of participation,  Millennials, about a quarter  of whom are  Hispanic, became a powerful 23 million strong segment of the electorate, a number that will only grow larger over the rest of this decade.

            So far, just about sixty percent of Millennials have turned eighteen. Over the next eight years, all Millennials will become eligible to vote, representing a 95 million voter opportunity for whichever party is willing and able to successfully recruit them. If Millennials continue to participate at around the 50% mark that they have in the past two presidential elections, they will eventually represent about a 47 million member constituency, twice the numbers that they were in 2012. . 

            But it’s not just the size of the generation that makes Millennials such a powerful political force. The previously largest American generation, Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) have been hopelessly split in their political opinions and preferences ever since they ignited the cultural wars of the 1960s. This makes Boomers less of a political opportunity as an entire cohort  and of more interest to politicians when they are segmented along other lines, such as the infamous and well-known gender gap that they created starting in the 1980s.  Millennials, by contrast, have consistently voted in a highly unified manner. Two-thirds of them voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 60% of them voted for his re-election this year.  Even though there are significant ethnic differences within a generation that is 40% non-white, Millennial voting behavior continues to show the powerful pull of their generation’s consensus-oriented approach to decision-making.

            Millennials are now a key part of a 21st century Democratic coalition that includes minorities and women, especially college educated and single women of all ethnicities,  which together now represents a majority of American voters. As the number of Millennial voters continues to grow throughout this decade and the generation preserves its  unity of belief, something which political science research  suggests will happen,  Millennials will have the pleasure of experiencing many more electoral triumphs in the years ahead.  

Meet the Plurals

America’s destiny as a pluralistic democracy took a new and unprecedented turn last month. First, early in May, USA Today asked Americans what name they thought would be appropriate for the country’s newest generation now moving into grade school classrooms with its unique behavior and perspectives. Plurals is the name suggested by communications research and consulting firm, Frank N. Magid Associates, with only the Apple product related notion of an iGeneration getting more votes.   

Plurals will be different from Millenials. For one thing they will be the first generation in America that will be majority “minority”, as evidenced by the recent U.S. Census Bureau announcement  that more babies born in America in the 12 months between July 2010 and July 2011, were non-white than white. The event occurred about eight years earlier than demographers had predicted it would just a few years ago. The 21st Century pluralistic American society that had often been talked about has arrived. But the question remains whether or not the country’s institutions, and its leadership, will be up to the challenge such a polyglot democracy presents. 

The Census Bureau predicts that by 2042 the entire population will be less than 50% Caucasian and America will literally be a pluralistic society.

This prediction is based upon the current trends for births among different minority groups compared to whites. Racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 91.75% of the nation’s population growth in this century, with Hispanics comprising a majority of this increase. Rather than immigration flows, which are dropping, this growth will be driven largely by higher rates of fertility among non-whites. Based upon the American Community Survey results in 2010, Hispanics have a fertility rate of 2.4 live births per woman compared to only 1.8 among whites. The only other ethnic group to be having babies at a rate greater than what is needed to replace its current numbers is African-Americans with a 2.1 fertility rate.

This difference is likely to persist and the gap could easily become wider because of the differences in the age of each population. Twenty-five percent of Hispanic women are in the prime child bearing ages of 20-34, compared to only 19% of non-Hispanic whites. (For both African-Americans and Asians, the percentage is twenty-two). The increasing diversity of both of America’s youngest generations is also reflected in the average age of each population. The average age of America’s white population is 42.3, a full five years older than the overall age of the country’s population. The average age of Hispanics is almost fifteen years younger, 27.6, with the other two population groups closer to the average age of the entire population—blacks at 32.9 and Asians at 35.9.

Magid’s research indicated that a majority of Americans were “hopeful and proud” of the country’s increasing diversity, but it was the younger generations, most markedly Plurals, who were more likely to say they were “pleased and energized” by this development. Many older Americans, particularly Baby Boomers and senior citizens, are resisting the changes this dramatic shift is bringing to American society. Already states, such as Arizona, with populations that have the widest disparity between the racial and ethnic makeup of their oldest and youngest generations have experienced bitter political battles over issues such as immigration and education that reflect these divides. The good news is that both Plurals and members of the Millennial generation, born 1982-2003, are positive about this inevitable trend toward a pluralistic society, reflecting their comfort with the diversity in the social circles in which they have grown up.

But that doesn’t mean that Plurals look forward to the nation’s future with equanimity. Most Plurals have been raised by parents from the often cynical and consistently skeptical Generation X. This may explain why Magid found a much greater degree of pessimism about living out the American Dream among them than among their older Millennial Generation siblings, a generation that, despite their current challenges, was brought up in the prosperous Reagan-Clinton era and remains characteristically optimistic. The attitudes of Plurals may also reflect the polarized, bitter politics that have characterized the period of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) that has dominated the news during their young life.

Whatever the reason, the pessimism of the Plurals must be answered by the nation’s leaders in ways which improve prospects for the nation’s future. One way for this to happen quickly would be for those currently holding power to begin to turn the reins of leadership over to those generations more in tune with the nation’s demographic future. If Plurals’ Xer parents and their Millennial siblings are given the opportunity to shape America’s destiny sooner rather than later, the country just might deliver on the promise of the American Dream for its newest generation.  


A Live Web Discussion with Winograd and Hais on Millennial Voters & 2012

This Friday, January 13th at Noon ET,  Please join us for the next in our series of exciting new spreecasts: a presentation about the Millennial Generation featuring new work from critically acclaimed authors and NDN Fellows Mike Hais and Morley Winograd.  

This Spreecast is drawn from the arguments in their new and compelling book, Millennial Momentum, which takes an in-depth look at this consequential generation, the largest in our history, and where it is headed. 

Topics will include,  Millennials' support of President Obama, Millennials' turnout in Iowa and New Hampshire,  How registration rates should shape both parties' organization efforts.

If you wish to participate in the event please do so by going to the NDN/NPI Channel at Noon ET Friday, January 13th, on the webcasting platform Spreecast. On the Spreecast platform you can watch the conversation in real time over the web, chat about the discussion, ask written questions or even join the moderated conversation via video if you have a webcam.

All you have to do is click on our our Spreecast channel participate in the conversation.  While it is not necessary to RSVP, we welcome you doing so on our spreecast page.

21st Century America-Weekly Roundup June 20, 2011

On America's changing demographics:

According to an article by Ronald J. Hansen for The Arizona Republic, the 2010 census data shows that Arizona's rapid growth in population is due largely to a huge increase in the number of children under 10.  Furthermore, ccording to William Schooling, Arizona's state demographer:

Arizona's greatest growth appears to be among relatively young Hispanics, who have higher birth rates than the population as a whole

The implications of all this? Continued or increased demand for services such as child care, teachers and school construction, a possible increase in healthcare costs, and more of a focus on the fastest-growing counties.  The full article has the details.

On the Millennial Generation:

A recent study carried out by the Public Religion Research Institute on abortion and the influence of religion and moral values found that while the millennial generation is slightly more supportive of abortion than the public as a whole (60% compared to 56%), they are significantly more supportive of same sex marriage -- by 15 points -- than any other age group in the population.  A Huffington Post article by James Wagoner analyzes the impact that this and other conclusions from the study will likely have on the 2012 elections.  Some excerpts:

Millennial youth have, as the pollsters state, "a unique, nuanced approach to the issue of abortion, combining strong support for the availability of abortion services and access to birth control with moral reservations."

Millennial youth are major supporters of a broad array of sexual health and rights issues. They not only support same sex marriage and access to abortion, but they also support comprehensive sex education (82%), access to contraception for women who can't afford it (82%), the morality of same sex relationships (57%), and the morality of sex between an unmarried man and woman (70%).

An article by Diane Stafford in the Kansas City Star talks of a new study to be released this month on marketing to the millennial generation.  The study, called “American Millennials: Deciphering the Enigma Generation,” compares the results of 4,000 surveyed millennials with the results from 1,400 baby boomers and analyzes the trends and differences.  According to Barkley (a Kansas City-based advertising and public relations agency that is co-sponsoring the study) Senior Vice President Jeff Fomm, due to the use of Twitter, blog posts and web-based consumer ratings, Millennials:

...communicate on networks nobody owns. We have to learn how to market with them, not to them. We used to be in control of our brand and communicate that to our audience. Now we don’t have as much control.

Women and Minority News:

According to a Bloomberg article by Jonathan D. Salant, Democrats and allied groups are framing Republican moves to cut federal spending through measures such as an end to traditional Medicare and cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood as a war on women, arguing that these and other measures have a disproportionately negative effect on women.  The goal is ultimately to influence the 2012 elections by using these arguments to sway female voters in Obama's favor.  For example,

“The Republicans have handed the Democrats a gift,” said Leonie Huddy, a political science professor at Stony Brook University in New York. “If they play it right, they have exactly the issue that will attract women voters to them.”

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Aziz Huq criticizes Oklahoma's "Sharia ban" and the legislators of six other states who have been debating laws explicitly prohibiting courts from considering or using Sharia law.  He says such laws, in addition to being discriminatory, pointless, and a threat to national security are also largely baseless.  He says:

To begin with, the bans’ justifications are thin. Despite the worries voiced by candidates in the recent Republican candidates’ debate in New Hampshire, no state, county or municipality is about to realign its laws with religious doctrine, Islamic or otherwise. Nor does any state or federal court today in Oklahoma, or anywhere else, need to enforce a foreign rule repugnant to public policy. Under the legal system’s well-established “choice of law” doctrines, the courts are already unlikely to help out someone who claims their religion allows, say, the subordination or mistreatment of women.



E-Verify: The GOP Model For National Reform?

With Republican House Judiciary Committee Chairmen Lamar Smith on the verge of releasing legislation that would propose to make E-Verify mandatory Ross Douthat, in his Sunday editorial,  took the idea of a mandatory E-Verity a step further.

Douthat also saw the Supreme Court Decision on the Legal Arizona Workers act as a reason to move forward with a national E-Verify system:

The E-Verify law was never as polarizing as last year’s police-powers legislation, but it still attracted plenty of opposition. Arizona business interests called it unfair and draconian. (An employer’s business license is suspended for the first offense and revoked for the second.) Civil liberties groups argued that the E-Verify database’s error rate is unacceptably high, and that the law creates a presumptive bias against hiring Hispanics.

There are of course problems with assertion, mainly that E-Verify is riddled with errors, a GAO Report noted for FY 2009:

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said 76 percent of name-related Tentative Non-Confirmations (TNCs)  were issued to citizens (i.e. there is a mismatch in the name submitted for verification and SSA and DHS databases, such as misspellings, name changes, and errors associated with having multiple surnames). 
  • If E-Verify were made mandatory, GAO reported that the agencies estimate there would be 60 million queries per year, and 164,000 citizen and non-citizen new hires would receive a name-related TNC each year. 
  • If the entire existing workforce were required to be verified, the number of TNCs would be substantially greater.  GAO has found that workers often face significant challenges in resolving erroneous TNCs.

Despite these problems Douthat sees E-Verify as a way forward on reforming our immigration system:

Advocates for “comprehensive” reform, the holy grail of liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans alike, have long implied that it’s essentially impossible to prevent illegal immigrants from finding their way to eager employers. Instead, they argue, we have no choice but to ratify the status quo — i.e., mass low-skilled immigration from Mexico and Central America — by creating a vast new guest-worker program and offering citizenship to illegal immigrants already here. So far, though, Arizona’s E-Verify law seems to be providing a strong counterpoint to this counsel of despair.

Douthat does give credit where credit is due, and notes that the Obama Administration is stepping up prosecutions on employers, he also sees this as a way to do away with giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship. The problem with this construct is, even if E-Verify worked well enough to detect all undocumented immigrants it would still not provide a way to remove them all in a cost effective manner. With the House gearing up to move on legislation making E-Verify mandatory every where, it is increasingly looking like E-Verify and enforcement legislation are the only tools which the GOP will utilize to fix our broken immigration system.

My Take on The Deal

At this point I don’t know what is going to happen in Congress over the next few days with the new “deal” announced by the President Tuesday, but my initial take is that he got more than he is being credited for, and the GOP was exposed as having a very weak economic hand which spells trouble for them in the consequential economic debates to come. 

At a macro level, very little has changed with this deal.  We still don’t have a national economic plan, a roughed out consensus on how to get the economy moving again and over time reduce the deficit.  As long as job and wage growth remain below desirable levels, the current very intense – and very much needed - debate about the future of the American economy will be with us.  The steps proposed this week will help provide some stimulus to the ailing American economy at a time when demand remains weak, put a little extra in everyone’s paycheck for the next two years and do an awful lot for the many Americans out of work for far too long.  At its core the deal is a rejection of a politics of austerity inappropriate for the economic and political moment.  So on balance it is a good deal for America’s middle class.  In fact independent analysts have so far been upbeat about the deal, raising their estimates for American GDP growth next year. 

But this deal is not enough alone to ensure “recovery” in the short term or prosperity in the long term.   Much more must be done – from radically improving how our kids and workers learn and acquire new skills, to modernizing our aging infrastructure, to adopting a new national energy strategy, to promoting regional, “place-based” economic development and innovation, to finishing the job on immigration reform, to making a sustained and powerful case for continued economic liberalization throughout the world – all the while starting to get serious about putting our fiscal house in order.  The deal needs to be seen as what it is - a single step forward in a much longer march towards a better American economy in the 21st century. 

What surprised me the most about the deal was what the Republicans thought most critical to our economic future.  They fought for and won on two major points – the temporary extension of Bush era tax rates on incomes over $200,000 a year a person and $250,000 per family, and a trimming of the inheritance tax.  Both of these “victories” protected the very wealthiest among us from modest tax increases.  The expiration of the individual income tax rates would have increased a wealthy person’s tax bill by less than 10%, and returned to rates which were in place during the greatest economic boom in American history.  Republican claims that restoring these rates would be risky for the recovery remain more political spin than sound economics. 

The Republican strategy on display this week reinforces how intellectually bankrupt and ideologically enthralled with wealth but not growth and broad based prosperity the right has become. Their big “wins” were to protect the wealthy in a time of historic inequality, offer nothing concrete to help grow the economy and, and perhaps most remarkably, refusing to accept the most powerful deficit reduction tool currently available to either party – the expiration of the high-end tax rates - after spending 18 months attacking the Democrats for letting the deficit grow too much.  The deal reminds all of us that the Republicans rhetorical commitment to deficit reduction is the big lie of American politics today.  

Like many I am disappointed with aspects of the deal, but President Obama enters the next round of this debate having won some major concessions from the GOP; reinforced his position as a champion for everyday people and the overall American economy; and having had his opponents publically and foolishly choose the interests of the wealthiest among us over the national interest or the American people at a time of great national challenge.  While this may not have been a rout for President Obama, I think he enters the next and much more consequential stage of this battle in better shape than his out of touch conservative adversaries, and the American people enter 2011 also better off than they would have been otherwise.  That’s perhaps the best holiday present we can give to the American people in these challenging times. 

Update: See this excellent piece by David Leonhardt for more on the economics of The Deal.

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