21st Century Agenda for America

Background on Millennials and young voters

Among the many things that happened last night in Iowa was a very high turnout of young voters. For the last several years NDN and its affiliate the New Politics Institute have been making the case that a new generation of young Americans known as the Millennial Generation was poised to make a tremendous impact on politics.

As background please visit the following resources:

The 50-Year Strategy:

This article lays out a grand strategy for how today's Democrats could build a lasting electoral majority and today's progressives could seize the new media, build off new constituencies like Hispanics and the millennial generation, and solve the urgent governing challenges of our times.

The Progressive Politics of the Millennial Generation:

In this report, we take a comprehensive look at almost all available surveys and polls that have tried to figure out the politics of this important new generation of young people born in the 1980s and 1990s. The cumulative evidence shows that this generation is overwhelmingly progressive and unusually engaged in politics. (Video of an event we did around this report can be found here.)

Politics of the Millennial Generation:

This survey examined in detail the attitudes and behavior of three American generations — the Millennials, Gen-X'ers, and Baby Boomers — and, within the Millennials, three sub-generations, Teen Millennials, Transitional Millennials, and Cusp Millennials. Together the three generations consist of Americans 13-54 years old who were born from 1952-1993.

New Tools: Leverage Social Networks:

The final memo of our 2007 New Tools Campaign lays out how the booming social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace can be used to do many of the old-fashioned fundamentals of politics: branding, voter registration, fundraising, volunteering and voter turnout.


Reflecting on the success of Daily Kos and the netroots

In a post yesterday Markos reflects upon his site traffic since he began his blog in 2002. It is a remarkable post, as you can watch his traffic grow from month to month, to the point today where DailyKos has 16m pageviews a month, or 500-600k a day.

I first met Markos in the summer of 2003. The ever thoughtful writer Garance Franke-Ruta introduced us. At the time his early blog was getting 800k or so pageviews a month. By the time he spoke at a conference we did in SF in late 2003 it was 2m a month. By the time of our Annual Meeting in 2004, where Markos made what I believe was his first public appearance in Washington, it was 5m a month. And by the time Crashing the Gate was released in March of 2006 it was up to 22m a month (click here to read my foreword to CTG). Today the site traffic has leveled off to a still daunting 16m a month, and Markos has helped inspire many to get off the sidelines and into the arena, including Gina Cooper, the founder and visionary behind Netroots Nation (formerly YearlyKos), the most important annual gathering of emerging progressive leaders in the country.

The rise of sites like Daily Kos and the netroots has been one of the most significant developments in American politics in the early part of the 21st century. My friendship with Markos and his colleague Jerome Armstrong has been among the most rewarding and interesting of my long career in media and politics. The success of Daily Kos and other such blogs should leave no doubt that progressives and their allies the Democrats are in the midst of building a new and more competitive culture and movement, one much more suited to the emerging challenges of the 21st century than ever before. As Matt Bai rightly points out in his new book, this new movement is new, emergent, experimental and has made plenty of mistakes. But could any start up be any other way? While the 1990s in Silicon Valley gave us stinkers like Pets.com, it also created enduring and powerful companies that are still redefing our lives today. Periods of great institutional entrepreneurship and reinvention are by nature messy things. This period of progressive reinvention is no different.

For I can no think of no time of all my years in politics that what we know as left of center politics is as vibrant, innovative, dynamic, open and nascently strategic as it is today. With control of Congress and perhaps the Presidency in 2009, we will also see if this movement is ready to lead America at one of its most challenging junctures in its history (see our recent essay The 50 Year Strategy for more on this).

No matter where we go together next year I end this one with a hearty salute to the millions of Americans who have "gotten into the game" in recent years - giving money, volunteering, blogging, commenting, reading, engaging and voting in unprecedented numbers. At the end of the day it is my hope, my belief, perhaps my prayer that these new technology tools that have allowed private citizens like Markos - and millions more - to enter the great American debate in new and powerful ways will end leading the renewal of our mighty but wounded democracy in the years ahead, providing the ultimate antidote to the imperial age of Bush. While leaders like Markos have gotten plenty of attention, the power of blogs like Daily Kos is that they have become vehicles for millions to be connected to and participate in our democracy like never before, making our politics - I hope - ever more one "of the people, by the people, for the people." And for all this I end this year excited and hopeful about our nation and our politics in the critical year ahead.

Happy New Year....

NY Times editorial: "Immigration and the Candidates"

On the final Sunday before the Iowa Caucuses, The NY Times chooses once again to focus on the immigration reform debate, offering up another thoughtful look at this tough issue. This one focuses on the positions of the Presidential candidates. It concludes:

One of the strong arguments for passing immigration reform last summer was that it was a last chance. If Congress did not seize it, the presidential race would blot out hopes of reform for two years or more.

Congress did not seize it, and all the problems are still there. The issue has left the country divided, fretful and ambivalent, and voters are yearning for honesty and thoughtfulness. The Republicans are not giving it to them. The Democrats should fill the vacuum. They have said the right things. Amid all the Republican shouting, it would help if they would speak louder.

The Post reviews US policy towards Pakistan

This morning's Washington Post has a very good piece on the US diplomatic efforts that brought Bhutto back to Pakistan ten weeks ago. It also has a quick look at how Bhutto's death is effecting the Presidential campaigns.

The NYTimes offers up this thoughtful editorial on the future of Pakistan after Bhutto. An excerpt:

Ms. Bhutto’s death leaves the Bush administration with no visible strategy for extricating Pakistan from its crisis or rooting out Al Qaeda and the Taliban, which have made the country their most important rear base.

Betting America’s security (and Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal) on an unaccountable dictator, President Pervez Musharraf, did not work. Betting it on a back-room alliance between that dictator and Ms. Bhutto, who had hoped to win a third try as prime minister next month, is no longer possible.

That leaves Mr. Bush with the principled, if unfamiliar, option of using American prestige and resources to fortify Pakistan’s badly battered democratic institutions. There is no time to waste.

The Post editorial page weighs in on the new AZ immigration law

The Washington Post editorial page weighs in on a subject we've been tracking here at NDN - the new Arizona anti-immigrant laws that take effect next week. An excerpt:

THE NEW ground zero in the debate over illegal immigration is Arizona, where the nation's toughest and potentially most far-reaching crackdown on undocumented workers and their employers is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. The Arizona law, passed resoundingly by the state legislature after Congress failed to enact immigration reform last summer, penalizes companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants by suspending their business licenses for up to 10 days; ; on a second offense, the business license would be revoked -- what Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) has called a corporate "death penalty." Thus the Arizona law may become a test case for how much pain a state is willing to endure, and inflict, in the name of ridding itself of a population that contributes enormously to its economic growth and prosperity.

Illegal immigrants have flocked to Arizona for years to fill jobs that native-born people don't want. While the state's unemployment rate remains low, undocumented employees comprise an estimated 9 to 12 percent of the state's 3 million workers. Companies in agriculture, construction and service industries rely heavily on illegal immigrants, and any successful attempt to drive them out will have economic repercussions that may be severe.

In construction alone, Judith Gans of the University of Arizona has estimated that a 15 percent cut in the state's immigrant workforce would result in direct losses of about 56,000 jobs and some $6.6 billion in economic output. The direct loss to state tax revenue would be approximately $270 million. The study, and others like it, including in Texas, refute the arguments that illegal immigrants are an overall burden on state economies because of the education, health care and other services they require; in fact they contribute heavily to economic growth.

The Arizona law illustrates the self-defeating hazard of addressing one part of the problem -- enforcement -- without also recognizing the plain reality of America's need for immigrant labor...

In responding with this law to the popular anger and anxiety about illegal immigration, Arizona may have been within its legal rights; the courts will decide that shortly. But the price the law will exact is likely to be severe -- to the state's economy, to thousands of immigrant families and, very likely, to the civil rights of legal Hispanic residents who will come under unwarranted suspicion. Those costs may cause Arizonans to question the prudence of their state lawmakers and highlight the folly of Washington's failure to come to grips with illegal immigration. 

Good Sunday reads

Four pieces today that visit various aspects of our work here at NDN, and are all worth reading to help make sense of the emerging politics of our day.

Matt Bai has a must read cover story in the Times magazine on the legacy of Clintonism.

The Post has a cover piece on the historic weakness of the GOP Presidential field.

NPI author Ruy Teixeira and his longtime collaborator John Judis make the case that we are entering a new era of Democratic dominance.

And the Times has a lead editorial on the importance of trade liberalization to our future prosperity.


On the mortgage crisis, immigration and the need for a new economic strategy for America

Paul Krugman has a very good column today that puts the emerging home mortgage crisis in sharper relief - 10 million homes effected, $400 billion in potential losses. A staggering outcome. I've called it a Bush era financial market equivalent of Katrina - an extraordinary failure of government to meet its basic responsibilities.

And as Krugman suggests, it is important for progressives to use this crisis to highlight the difference in economic and governing philosophies between our world and theirs. But what is most important is for Democrats next year is not to allow the urgency of dealing with the mortgage crisis to get in the way of a much needed process to develop a much broader strategy for the American economy that addesses the already difficult struggle of too many Americans. While the Bush era produced strong GDP and productivity growth, record corporate profits and a high-flying market, the median income of a typical family actually declined; more are now without health insurance, more are in poverty and too many with dangerous levels of debt. The failure of immigration reform has left 5 percent of our workforce undocumented, dragging down wages and working conditions for all American workers. And Bush took our nation's vast wealth and invested it only in one great project - Iraq - which has, shall we say, not delivered the return we all had hoped.

Rahm Emanuel is right that the economy is going to be a dominant issue next year. Our recent poll like most others show the incredible concerns Americans have about their current and future prospects. But like most things in governing, the question is what are we are going to about it all? It is our belief that our leaders need to generate a 21st economic strategy that is comensurate with the size of the struggle Americans feel in their daily lives. Our Globalization Initiative has set forth a 3 part plan, one that calls for a reform of our energy and health care policies, promotes innovation throughout our new "idea-based" economy, and invests in our people and in our infrastructure. This plan will take years and hundreds of billions of dollars to implement. But I think at this point we have little choice other than to offer a plan of big and bold ambition, and then fight with everything we have to get it done over the next few years. Our heritage and philosophy - and the needs of the American people - demand no less.

Offering up such a modern and 21st century agenda will also help solve one of the country's other great challenges - how to best create an immigration system that meets the needs of our modern economy and does so in a way that is consistent with our values. The fear some Democrats have about the immigration debate should be taken seriously. Even though Comprehensive Immigration Reform has broad and deep support with the American people, it would be much more effective to package the issue in with this broader agenda to show that we are addressing the economic concerns of all American workers not just those of undocumented immigrants. To us at NDN the single best way to counter the nativist chants from the other side is offer a bold and ambitious economic agenda that includes aggressive support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

The enforcement-only approach to immigration reform is simply bad policy and bad politics. It won't actually fix the immigration system. It has been tried by Republicans for the last few years and gotten them very little in return. It will deeply anger the fastest-growing part of the American electorate, Hispanics, and I believe is deeply inconsistent with core progressive values. It connotes fear and cowardice rather than strength and strong leadership. It is the very opposite of tough - as it appears to be all about politics and not about problem solving. Which is why we oppose the legislative manifestation of this idea, the Shuler bill.

Getting our politics to work again after the terribly disapointing age of Bush will require bold and resolute leadership, and a commitment to many years of tough and difficult battles ahead. But once one enters the political arena, that my friends is the job, and this is no time to allow fear to continue to triumph over hope, and no time for us to walk away from the tough battles the American people are expecting us to fight on their behalf.

1%, 62% and the failure of Tancredoism

There are all sorts of news reports this morning that Tom Tancredo, who has based his entire campaign on an anti-immigrant platform, is ending his bid for the Presidency. As all of us trying to make sense of the current immigration debate and how Tancredo's total rejection by Republican primary voters fits in let's consider these two figures: 1% and 62%. 1% is the share of the Republican vote Tancredo has been receiving. 62% is the share of Republicans who support an earned path to citizenship, according to a new LA Times poll taken two weeks ago. Taken together it appears that Tancredo's approach to immigration, "Deport Those Who Don't Belong, Make Sure They Never Come Back" has been overwhelmingly rejected by even Republican voters, and is just one more example of how the GOP's investment in the immigration issue has failed time and again to produce the results they had hoped for.

Later today Tancredo will probably try to argue that the reason he never got traction is that the rest of the Republican field has adopted his position. But that really isn't true. Mitt Romney, who has made intense anti-immigration rhetoric a centerpiece of his campaign, is dropping across the board. Mike Huckabee, who seems to rise for every new anti-immigrant ad Romney runs against him in Iowa, has adopted at least rhetorically a much more compassionate path (see here for his new, wacky immigration position). Fred Thompson who has also taken a very hard line on immigration isn't getting any traction, despite his recent endorsement by Iowa Rep. Steve King, a Tancredo ally. John McCain, the Republican most associated with Comprehensive Immigration Reform, is rising in mosts polls and is now very much back in the race. And Rudy, who leads in most national GOP polls has embraced a version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and is now running an ad that openly talks about citizenship. Rather than triumphing inside the GOP field, it seems much more plausible to conclude that the Tancredo vision is in the process of being rejected by a Republican Party unwilling to embrace his racist and nativistic approach while acknowledging the importance of the issue itself.

The immigration issue is crying out for strong and forceful leadership. As I argued recently, I see immigration reform as one of the Democratic Party's greatest opportunities to contrast their pragmatic, common-sense approach to tackling the tough problems of the 21st century with the failed conservative approach which, all too often in recent years, has chosen politics over progress. The Comprehensive approach to fixing our broken immigration system has a deep and broad bi-partisan coalition supporting it that includes many important business, labor, religious and immigrant leaders and elected officials of both parties; is one of the few issues embraced by both Bush and Clinton; has a history of bi-partisanship, as it is one of the few important bills to actually pass the Senate in recent years; is supported by all the Democratic candidates running for President, most of the Democrats in the Senate, and many other critical Democrats like Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and DNC Chairman Howard Dean; and in poll after poll is supported by a majority of the American people.

As I wrote: "Democrats should be viewing this ongoing GOP obsession with immigration not as something to fear but as a powerful sign of the collapse of the modern Republican Party. In 2008 the GOP cannot run on its governing accomplishments. Cannot run on its health car plan. Cannot run on its vision for our security. Cannot run on its strategy to help a struggling middle class. Cannot run on their high moral and ethical standards. Cannot run on fiscal responsibility. So what is left? An issue that nostalgically evokes the racism of their now anachronistic Southern Strategy, that doesn't even have majority support in their own Party, is reinforcing that their Party has become more interested in scoring political points than solving vexing national problems, and that is managing to anger the fastest growing part of the American electorate, Hispanics."

Our immigration system is broken. That is something we all know. We also know the American people are rightfully unhappy about it and that it has risen to be one of their top 5 or 6 issues of 2008. The real question, then, is what we are going to do about it? As Rudy argues in his new ad, leaders will bring people together, step up and fix it. Other politicians, including some in the Democratic Party, will continue do what Tancredo has done which is to confuse toughness with strong leadership. This approach has been rejected again and again, as the American people desperately seach for a politics that is not safe but bold; that is not just tough but smart and effective; that is not calculating but courageous; that is not divisive and angry but that brings us together; that once again puts the interests of Americans and their families above all else.

Immigration is one of the great early political tests of the 21st century. To date the Republicans have failed their test of whether they have what it takes to solve the emerging problems of the new century. For the good of the nation I hope the Democrats do not fail theirs.

A financial Katrina?

Reading the Times editorial today on the spreading financial crisis, and the big story it broke on Tuesday, it sure feels that way.  Like Katrina it wasn't the event itself that was so bad, or even the government's lack of anticipation or preparedness; it was the lack of a sufficient government response once the warning signs appeared and demanded action.

Can there be any doubt now that President Bush has simply been the worst President in history? We will be digging out from his mess for a very long time.

Syndicate content