Obama

Monday Musings: Can Anyone Stop Trump? Dems Wake Up To A Competitive Race

New WSJ/NBC/Marist Polls – New polls released yesterday give us a fresh look at where things stand three weeks before Iowa.

The GOP - For the GOP, there is really only one question now – can anyone stop Trump? Trump has big leads in all the early states except Iowa, so the cold reality is if Trump wins Iowa it is really hard to see how he doesn’t run away with the election regardless of who finishes third or fourth in New Hampshire. And on that front, the two big attacks on Cruz now – questions about his eligibility to be President, and a very sustained campaign against him in Iowa by Ethanol backers (as a Texan and oil/gas man he has taken an aggressive anti-Ethanol stance in Congress) – appear to be making a difference in Iowa. The NBC poll mirrors other recent polls, finding the race tightening up, with Cruz 28 Trump 24. Again, if someone does not beat Trump in Iowa, just hard to see how he doesn’t run away with the nomination given where things stand today.

All of this makes the next two GOP debates – on 1/14 and 1/28 – very consequential.

The Democrats – The NBC polls found what many believed had taken place over the past few weeks – Iowa has tightened up. The NBC polls found Iowa at Clinton 48 and Sanders 45, New Hampshire Sanders 50 Clinton 46. At this point anything is possible in these states, including Sanders winning both. For Clinton Iowa really becomes a must win now, as – and it must be said – Sanders, with ample resources and a surprisingly capable campaign, has become a real threat to win the nomination. The Democrats only have one more debate before Iowa and New Hampshire. It is this Sunday night on NBC News, and will be an important one too.

So, remarkably, with three weeks to go before Iowa, three staunchly anti-establishment candidates – Trump, Sanders and Cruz – seemed poised to make a serious run at winning their nominations. Remarkable indeed.

Yes We Can! Obama's Final State of the Union Address - Barack Obama will address the nation as President for perhaps the last time tomorrow night in what will be an important scene setting speech for the coming 2016 debate. Early press reports indicate he will focus on the progress made by the nation over his Presidency, an idea we explored in our recent end of year message. One thing I will be looking for is how much a clear articulation of what a well run government can do, and the positive changes it can manifestly make in the lives of our people, will be able to be used by other Democrats to challenge the all government is bad argument of the post Reagan GOP this cycle. 

The GOP’s descent into a reactionary mess – What exactly is going on inside the GOP? I return to a long form magazine article I wrote a few years ago which anticipated the rise of a reactionary candidate like Donald Trump. An excerpt:

.....There can be little doubt that despite the remarkable progress made over the past generation across the globe, there are significant challenges remaining: tackling climate change, improving the way we provide skills to our workers and students in a more competitive global economy; state capitalism as seen in China and Russia and other nations; and a still unstable Middle East and Islamic world just to name a view.

But while significant challenges remain, there can be little doubt that humankind is going through perhaps it’s most remarkable and productive period in all of our history. More people can do, contribute, and participate meaningfully in the life of their communities and nations than ever before. What lies before us may be indeed a dark time, but my own sense is that we also may be entering – if we get things right – an unprecedented age of possibility for the people of the world.

While this age holds great promise it has proven to be profoundly unsettling to the great architect of this age, the United States. In the past decade and a half we have seen a President impeached; a contested Presidential election settled along partisan lines; high levels of electoral volatility; twelve years of no wage and income growth for American workers; dangerous levels of inequality; reckless foreign engagements which cost the nation extraordinary sums of money, global prestige and human capital; a Great Recession; a financial collapse; a burst housing bubble and one of the most devastating attacks ever on American soil. It is hard to argue that America’s response to this first decade or so of this new century has been successful abroad or at home.

Additionally, these great global changes have manifested themselves in very particular ways in American society, which has magnified the sense of rapid and even unsettling change which is so much a condition of modern life across the world. As perhaps the most technologically advanced nation on Earth, the transformation of our economy from industrial to digital has been perhaps more profound here than just about anywhere else. One very direct impact of this has been the incredible speed in which remnants of the industrial age – companies, skills and schools, well known consumer brands, broadcast media – have been rendered obsolete and not yet fully replaced by their digital analogs.

But perhaps most profound of these uniquely American changes is the way our people have changed. Our demographic and racial history – the triumph of Europeans over Native Americans, and the subjugation of African slaves – is well known. It produced a society dramatically unequal, where an overwhelming majority oppressed powerless minorities. Any student of American history knows how significant the struggle over equality and racial integration has been, and by the early 1960s American had become a nation ninety percent of white European descent and about ten percent black and everything else. But this demographic and racial trajectory set on a very different course in the 1960s. The Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s finally ended institutional segregation in America. And one of the most important piece of legislation ever passed in America that no one has ever heard of – the immigration act of 1965 – had the effect of changing America’s immigration targets from white Europeans to Asians and Latin Americans.

The net impact of both these changes is the most profound demographic and racial transformation of the people living on this land called America since the arrival of the Europeans in the late 15th century. In the past 47 years, fueled by high levels of non-white immigration, America has gone from a 90 percent white/10 percent minority nation to one 65 percent white and 35 percent people of color. Current estimates have the nation becoming majority non-white in 2040. Of course the central driver of this change is an historic wave of immigration from Mexico and Latin America into the US. In 1965 there were 3 million Latinos in the US. Today there are 45 million Latinos 15 percent of the US population, a group is they were their own country would be the second largest Latin country in the Americas (if we exempt Iberian Brazil). There are now more Latinos in the US than African Americans, and people of Mexican descent make up a full ten percent – one out of ten – of the people who live in the US today. This figure is expected to double by that magic crossover point in 2040, with Latinos making up fully 30 percent of the US population, or almost a third.

Additionally, the great baby boom generation, for so long the dominant driver of American culture, is aging, and yielding to a new generation, made up largely of their children, the Millennials. This generation is the largest generation in US history and is beginning to enter the American electorate in very large numbers. Its members have grown up in the world I have described – more global, more connected, more competitive more diverse and have had very direct experience the inadequate response offered by American leaders in the past decade. America has in essence its own “youth bulge” and how this generation swings politically might just determine which party reigns for the next 30-40 years and much else about American culture. By any measure – our own youth bulge and this historic transition to a non-white America - is an extraordinary level of demographic and socio-economic change, one which should be expected to roil the traditional politics of a nation.

It is the premise of this essay that American politics in 2012 can be best understood by examining the reaction of political parties, ideological movements and elected leaders to the vast changes – demographic, economic, geopolitical – roiling the world today......

Read on.  It all still rings very true a few years deeper into these profound changes. 

Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You find previous columns here.

Monday Musings: The Sprint to Iowa and New Hampshire Begins

Real voters head to the polls less than a month from now. Where do things stand? A few things we know:

4 candidates lead in the early states – Cruz and Clinton lead in Iowa, Trump and Sanders in New Hampshire, Clinton and Trump lead in the less polled Nevada and South Carolina. Only these four candidates can claim leads in the early states and top tier status as 2016 begins. All four have plenty of money and will be able to compete as the map gets big when over half the country will vote in just the first 15 days of March. These four all clearly have a shot at this point. The path for every other candidate in both parties is far harder to see.

So much weakness on the GOP side – Consider these Real Clear Politics national averages now:

Christie 4.8, O’Malley 4.6, Bush 4.3, Paul 2.8, Fiorina 2.5, Huckabee 2.0, Kasich 1.8

After months of significant exposure to the public and tens of millions of dollars of television ads, the four GOP candidates who have gotten a huge amount of press and free media coverage – Christie, Bush, Fiorina and Kasich – stand at 13% combined, less than Ted Cruz, far less than Bernie Sanders, and any one of them now is only running even with or trailing Martin O’Malley, who has been totally ignored by the national media. Republican voters have had a good long look at these candidates and just don’t seem to be buying. Hard to see how any one of them breaks out in the weeks ahead and challenges the top tier, Trump and Cruz, and Rubio who is still hanging in their but continues to struggle to find his place.

Will the debates change anything? The GOP field is far more likely to be affected by the debates, as they hold three before New Hampshire – Jan 14, 28 and Feb 6 - while the Dems only hold one, on Sunday night Jan 17. Expect the ratings for all these debates to be very high as voters all across the country will be paying much more attention now (see here for our collection of materials on the debate strategy of the two parties so far).

So, what is going to happen? Who knows….but as 2016 begins, four candidates – Trump, Cruz, Clinton and Sanders – have a real shot.  For the rest, including Rubio, the path to the nomination is hard to see.  But of course we know things will change, and could change quickly.  Stay tuned!

Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You find previous columns here.

Mondays Musings: Opportunity and Peril, Cruz Rising

Reminders of the opportunities and perils in the world today - On this anniversary of Pearl Harbor, what stands out about the 2016 race this morning is how much we’ve been reminded of both the opportunities and perils the modern world offers America today. We wake this morning to the good news of the Chavista government in Venezuela having been routed last night. On the heels of a new and more modern government in Argentina, and the beginning of the normalization of ties with Cuba, Latin America is going through an important period of shedding some of its more destructive and anti-modern impulses. This is of course is good news for the United States, as it is likely to make our own neighborhood more peaceful and prosperous in the years ahead.

But we also wake to the news of another far right victory in European elections, this one in France. In the US and Europe, globalization and all that it brings (rapid migration, economic/social dislocation) is fueling a rise in reactionary parties and politicians. There isn’t a great difference between France’s Le Pen and the US’s Trump. The rise in this reactionary sentiment on both sides of the Atlantic is worrisome of course, and terrorist attacks and Syrian refugees are adding fresh grist to this nationalist mill. The weakening of establishment politics here and in Europe has to become a central reason for greater urgency in both eliminating the Islamic State and resolving the various sectarian conflicts in the Middle East, starting with Syria.

We had some other good news last week as it appears that the Saudis and Iranians worked together to fashion a new government in Lebanon. Perhaps the combination of lower oil prices, the barbarity and prowess of ISIL, the instability mass Middle Eastern refugees are bringing to other regions of the world is all creating a moment where sustained Saudi/Iranian cooperation could become possible. Certainly our leaders should be doing everything we can to encourage this path, as it is the only way peace will ever come to the region in the years ahead.

Be sure to also read my take on the panicky, disappointing GOP response to Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks here. All of these developments are a reminder why we need an experienced, forceful leader in the White House in 2017. Ain't going to be an easy time to be US President in the coming years.

2016 Landscape – Only real significant change this past week is growing evidence that Ted Cruz is making a major move in the polls nationally and in the early states. Ben Carson’s collapse has benefitted Cruz, and he has now become the most significant challenger to the front runner Donald Trump. While Rubio has gained a bit of ground in recent weeks, he is still in the second tier. One thing I wonder is whether his first ad in the early states which so firmly identifies him as coming from a striving immigrant family will end up limiting whatever momentum he may have had from his good performances in recent debates. The GOP’s next debate is in eight days, Tuesday, December 15th. And then six more GOP debates come in the first 10 weeks of 2016. Lots of fireworks ahead!

"Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You find previous versions here.

Mondays Musings: All They Have Is Fear Itself

In a time of challenge, the GOP panics - The one upsmanship for who could be harder on Muslims we saw among Republican President candidates this past week was a powerful reminder that the GOP has long ceased being a “conservative” party and has descended into a far more pernicious “reactionary” period. This is a subject I have discussed at length over the years, including in this long form magazine piece and in this recent piece about how fear will drive the Republicans this election cycle. The fear of modernity that is driving the reactionary right these days is perhaps the most significant force in American politics today, one that is crying out for an equally muscular and modern liberalism to challenge it head on.

Another example of this kneejerky fear of others and foreign threats was the House GOP’s terribly disappointing reaction to the Paris attacks. Of all the things the House GOP could have done last week, the Ryan-led House rushed out a bill – with no hearings and overriding their own internal rules about time needed to consider legislation – making it far tougher for the US to admit Syrian refugees. Regardless of the merits of the bill, the haste in which it was rushed out made it appear to be designed more to undermine and embarrass the President in the middle of an important foreign trip than to develop a more effective, bi-partisan response to the growing threat of the Islamic State. Paul Ryan’s choice was craven, nasty politics in its purest form in a time of challenge, the very opposite of patriotism.

Contrast this not ready for prime time behavior with that of the Democrats: the President continued his important trip to Asia, selling among other things his newly negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement; and Hillary Clinton gave a thoughtful and mature speech about defeating the Islamic State. Senate Democrats also made a valuable contribution to this nascent debate, countering Ryan’s refugee with a proposal to close the NRA supported loophole that allows those on the terror watch list to legally buy guns in the US (something we think has happened several thousand times, and yes this is a real debate).

There can be no doubt that the nation needs to both develop a better response to the Islamic State and have a respectful, public debate about it. Given how the two parties responded last week to Paris, I am proud of how the Democrats have responded, and worried about where the GOP is headed at a time when we need to come together, work with our allies and be smart (see here for my thoughts on the US should move forward now “After Paris.”)

The US remains a welcoming, generous nation - And while I disagree with Ryan’s refugee bill, I also want to challenge the assertions by some that we are an ungenerous nation when it comes to allowing immigrants into the US. Since 1950 the US has allowed close to 50 million immigrants into the US legally. Another 4 million refugees have resettled here, and another 11 million or so have come here without authorization. In the past 65 years, the US has absorbed 65 million new immigrants – an extraordinary number, equal to 1/5th of our total population today. We are currently taking in 1 million new legal immigrants every year in the US; so over the next 100 years at current rates we will take in 100 million more new immigrants. This graph does a good job capturing both the scale of the recent migration into the US, and its diversity. So while we may head into the Thanksgiving break disappointed with the GOP, we should not for a moment buy into the argument that America is anything but a generous and welcoming nation to immigrants from throughout the world.

See the graph below for US immigration trends ("200 Years of Immigration to the U.S.", Natalia Bronshtein).

I remain convinced that the Democrats should make it far more explicit on their strategy for improving the immigration system. I offered this three part plan as a starting point, one that would include reintroducing the House Democrats immigration bill from 2014, fully funding the Vice President’s Central American plan and supporting the aggressive efforts by this Administration – and repeatedly blocked by the GOP – to make the deportation of dangerous criminals the highest priority of our immigration enforcement system.  Pro-reform advocates should stop playing defense now and go out and make it clear how we want to modernize and improve America's terribly broken immigration system. 

Polling/National Landscape – The GOP field saw changes last week: Trump’s lead increased across the nation and in the early primary states; Carson, as we predicted, has begun to fade; Cruz and Rubio are making meaningful gains. If current trends continue the GOP race could soon be a three way among Trump, Rubio and Cruz with a large group in the back of the field hanging on by their fingernails and not much else.

The Democratic side saw Hillary having another good week, appearing Presidential and competent in the days after Paris. Bernie Sanders, however, choose to go ahead and give a major address on “democratic socialism,” an act that seemed to reinforce both the liabilities and limitations of his spirited candidacy. What should be worrisome to the Democrats, however, is the initial hit in the polls Obama took this week. After what was the very best run he had had in almost three years in Gallup, the President lost 5 or so points in the last few days. It is a reminder to Democrats that while there is now great optimism about the revitalized Clinton campaign, the performance of the President over the next year will matter as much to 2016 as what she does. It will be important for the President to return from his foreign trip and take control of the substance and politics of this debate about how to best rid the world of the Islamic State and bring a better day to Syria and the broader Middle East.

"Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You find previous versions here

Mondays Musings on 2016: Clinton/Obama strong, Carson unraveling and a warning about Dems/2016

Obama, Clinton strong – polling last week found Hillary Clinton in firm command of the Democratic primary race, and in a far better position nationally. The respected NBC/WSJ poll found her ahead of most Republican contenders by 3-4 points. A month ago she was even or behind most Republicans in the national polls. So it is fair to say now that HRC has not only strengthened her position in recent weeks inside the Democratic primary, but also in the overall electorate.

We are also seeing a sustained improvement in the President’s numbers. In the Gallup daily track Obama’s job approval has been regularly up in the high 40s, the strongest run he has had since 2013. The NBC/WSJ poll also had Democratic Party ID ahead of the GOP’s by 6 points, 43/37, and Dem fav/unfav outpacing the GOP by 41/29 & 29/44.   All in all, one can now say a year out the Dems hold a slight but meaningful advantage in the race for the Presidency.  

A warning about 2016 however comes from a new poll by Stan Greenberg. His findings indicate that important elements of the Democratic coalition are far less enthusiastic about voting in 2016 than Republicans right now. This is an issue we’ve been warning about in our work to get the Dems to adopt a better debate schedule – the DNC is simply not using every tool in its toolbox to gets its coalition fired up about 2016, and the cost could be significant (as we saw in last week’s disappointing election showing by Democrats).

Carson unraveling? - The story on the GOP side here remains Trump, Carson, Cruz and Rubio, with Jeb staying alive, barely. The GOP gathers for its fourth primetime debate tomorrow night, one that will likely have as much impact on the race as its three recent debates. The Democrats gather this Saturday night in Iowa for their second debate. Barring some significant moment, it is likely not to have as much impact as other recent debates as far fewer people will be tuning in.

Ben Carson is in serious trouble. His campaign has been an unusual one from the beginning, but I think the recent revelations and his campaign’s amateurish response to them may just be the beginning of the end of this quixotic candidacy. Have no real opinion about what this means for the rest of the field, though it may be best for the non-Trumpians in the race, all of whom need more air time to advance their campaigns.

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post had an interesting piece last week on the irony of the two major GOP Hispanic candidates fighting to be the most "anti-amnesty" candidate in the GOP primary.  

"Monday Musings on 2016" is a new column looking at the broad political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You find previous versions here

Monday Musings: New GOP generation rising, still waiting for Rubio surge

So we are a year out from the 2016 elections. Where are we exactly? Not sure, but some observations:

A new GOP generation advances – The generational wheel took a significant turn this week with strong debate performances from Rubio and Cruz, and Paul Ryan’s ascension to the Speakership. The rise – and strength – of the 40something Gen X Republicans is becoming a significant event in American politics. While the Democrats may be winning the hearts and minds of an emerging America of the 21st century, the GOP may have short term advantages i having a new and better prepared “next” generation rising now, one aided by the incredible exposure the aggressive GOP debate schedule is offering them. Be sure to read more from me on this new GOP generation, one I’ve called the “children of Reagan.”

Clinton leads the Dems, still waiting for the Rubio surge– Not clear that the dynamics of the race have changed in the past week. Hillary continues to put impressive numbers across the board, and is seeing more of the Party leadership rally to her side. Bernie Sanders has gone up on the air in Iowa and New Hampshire, and is signaling that he has the resources and commitment to give Clinton a real challenge.

Nothing much appears to have changed on the GOP side, and for all the hype around Rubio, he is still way back in the back nationally and in the early states, has never polled regularly in double digits, and is not well funded. Roughly a third of the GOP electorate falls into the restrictionist anti-immigrant camp, and I remain skeptical these voters will fall in line behind a Rubio candidacy if he wins the nomination.  As of today four GOPers seem to have momentum - Trump, Carson, Rubio and Cruz - an odd lot for sure.  

Obama's job approval remains in a healthy place for Democrats in 2016, something we will be discussing more in future editions of MM. 

The debate over debates continues – The ongoing disquiet from almost all the candidates in both parties over the debates this fall highlight just how important these events have become in choosing our leaders. At its core GOP candidate concerns about the toughness of the debate questions coming from a TV network long associated with conservative politics – particularly when it is now clear that Rubio, Carson and Trump offered huge whoppers as responses – reinforces how new to the game many of these candidates are. But in each party’s debate over their debates important principles are being discussed now, and I remain concerned about the how little exposure the Democratic debate schedule is providing its candidates and future leaders this cycle.

Tally so far: 3 GOP debates, 60-62m viewers. 1 Dem debate, 16m viewers. Rs have debates scheduled on Tue Nov 10th and Tue Dec 15th. Next Dem debates are Sat Nov 14th and Sat Dec 19th. By year’s end Rs will have had 5 weekday primetime debates. Dems will have had 3 debates in total, w/only 1 during the week in primetime and 2 on Saturday nights, one of the least watched times in television. And as a reminder, there is NO evidence so far suggesting the more aggressive debate schedule is hurting GOP candidates.

"Forward, or Backward?" - The Descent of the GOP Into A Reactionary Mess

This is an English language version of an essay which originally appeared in the Mexico City-based, Spanish language journal, Letras Libres.  The Spanish version was translated from an earlier version of this essay, which I added to a bit for this version.  So it should be seen as a version of the Spanish original, and not a direct translation.  The Spanish version can be found here, and a pdf of this version can be found below.  Enjoy. 

President Barack Obama has attempted to frame the choice for Americans this year in a simple way – he will take the country forward, Mitt Romney will take it backward.  A simple construction, but a powerful one I think to understand the true nature of the 2012 American elections.    

As the people of Latin America well know the world, and our hemisphere, is in the midst of profound change. Described by the brilliant Fareed Zakaria as an era witnessing “the rise of the rest,” we are seeing a historically significant movement to market capitalism and democracy in virtually every part of the world.  An unprecedented global middle class is forming; trade flows are expanding; the internet and the mobile phone are connecting humanity as never before; a “youth bulge” in many developing nations offers both promise and great peril; ideological opponents of this post WWII inspired version of a nation state are weakening; and as we feel every day in our own lives, the velocity of this transformation seems to be only increasing.  

There can be little doubt that despite the remarkable progress made over the past generation across the globe, there are significant challenges remaining: tackling climate change, improving the way we provide skills to our workers and students in a more competitive global economy; state capitalism as seen in China and Russia and other nations; and a still unstable Middle East and Islamic world just to name a view.  But while significant challenges remain, there can be little doubt that humankind is going through perhaps it’s more remarkable and productive period on all of our history.  More people can do, contribute, and participate meaningfully in the life of their communities and nations than ever before.  What lies before us may be indeed a dark time, but my own sense is that we also may be entering – if we get things right – an unprecedented age of possibility for the people of the world. 

While this age holds great promise it has proven to be profoundly unsettling to the great architect of this age, the United States.  In the past decade and a half we have seen a President impeached; a contested Presidential election settled along partisan lines; high levels of electoral volatility; twelve years of no wage and income growth for American workers; dangerous levels of inequality; reckless foreign engagements which cost the nation extraordinary sums of money, global prestige and human capital; a Great Recession; a financial collapse; a burst housing bubble and one of the most devastating attacks ever on American soil.  It is hard to argue that America’s response to this first decade or so of this new century has been successful abroad or at home.

Additionally, these great global changes have manifested themselves in very particular ways in American society, which has magnified the sense of rapid and even unsettling change which is so much a condition of modern life across the world.  As perhaps the most technologically advanced nation on Earth, the transformation of our economy from industrial to digital has been perhaps more profound here than just about anywhere else.  One very direct impact of this has been the incredible speed in which remnants of the industrial age – companies, skills and schools, well known consumer brands, broadcast media – have been rendered obsolete and not yet fully replaced by their digital analogs. 

But perhaps most profound of these uniquely American changes is the way our people have changed.   Our demographic and racial history – the triumph of Europeans over Native Americans, and the subjugation of African slaves – is well known.  It produced a society dramatically unequal, where an overwhelming majority oppressed powerless minorities.  Any student of American history knows how significant the struggle over equality and racial integration has been, and by the early 1960s American had become a nation ninety percent of white European descent and about ten percent black and everything else. 

But this demographic and racially trajectory set on a very different course in the 1960s.  The Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s finally ended institutional segregation in America.  And one of the most important piece of legislation ever passed in America that no one has ever heard of – the immigration act of 1965 – had the effect of changing America’s immigration targets from white Europeans to Asians and Latin Americans. 

The net impact of both these changes is the most profound demographic and racial transformation of the people living on this land called America since the arrival of the Europeans in the late 15th century.  In the past 47 years, fueled by high levels of non-white immigration, America has gone from a 90 percent white/10 percent minority nation to one 65 percent white and 35 percent people of color.  Current estimates have the nation becoming majority non-white in 2040. 

Of course the central driver of this change is an historic wave of immigration from Mexico and Latin America into the US.  In 1965 there were 3 million Latinos in the US.  Today there are 45 million Latinos 15 percent of the US population, a group is they were their own country would be the second largest Latin country in the Americas (if we exempt Iberian Brazil).  There are now more Latinos in the US than African Americans, and people of Mexican descent make up a full ten percent – one out of ten – of the people who live in the US today.   This figure is expected to double by that magic crossover point in 2040, with Latinos making up fully 30 percent of the US population, or almost a third.

Additionally, the great baby boom generation, for so long the dominant driver of American culture, is aging, and yielding to a new generation, made up largely of their children, the Millennials.  This generation is the largest generation in US history and is beginning to enter the American electorate in very large numbers.  Its members have grown up in the world I have described – more global, more connected, more competitive more diverse and have had very direct experience the inadequate response offered by American leaders in the past decade.  America has in essence its own “youth bulge” and how this generation swings politically might just determine which party reigns for the next 30-40 years and much else about American culture. 

By any measure – our own youth bulge and this historic transition to a non-white America - is an extraordinary level of demographic and socio-economic change, one which should be expected to roil the traditional politics of a nation. 

It is the premise of this essay that American politics in 2012 can be best understood by examining the reaction of political parties, ideological movements and elected leaders to the vast changes – demographic, economic, geopolitical – roiling the world today.  

The Democrats have talked of “building a bridge to the 21st century,” moving America “forward,” and “pivoting to Asia.”  Both Presidents Clinton and Obama have put crafting an adequate response to globalization and our changing economy front and center in their politics.  The current Administration has struggled to free American foreign policy from a failed neo-conservative period and launched the most ambitious global trade process in a generation; is re-orienting US foreign policy towards Asia; has attempted to usher in a new era, slowly, with Cuba; seen relations and trade with our neighbor Mexico deepen as never before; and by embracing the aspirations of everyday people of the North African and Middle East, and through its Internet Freedom agenda, in other parts of the world, has begun, in fits and starts perhaps, to re-identify America with its liberal internationalist tradition which has done so much good for so many. 

The Democrats are also in the process of building a political coalition of the people of this new America.  In 2008, President Obama won two-thirds of both the Millennial vote and the Hispanic vote, margins which helped him win 53 percent of the national vote, the best showing for a Democrat in a Presidential election since 1964.  The Democratic coalition is young, diverse, growing and geographically spread out.  In 2008 it found its young modern black berry wielding, globetrotting, self described racial ‘Mutt,” Barack Obama, who was not just America’s first black President but clearly the first President of a 21st century America on track to have a non-white majority by 2040. 

The story of the Republican and conservative response to these great changes in American life has been a very different story.  A little history is in order here to explain.

The rise of modern American Conservatism was fueled by its response to the success of the Civil Rights era of the 1960s and the triumph of integration over segregation.   The Republicans, who had been out of power in the US since the early 1930s, adopted very direct appeals to whites unsure or uncomfortable of integration at the very core of their emergent politics.  Their political strategy was called the “Southern Strategy,” which sought to and successfully flipped the more racially intolerant South from the Democrats.  Their economic approach, low taxes, less government and accusing Democrats of “tax and spend” was a way to say Democrats were taking money away from “you” and giving it to the “them,” an undeserving class who of course happened to be black.  Their foreign policy – strong anti-Communism – was also fundamentally about exploiting fear – however appropriate - of a dangerous foreign threat. 

Lead by Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich, the Republicans used this new formula to break the hold of Democratic liberalism on the country, winning the Presidency in 1980 and finally ending sixty years of Democratic control of Congress in 1994.   Conservatism was indeed a highly successful political enterprise of the later part of the 20thcentury.  It unseated the Democrats; helped bring an end to communism abroad (though Democrats did their part in this too) and on domestic issues provided a needed corrective to a US liberalism which had perhaps lost its way after many decades in power.

But the historical context which created the conditions of this conservative ascendency began to be swept away by events.  Large waves of immigration dramatically increased the share of minorities in the American electorate, making the GOP’s core domestic offering, infused by exploitation of racial fear, much less appealing.  The end of Communism, the Clinton Administration’s aggressive championing of the liberalization of the global economy and the PC/Internet tech boom unleashed powerful new forces which have led to rising global competition, the “rise of the rest” and a very different global economic and geopolitical dynamic. 

As the world changed, and a new set of much less agile leaders took the reign of power, the Republican Party and its Reagan coalition has struggled to understand new realities and adapt.  President Bush simply didn’t understand the new emergent threat of non-state terrorism and left American unprepared for 9/11.  His economic policies, enormous tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and “de-regulation,” led to a housing collapse, rising inequality, slow job growth, declining incomes, a financial collapse and the Great Recession while offering no correction as conditions worsened.  And the development of the concept of "pre-emption" in foreign policy seems in hind sight to be particularly reactionary, a loud angry scream against “the rise of the rest” and the end of true post WWII American supremacy. 

While on immigration and integration George W. Bush was much more modern than his Party, by 2005 his more enlightened approach to immigration and the changing racial dynamic had been roundly rejected by mainstream Republicans.  In the fall of 2005, despite the President’s opposition, House Republicans passed a bill requiring the arrest, deportation and felonization of 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.  It was as many said at that time an invitation for all these new non-white arrivals “to go home,” and of course was among the most shameful pieces of legislation ever passed by the United States Congress in its history. 

What we didn’t know in 2009 after the departure of President Bush was whether the terrible outcomes of the Bush Presidency were due to his failures, or to a broader set of failures gripping the modern Republican Party.  The rise of the Tea Party in 2010, and the Romney campaigns embrace of Paul Ryan, an intellectual leader of a new and more reactionary right, has made it clear that this resistance and fear of modernity is now at the core of today’s Republican Party.  What animates and unites the right in 2012 is the simple call for smaller government and less taxes, an approach not dissimilar from the tax and spend arguments of previous decades.  The Romney/Ryan ticket has called for the elimination of all taxes on investment income, lower taxes for wealthy Americans and severe cuts in all programs benefitting the middle class and those striving to get there.  The only part of the government which would receive funding increases would be the Defense Department, even though today the US spends more on defense than every other nation on earth combined.  

Despite the very real threat of global climate change, the Romney energy plan calls for continued preference of development of dirty fossil fuels over cleaner forms of energy.  Romney remarkably moved his party far to the right on issues of race, embracing the nativist strategy of “self-deportation,” a position which had never been adopted by a mainstream Republican leader before.   And on foreign policy, the only issue he has really engaged on is Iran, calling for exactly what American did so unsuccessfully in Afghanistan and Iraq – a unilateral invasion by the United States, and in this case, Israel, with no real articulation of what would come after yet another US military action in the region. 

What I think has to be considered disturbing as opposed to just disappointing, however, is the growing mainstreaming of anti-democratic strategies by the right.  Many states with Republican legislatures have past new laws making it harder for people to vote, which will disproportionately affect the Democratic leaning younger and more diverse electorate.  New campaign laws advanced by Republicans now allow unlimited, unreported contributions to be used in elections, making the voice of a privileged few as powerful as the voices of millions of every day Americans.  The debt ceiling fight last summer was a tactic to avoid the normal legislative process to produce a budget and amounted to an elevated form of political blackmail. 

At the recent Republican Convention in Tampa, the words globalization, rising powers, rise of the rest, were not mentioned.  The audience in the hall was almost entirely white.  This was the second GOP Convention in a row steeped in nostalgia for an America long gone (and probably never there in the first place).  And this Convention, as was reported by many, was full of harsh, over the top criticisms – many inaccurate or false – of America’s current mixed-race President but while offering no solutions to the many problems facing America and the world today. 

In this election cycle the Republican’s angry war against modernity has escalated and appears to have become institutionalized.  It is almost as if the more the world moves away from the simplicity of the Reagan moment the more angry and defiant – and of course wrong – the Republican offering is becoming.  It is understandable, perhaps, but especially tragic, nonetheless. For at this moment the vast changes cascading across the world are bringing about a world of more potential and possibility than any time in human history.  There are more people alive today who have the life circumstances and education levels to add value to the human condition – in art, in medicine, in science, in sport, in commerce, in NGOs and government – than ever before. 

For leaders of what we call the center-left – the descendents of FDR, JFK, Clinton and now Obama – this moment is one of great political opportunity and arguably historic responsibility.  In a time of great change it is hard to conserve – for the things one is trying to hold to, as we see with the party of Romney – are being swept away by history’s rapid course.  It is a time for those in who believe in progress, the opposite of the conservative impulse, to assert themselves on the global stage.  To provide the type of prosperity and peace, and sense of possibility, that the world and our societies offer today is our great opportunity, and an opportunity which holds greater promise for mankind than ever before.  But it will only be achieved if we stay deeply grounded in new realities of this new century and show the courage to build a new politics for a new time and the new aspirations of people hungry for a better life. 

So in a very real sense the American election of 2012 is about “forward,” and “backward.”  And just like President Obama got this framing right, he is closer to getting the policy response right to the vast changes afoot in the world today than an aging and reactionary American right, which is why he appears headed towards re-election despite challenging times domestically and abroad.  It is indeed the great question of American politics now whether and when the Republican Party can modernize and adapt to the new realities of the 21st century, choosing forward over backward.  Doing so of course would be good for America, and for the world.   But how this happens and who leads them to this better place is still very hard to discern sitting in Washington, DC in the fall of 2012. 

- Simon Rosenberg

September 15, 2012

Washington DC

 

 

Obama praises Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes

 

Obama and FunesThis Monday, President Obama met with President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador to discuss trade, security, the environment - the three central elements of the administration's agenda for Latin America.  President Obama commended President Funes for taking bold steps to "break down political divisions within the country and move it forward with a spirit of progress" and for his "pragmatic and wise approach to the situation in Honduras".

In his remarks following the meeting, President Obama commented that the positive relations between the countries is partially due to the 2 million Salvadorians working in the United States and sending remittances back to their country, stating that the ties "provide an outstanding foundation for continuing cooperation" between the two countries." President Funes replied, stating the need to generate more jobs in El Salvador because when "people have better jobs, health, and education, they will be able to remain in [their] countries and have a better life." 

Obama also suggested interest in a multilateral project between the United States, Brazil, and El Salvador to pursue measures that would expand biofuels and energy development, which would benefit all three countries.  He also touched on regional security issues, primarily surrounding drug trafficking and gangs, emphasizing the commitment to be supportive not only in addressing the symptoms, but also the root causes of the issues.  The President closed by stressing that the relationship between the United States and El Salvador is one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, a sentiment echoed by President Funes in his remarks.

President Funes commended President Obama's new vision of how to deal with the hemisphere, and particularly Central America.  President Funes closed by saying that he hopes to have a strong alliance and strategic, equal partner in the United States.

 

 

Unpublished
n/a

538 Does a Takedown on Real Clear Politics

As many of you know I've been using the polling aggregate and maps of Real Clear Politics as my baseline.  A new and interesting site, 538, takes a very tough look at their performance in the last few weeks. 

Syndicate content