21st Century Agenda for America

Congress agrees to lift CAFE standards

This looks very promising.

Congressional negotiators reached a deal late Friday on energy legislation that would force American automakers to improve the fuel efficiency of their cars and light trucks by 40 percent by 2020.

EJ Dionne takes on the new GOP Know-Nothings

EJ Dionne reflects on Wednesday's GOP debate:

Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani did a fine job achieving their objectives in Wednesday's Republican presidential debate: Each thoroughly discredited the other.

They also disgraced themselves as they pandered relentlessly to the growing anti-immigrant feeling in their party.

Mike Huckabee and John McCain were the only candidates willing to suggest what now seems unmentionable: Immigrants, even those here illegally, are human beings and shouldn't be used as political playthings.

At least Tom Tancredo, the Colorado congressman whose railing against immigration has become his mission in life, was consistent with his past. He had every right to say, with glee, that his rivals were "trying to out-Tancredo Tancredo." It was a perfect description of the evening.

The CNN/YouTube debate was a depressing spectacle. There was little inspiration for the future, no sense that Republicans are grappling with why their party has become so unpopular, and few departures from rigid adherence to the party line on taxes, guns, gay rights and a slew of other questions...

....What happened on Wednesday night is actually scary. A legitimate concern over the failures of our national immigration policy is being transformed into an ugly attempt to turn immigrants into scapegoats for all our discontents. The real shame is that both Romney and Giuliani know better.

And today's Washington Post editorial page chimes in with a worthy editorial called: The Newest Nativists: Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney show how fast common sense can be discarded.

Rudy, the GOP and Immigration

As readers of this blog are aware I believe the Republicans handling of the immigration issue in recent years has been catastrophic for their Party. In 2005 national Republicans, driven by a narrow slice of their electoral base, abandoned Bush's more modern approach to immigration and race and have now made scapegoating immigrants - Hispanics in particularly - a core part of what has been a clearly losing strategy. This is a topic we've covered at length here on the blog, and in the immigration section of our main site.

The struggle inside the GOP between the modern Bush and more nativistic Tancredo approaches to immigration will be on display in Miami a week from Sunday as the Republican Presidential candidates gather for their Univision debate. It promises to be quite a show. Last week NY Times columnist David Brooks explored this tension in a remarkable column about Rudy Giuiliani's evolving views on immigration. An extended excerpt:

“I’m pleased to be with you this evening to talk about the anti-immigrant movement in America,” he said, “and why I believe this movement endangers the single most important reason for American greatness, namely, the renewal, reformation and reawakening that’s provided by the continuous flow of immigrants.”

Giuliani continued: “I believe the anti-immigrant movement in America is one of our most serious public problems.” It can “be seen in legislation passed by Congress and the president.” (Republicans had just passed a welfare reform law that restricted benefits to legal immigrants.) “It can be seen in the negative attitudes being expressed by many of the politicians.”

Giuliani said, somewhat unfairly, that the anti-immigrant movement at that time continued the fear-mongering and discrimination of the nativist movements of the 1920s and the Know-Nothing movement of the 19th century. He celebrated Abraham Lincoln for having the courage to take on the anti-immigrant forces. He detailed the many ways immigration benefits the nation.

Then he turned to the subject of illegal immigration: “The United States has to do a lot better job of patrolling our borders.” But, he continued, “The reality is, people will always get in.”

“In New York City,” he said, “we recognize this reality. New York City’s policy toward undocumented immigrants is called ‘Executive Order 124.’ ” This order protected undocumented immigrants from being reported when they used city services. Giuliani was then fighting the federal government, which wanted to reverse it.

“There are times,” he declared, “when undocumented aliens must have a substantial degree of protection.” They must feel safe sending their children to school. They should feel safe reporting crime to the police. “Similarly, illegal and undocumented immigrants should be able to seek medical help without the threat of being reported. When these people are sick, they are just as sick and just as contagious as citizens.”


Just last year, I saw him passionately deliver remarks at the Manhattan Institute Hamilton Award Dinner in which he condemned the “punitive approach” to immigration, “which is reflected in the House legislation that was passed, which is to make it a crime to be an illegal or undocumented immigrant.”

To “deal with it in a punitive way,” he said then, “is actually going to make us considerably less secure than we already are.” The better approach, he continued, is to embrace the Senate’s comprehensive reform and to separate the criminal illegals from the hard-working ones.

These speeches are the real Rudy. These speeches represent the Rudy who once went overboard and declared, “If you come here and you work hard and you happen to be in an undocumented status, you’re one of the people who we want in this city.”


Of course it hasn’t turned out that way. At the moment, Giuliani and fellow moderate Mitt Romney are attacking each other for being insufficiently Tancredo-esque. They are not renouncing the policies they championed as city and state officials, but the emphasis as they run for federal office is all in the other direction. In effect, they are competing to drive away Hispanic votes and make the party unelectable in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Florida and the nation at large.

In this way, they are participating in the greatest blown opportunity in recent political history. At its current nadir, the G.O.P. had been blessed with five heterodox presidential candidates who had the potential to modernize the party on a variety of fronts. They could be competing to do that, but instead they are competing to appeal to the narrowest slice of the old guard and flatter the most rigid orthodoxies of the Beltway interest groups. Giuliani could have opened the party to the armies of dynamism — the sort of hard-working strivers who live in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx; instead he has shelved one of his core convictions.

More on the DHS citizenship application backlog

The Times editorial page continues their strong advocacy for a more sensible American immigration policy with an editorial today calling on our nation's leaders to fix one piece of the broken immigration system - the astonishing backlog of citizenship applications of legal immigrants. They write:

About the only point of agreement on immigration in this country is that newcomers who play by the rules — fill out their forms, pay their fees and wait their turn — are welcome. But that great American dogma is being sorely tested by the inability of the federal government’s feeble citizenship agency to deal with a flood of applications that arose this summer.

The agency, Citizenship and Immigration Services, is telling legal immigrants that applications for citizenship and for residence visas filed after June 1 will take about 16 to 18 months to process. The agency was utterly unprepared for the surge, and so tens of thousands of Americans-in-waiting will have to keep on waiting. Many, gallingly, may have to sit out next November’s election, even though that civic act was what prompted many of them to apply in the first place...

After the collapse of the Senate immigration bill earlier this year, there has been pressure on Congress to do something about our broken and unacceptable immigration system. A good place to start would be for Congress to add additional one time funds to the Department of Homeland Security to clear this backlog when it returns next week.

It will be interesting to see how the GOP Presidential field handles this question at their Univision Debate on December 9th. For more on this issue check out the Washington Post's detailed account.

Markos weighs in on immigration

Over at Daily Kos Markos weighs in on the immigration reform fight.  He concludes:

The solution is easy enough -- comprehensive immigration reform with stronger workplace and border enforcement, but with a clear path to citizenship for the nation's millions of undocumented, hard-working immigrants. Bush and Rove wanted exactly this, and had they been successful, the Latino vote would've remained a highly contested swing vote. Instead, Republicans are all but begging them to vote Democratic.

Another Bush legacy - a decimated Republican Party

The RNC Chairman resigns. The former House Speaker Dennis Hastert resigns. The former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott resigns. The number of Senate and House GOP incumbents retiring continues to rise. The Senate Minority Leader is in serious political trouble. By any measure the GOP's Presidential field is one of modern times. Their party's handling of the war in Iraq, the economy, the budget and immigration have left them ideologically in tatters. In the Presidential debate process they have repeatedly stiffed minorities, fighting in a reactionary way the changing demography of our nation.

As NDN's recent national poll shows the national GOP is at 33 percent in both the Presidential and Congressional generic polls, a remarkably low number by any measure. As the NY Times reports today, another sign of the utter collapse of the GOP brand is their inability to raise money. Democrats, using new and old methods, have outraised the GOP this year by hundreds of millions of dollars. In Congress the political and financial collapse is so complete that the GOP is now turning to wealthy self-funders, a potentially perilous political choice at a time when the middle class is desperately looking for champions to help them navigate the rigors of the ever competitive global economy.

The political and ideological collapse of the modern GOP is perhaps the most dramatic story in American politics today. It is a theme we've been discussing for some time at NDN. It is also what makes the current opportunity so great for progressives, an opportunity Peter Leyden and I write about extensively in the current issue of Mother Jones magazine, in a story called The 50-Year Strategy.

What a sorry legacy Bush and Rove are going to leave the nation, their party, and their own ideological movement. And what an opportunity they have given progressives to seize the initiative and lead America with confidence and grace into a challenging new century.

What comes after the Southern Strategy?

In his New York Times column yesterday Paul Krugman thoughtfully examines the centrality of a great national electoral strategy, the Southern Strategy, to the recent rise of conservatives. It is a story line he explores in much more depth in his very worthwhile new book, The Conscience of a Liberal.

In our new article in Mother Jones magazine, The 50 Year Strategy, Peter Leyden and I argue that the progressives and Democrats are in the process of constructing the next great electoral strategy, one yet unnamed, that capitalizes on the emerging demography and politics of the early 21st century.

This new strategy builds upon Democratic strongholds in the Northeast and Pacific West, requires Democrats and progressives to win in all the other regions of the country, and builds particularly upon the support of two new groups that will end being very influential in the 21st century - Hispanics and Millennials.

Implicit in all this is how the concept of race is changing in America. For over 300 years, race in America was a white-black, majority-minority, exploitive experience. The very large wave of immigration America is currently experiencing, driven to a great degree by new Asian and Hispanic immigrants, is changing that historic and pernicious equation. In the age of the Southern Strategy minorities - African Americans - were a small fraction of the population. In America today "minorities" are 30 percent of our national population. In my lifetime America will become a majority minority nation. Even the word minority itself will begin to change its meaning as American becomes a very different place with a very different people in the 21st century.

To get a sense of all this look at the Presidential fields. Taken together the GOP Presidential candidates look that 20th century Southern Strategy Party. The Democratic field, featuring a woman, an Hispanic, a mixed race candidate of African descent and a white populist from the New South, looks much more like the Party of this next more racially and geographically complicated post-Southern Strategy nation.

For more on the changing nature of America's Hispanic population, check out our new report Hispanics Rising. And for more on Millennials visit our affiliate, the New Politics Institute.

More players join the global laptop for kids campaign

The Globe has an interesting article today on two private companies are providing new - and i think vital - competition to Nicholas Negroponte's remarkable One Laptop Per Child effort. 

Be sure to check out NDN's recent paper calling for laptops for all America's children, A Laptop in Every Backback.

The cost of Bush's wars over $2 trillion

Many news outlets reported this week on a new analysis showing that the costs of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost America well over $2 trillion.  I include a good cut on the story from USA Today. 

So, do we really believe if the American people were asked back in 2002 that if you had $2 trillion to spend on our future would you spend it this way?  What else could have we done with that money?  According to Jeff Sachs that is enough money to have eliminated extreme poverty throughout the entire world.  According to many analysts, it is enough money to have modernized all the infrastructure in the United States.   Think about what it could have done for our schools, for our workers and their skills, for protecting our homeland, for the NIH, for our health care system.....

So as the Republicans begin to make their case that we cannot afford to make critical investments here at home we have to put all this in perspective.  Somehow they found $2 - $3 trillion for a failed and dangerous adventure abroad, but we cannot find the money to make critical needed investments in our collective future?  This debate needs to be at the very heart of the Presidential campaign next year.

What a terribly disapointing time this age of Bush has been.

A changing and challenging world will greet the next President

Taken together stories in the paper today how the next President will be greeted with a very challenging - and evolving - governing environment. 

Consider that Pakistan seems to be slipping further away.  Hostilities between the Kurds and Turks are growing.  The pro-nuclear hardliners are consolidating their grip in Iran, with apparent support from Putin.  The Times laments the lack of action on the current global trade "development round," and Professor Paul Collier does an excellent job laying out the challenge of eliminating extreme poverty in the world and the instability that comes with it.  Frank Rich does a remarkable review of the mess that is Iraq, and what it says about the values of our current Administration, still deeply embroiled in dispirating debates over torture, warentless spying on American citizens and the strategic use of unaccountable GOP-allied private armies

The Bush era has left the world less safe and America's capacity to influence global events significantly reduced.  Our next President will be facing a newly emerging and very difficult set of foreign policy challenges, that coupled with a huge set of domestic challenges will make this next Presidency one of the most important in American history.  We are clearly now in a time of great consequence for the nation and the world.  What a disapointing time this age of Bush has been. 

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