NDN Blog

NDN Endorses Clinton's Plan to Make Voting Easier

NDN endorses in the strong possible terms the speech and plan offered by Hillary Clinton yesterday to help renew our democracy and bring initial reforms to our political system.

Complaints about our “dysfunctional” democracy have become as common as laments about traffic or the weather in the US. Yesterday Hillary Clinton made it clear that she wasn’t going to accept the status quo and was making political reform and making it easier for every day Americans to participate in our democracy central to her campaign. Bravo! we say to that.

The issue of political reform – particularly ways to make our electoral system more democratic – has been a major issue for me and for NDN for many years. We were significant early funders of the Oregon vote by mail experiment which has now created a system with the highest participation rates in the country. We were among the earliest champions and advocates of the democratizing potential of the Internet, a new political tool that has allowed millions of Americans a far more meaningful way to participate in their democracy. When I ran for chairman of the Democratic Party in 2005, I made “making it easier for everyone to vote” one of the core tenets of my campaign, and I helped advise the DNC on their new efforts in this area last year. I also was the central architect of the plan which added a southern and southwestern state to the early primary window for the national Democratic party, a move, which implemented in 2008, allowed people of color to play a far more meaningful role in picking the Democratic nominee (and look what happened!).

In recent years we’ve aggressively advocated for the center-left to make these matters far more central to our work. We held a major forum on these issues at the Tisch School of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University a few years ago, and have published numerous studies and opinion pieces, a selection of which you can find below. Throughout all of this we have been guided by a simple belief that the center-left could not be a true champion of everyday people unless we helped imagine and build a 21st century political system that made it far easier for everyday people to participate in our democracy.

One thing my many years in politics has taught me is that Presidential primaries are a vital time for political parties and leaders to test out new thinking and new approaches. They are incredibly important for the renewal and regeneration of political leaders and the cultures of their parties. What we saw yesterday in this bold and ambitious speech by Hillary Clinton is that she understands that the single most powerful thing she can bring to 2016 is an inspiring argument for how to make our country better in the years ahead. And with this speech she is off to a great start.

For more from NDN on political reform, read these pieces:

"The Consent of the Governed," 12/17/14. This new analysis takes a look at whether, due to how fewAmericans are able to cast a meaningful vote in a Federal elections our electoral system, is still capable of conveying the “consent of the governed” to those in power in Washington.

"A Wake Up Call For Democrats - Simon's 2014 Post-Election Memo," 11/7/14. Republicans have made substantial gains in recent years, and are a much stronger national party. Democrats have a lot of work to do to compete and win against a resurgent GOP.

Leaving the Reagan Era Behind - Why Political Reform Matters for the Center-Left,” Simon Rosenberg,” NDN, 12/15/12. Some thoughts about the post-Sandy Hook shooting political environment, and the hard, tough struggles ahead necessary to usher in a new and better age of politics.

Has Congress Developed an Undemocratic Small State Bias?” 05/12/12. Ezra Klein referenced some recent research we published on what might be a creeping "small state" bias in Congress. Half of the country now lives in 9 states, the rest in the other 41 states.

Improving Our Democracy: Reforming The Electoral College,” 10/18/12. There may be no more important way to improve our democracy than to reform or eliminate the anachronistic Electoral College.

"The 50 Year Strategy: A New Progressive Era (No, Really!)," Mother Jones, 11/2007. The seminal long-form article by Simon and Peter Leyden which made the case that big changes in demography, media and technology and in the issues in front of the American people was opening a new and promising political age for the American center-left.

Wages Rising in the US

This new data, highlighted by Matt Yglesias of Vox, is extremely important to describing one of the greatest challenges of the modern political era: wage stagnation. After many years in which the wages of the median worker barely moved, over the past 12 months we are finally seeing substantial gains that will be felt in the pockets of many American families.

We will have much more to say on this topic, but note that this chart seems to accompany the decrease in the unemployment rate. That means in addition to outperforming their GOP counterparts, the Democratic Presidents creating more jobs and bringing down deficits, wages have grown in both the Clinton and Obama Eras. 

On FIFA, Fair Play and Our Global System Today

A few issues I’ve spent a lot of time writing about in the last few years have come together in a rather unexpected way these last few weeks. This is a bit of an early draft tying them all together, so indulge me a bit:

At the core of the President’s push for his Pacific trade agreement is an effort to modernize and extend today’s rules-based global trade system. This is a principal reason why I am so personally enthusiastic about TPP and potentially the European agreement to follow, TTIP. It is vital that America, the architect and guarantor of the global system over the past 70 years, take responsibility for updating and renewing this system for a new day.

As I’ve written elsewhere, I believe ensuring that this liberal system prevails in a time of great change and “the rise of the rest” to be the central project of center-left political leaders in the developed world over the next generation. This effort will manifest itself in many ways but today I want to focus on one country’s serial flouting of international conventions that will help illuminate why President Obama’s actions are so important. The country is Qatar.

Qatar has derived its enormous wealth from an illegal oil cartel that has held most of the world hostage for forty years. It has coddled some of the world’s most violent extremists central to the destabilization of the Middle East today. It has broken faith with global airline conventions, unfairly subsidizing its own state airline giving it a competitive leg up against European and American carriers. And perhaps most famously, it is now at the very center of the greatest public corruption scandal of our day, Sepp Blatter’s FIFA.  The farce of their securing the 2022 World Cup will remain the most enduring symbol of the epic corruption at the core of FIFA; that we know now that hundreds of virtual “slaves” have died in the early days of construction for the World Cup brings even greater shame to all those involved.

Many advocates have argued that we need to advance the President’s trade agenda to ensure that China doesn’t write the rules of the road of the next global order.  Along with others, however, I am frankly as concerned about the efforts of countries like Qatar and Russia to forge a far more Hobbesian system based on might and wealth rather than law, convention and “fair play.” As I’ve written elsewhere, bringing the petro-dictatorships of the Middle East and elsewhere into the rules-based global system remains one of the great unfinished projects of this era. The fall of FIFA will perhaps become a catalyst for a global conversation that is much more important than one about how we will manage football in the years ahead; it will become whether we want a world guided by liberal values or ones far more medieval.

Update: Appropriate that one of the world's most corrupt leaders, Vladamir Putin, has come to Blatter's defense.

Update (6/3): BuzzFeed News put out a major article that highlights the reaction in Qatar to the news that Sepp Blatter will step down, including that they have asked members of the host committee to stay off of US soil for fears of having them arrested.

Rob's Incomes Study Featured in Matt Bai Column

In his new column for Yahoo News, which does a deep dive into Rob Shapiro’s new study on incomes, influential journalist Matt Bai writes:"Shapiro's study is a remarkable analysis that refutes much of what we think we know about economic stagnation and inequality."
Intrigued? Well be sure to read the full study and Matt Bai's column to learn more. Rob’s new study is important and compelling work on perhaps the most important issue in American politics today.

I am really proud of Rob, this powerful new study and our decade long collaboration on these issues. For more on our work together, visit this post, which among other things, links to the Time Magazine piece which gave Rob and NDN credit for producing the “Most Important Chart in American Politics Today.” That story detailed the influence our economic work had on the Obama Administration as it prepared for the re-election campaign in 2012 and the impact we had on the UK Labour Party's thinking as well.

And a quick thank you to all our supporters. It is your funding over the years that has made this kind of critical analysis possible.

Investing More, Smarter in Our Infrastructure

This week, the House of Representatives passed another extension in a series of short-term patches for the Highway Trust Fund. With Senate consent money will continue to flow, but the continued short extensions continue to damage America’s long-term competitiveness. The lack of a long-term investment plan delays on-going projects and does not give policymakers the opportunity to positively shape America’s infrastructure future.

More than seven years ago, then NDN Fellow Michael Moynihan wrote a paper entitled, “Investing in Our Common Future: U.S. Infrastructure.” This 2007 piece holds up incredibly well and focuses on the history of U.S. investment as well as the challenges we face in the 21st century for pulling together the politic-will to fund many of these projects. Do note that this piece was written before the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (“Stimulus”) was passed in 2009 as well as the drastic budget cuts that followed after debt-ceiling negotiations in 2011. Still, many of the proposals Moynihan argues for have yet to see passage or implementation in federal policy as of May 2015.

An excerpt:

“It is not just a matter of finding the funds to invest in upgrading our nation’s infrastructure, although the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that raising America’s current overall infrastructure grade from a D to a B will cost $1.6 trillion. Just as important — if not more so — is restoring our national and political will to invest in a shared future. Each generation inherits a responsibility not only to maintain existing infrastructure but also to make the long-term investments vital to future economic growth. Today, with more wealth at America’s disposal than ever before, we are failing to make these commitments.

It was not always this way. Earlier generations faced far more pressing demands and found a way not only to sustain but also to expand the country’s roads, bridges, ports and schools. From groundbreaking investments such as universal education in the 19th century and the land grant schools that propelled advances in agriculture and technology, to the GI Bill that opened up college to working class Americans, to the National Highway System that connected a sprawling country, America has grown great on the strength of its national purpose. President John Kennedy’s pledge to send a man to the moon within a decade and our country’s success in doing so showed that America could lead the world in technology. And as recently as the 1990s, American leadership in developing information technologies and the Internet opened new markets and vistas for people everywhere. These investments were not inexpensive. But they paid for themselves many times over, creating the world’s wealthiest society.

Yet as we enter the 21st century, that sense of national purpose and pride, along with leadership in transportation, communications and education, all traditional hallmarks of American know-how, has diminished, as evidenced by our crumbling infrastructure. It is not a matter of whether we can afford the investments. Rather, it is a question of whether we can afford not to make them, given the key role that they play in economic growth and our nation’s daily life…”

You can read the rest of his paper here.

Please Thank These 13 Senators for Supporting the President on TPA

Yesterday, 13 Democratic Senators took a tough vote, stood with the President in doing the right thing for the nation and supported the bipartisan effort to pass trade promotion authority.

The 13 Senators who voted in favor of TPA were: Michael Bennet, Tom Carper, Chris Coons, Maria Cantwell, Dianne Feinstein, Heidi Heitkamp, Tim Kaine, Claire McCaskill, Patty Murray, Bill Nelson, Jeanne Shaheen, Mark Warner, and Ron Wyden.

We write to ask you to take a moment today to thank these Senators. There are many ways to do so, but the easiest is just call the Senate switchboard at 202 224-3121, ask to speak to their office and then let their receptionist know that you are grateful for their courage and support of the President’s trade agenda. I will be doing that today and more. I hope you will join me.

For more on NDN’s work in support of the President’s trade agenda, including my op-ed, “An Enduring Legacy: The Democratic Party and Free and Open Trade” visit here.

Simon Rosenberg Statement on Today's TPA Vote

I hope that the Senate leadership can find a way to get to 60 votes this afternoon to keep TPA moving through Congress. The TPA Senators Wyden and Hatch negotiated is a strong bi-partisan improvement from similar bills that have come before, and it is in the national interest of the United States to see it passed.

But the struggle to find the votes is also a warning for the Republicans in Congress. They can do this with Democrats or to Democrats. Given how many trade votes are in front of us over the next few years – TPA, TPP, TTIP, AGOA at the very least – it would smart for this process to be bi-partisan and respectful from the outset. The stakes are too high for the Republicans to try to jam these things through, causing loss of Democratic votes and the collapse of what little bi-partisanship there is on these matters to date. Wyden and Hatch got this off to a good start – Republican leaders need to keep this momentum moving forward by working respectfully with the Democrats in both the Senate and House.

- Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN/New Policy Institute

Backgrounder: Keeping the Internet Open and Free

For almost a decade NDN has been advancing the idea that the US governement needs to do more to ensure that the Internet stays open and free in an era of great opportunity and challenge.  As Congress takes up the issue of Internet governance this week, we wanted to share with you some of the highlights of our work in this area over the years: 

  • "The Digital Economy and Trade: A 21st Century Leadership Imperative," USTR's Amb. Robert Holleyman II, May 1, 2015. In an important policy speech at NDN, Deputy USTR Holleyman laid out the Obama Administration's negotiating principles for its 21st century trade agreements, and focused on the future of the Internet. 
  • Who Controls the Future of the Internet? Simon Rosenberg, February 6, 2015, US News & World Report. Getting the IANA transfer right is one of the most important things our government will do in 2015, and will be a test of our system.
  • Fighting to Keep The Internet Open and Free, October 18th, 2014 Jonathan Spalter and Simon Rosenberg, The Hill. Simon and Jon Spalter offer up a whole of government approach to keeping the Internet open and free in the years ahead. 
  • The Liberal Order Needs An Upgrade, September 23rd, 2014, U.S. News. Like an old building needing an upgrade, the liberal international order, now almost 70 years old, needs to go through a period of renewal and reform.  
  • Video: The Age of Possibility,  April 29th, 2011, Tisch College, Tufts University. Simon Rosenberg explores the notion that we are entering an era of unprecedented opportunity and possibility, and that more is possible today for the people of the world than ever before
  • A Laptop in Every Backpack, Simon Rosenberg and Alec Ross, NDN, May 1st, 2007. In a prescient paper, Simon and Alec argue for that America needs to put a laptop in every backpack of every child. This paper contains one of the earliest articulations of what became Secretary Clinton's "Internet Freedom" agenda. 

Op-Ed: Time for Congress to Embrace the Clean Power Plan

This article originally appeared in the Hill on May 7, 2015.  


In the early days of the 2016 race, climate change is already emerging as a divisive issue: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) argues that the science on climate change isn’t in. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose state is at great risk from rising sea levels, claims to not be a scientist to avoid culpability on the issue. Hillary Clinton wants to protect the Obama administration’s efforts on climate, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) believes they haven’t gone far enough. Meanwhile in Congress, Republican lawmakers have been busy attacking the EPA’s proposed new rules that aim to reduce U.S. carbon emissions—the Clean Power Plan. Instead of working to destabilize and nullify the plan, Congress should embrace the opportunity and help states prepare.

The Clean Power Plan aims to encourage innovation by allowing states to meet carbon reduction targets through various means, including by increasing energy efficiency; investing more in states’ clean energy portfolio; switching from higher carbon emitting power sources to lower-emitters like natural gas; upgrading infrastructure on older power plants to reduce emissions; and incentivizing collaboration between states to develop further reduction plans. This plan would make up the core of the Obama administration’s efforts to cut carbon emissions by 26 – 28 percent by 2025.

Congress should throw its support behind the EPA’s flexible, market-based climate proposal, as there are many convincing reasons to back the rules. The Clean Power Plan encourages states to invest in growing renewable energy industries, and implementing the plan will show America is a serious player on the international stage. Moreover, voters have been shown to support large-scale efforts to mitigate climate change.

According to a new ABC News poll, 59 percent of Americans want the next president to be one who favors government action to address climate change. 72 percent of Americans who are likely to vote in 2016 support an international agreement to cut greenhouse gases. Another recent poll from Stanford University dispels the myth that Republicans do not support fighting climate change: 48 percent of Republicans polled would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change, and 71 percent of those polled believe that failing to reduce carbon emissions will be an enormous problem in the long run. Among young voters, the causes of climate change are a settled issue. In addition, Americans across the political spectrum are very supportive of clean energy sources like solar, wind, and natural gas that could blunt harsher climate change. Congress should heed these voices when considering their stance on the new regulations.

Beyond being a solution to a problem many voters are worried about, the Clean Power Plan also offers states an opportunity to tap into a growing and exciting industry. While clean energy is no panacea, it creates new jobs, has the potential to bring cheaper energy prices, and has a smaller impact on the environment. Solar panel installations were at a record high in 2014 of 6.2 gigawatts, and look to be growing in the years ahead. The job market for solar has grown by 86 percent over the past five years to about 174,000 workers and could grow to over 210,000 at the end of 2015. Wind energy growth has been strong over the past decade, and is the largest non-hydro renewable generator of electricity. Over the past ten years, the costs of wind and solar have fallen greatly, and they are now more competitive with traditional forms of energy. A recent report by the NRDC also predicts the Clean Power Plan could result in 224,000 jobs by 2020.

Implementing the Clean Power Plan also allows America to re-claim its mantel of climate leadership on the international stage. After the U.S. failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the Obama Administration has put the U.S. back in the driver’s seat. The Clean Power Plan nicely compliments America’s 2014 bilateral agreement with China, which constrained their future carbon emissions for the first time, and the Obama Administration’s pledge to cut carbon emissions from the federal government by 40 percent by 2025. These moves in tandem show aggressive leadership and give the U.S. international credibility in the lead up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris this December. We are in a better position to hold other countries accountable in submitting their carbon emission reduction plans, and more importantly live up to our own commitments over the next decade and onwards.

The Clean Power Plan is a strong framework that paves the way for further investment in clean energy, will improve standing abroad, reduce carbon emissions, and help solve a problem that many voters deem alarming. Instead of re-litigating old battles, Congress and our next president should embrace this opportunity to invest in the future of America’s energy economy.

The GOP's Hispanic Problem - The Hole is Very Deep

While it is conceivable that the GOP could nominate or place on the ticket a candidate who could do well with Hispanics in 2016 (Bush, Sandoval, Martinez, Rubio), the GOP starts out 2016 in a very deep hole that will be hard if not impossible to climb out of.

In the 2006 cycle the national GOP, led by the House GOP, rejected the more modern Bush approach to Hispanic voters, and firmly embraced a more vigorous anti-immigrant stance. In the 2006 mid-terms Hispanic voters fled the GOP, giving Democrats a 70/30 advantage, or about the same 2:1 margin Barack Obama got in each of the last two general elections. This is a long way from 40% President Bush received in 2004, a margin essential to his very narrow victory.

As the number of the Hispanics in the electorate increases every year this 2:1 structural advantage for Democrats becomes far more pernicious for the GOP every cycle, producing ever larger Democratic margins – in other words the GOP hole gets deeper every four years even if Democrats just maintain their current advantage.

Bush pollster Matthew Dowd once famously said that the GOP can no longer prevail in national elections without getting 40% of the Hispanic vote. In 2012, Mitt Romney received 27% - a pre Bush margin for the GOP. All the gains in image and performance we saw for the GOP in the Bush years had been washed away by 2012 in part due to the GOP’s embrace of the "self-deportation" approach, or the simple idea that their solution for the 11m undocumented immigrants living and working among us was for them to leave.

So while there are large structural barriers to the GOP becoming competitive again with Hispanics in Presidential cycles, it is my own belief that the issue and cultural barriers are perhaps greater today than they have ever been in the modern era of American politics. It isn’t only that that the anti-immigrant forces in the have prevailed in the GOP’s internal struggles and blocked comprehensive immigration reform for a decade now; it is isn’t only that they voted affirmatively to accelerate the deportation of the kids at the border last summer or deport DREAMers, targeting not just undocumented immigrants but innocent children; it isn’t only that they voted repeatedly to reinstate the threat of imminent deportation over all 11m that had been lifted in 2010 due to a reform in the deportation policies of DHS; and it isn’t only that they are fighting tooth and nail the most recent DAPA reforms from President Obama that would provide deportation relief and work permits for 5m long settled immigrant families. Taken together, all of these steps represent a dramatic escalation of the GOP’s anti-immigrant impulses, putting them in an even more extreme place than the extreme self-deportation stance Romney took in 2012.

And as bad as all of that is what makes the GOP’s task even more daunting are the extreme positions they’ve taken on the other three big issues most struggling Hispanic families care most about – the economy, health care and education. Paul Ryan’s budget guts federal spending on public education. Repealing Obamacare denies health insurance to tens of millions of Hispanics, the demographic group who will benefit the most from the full implementation of the ACA (impossible to overstate the significance of this in 2016). The contrast of the performance of the economy under recent Republican and Democratic Presidents has become very stark as no demographic group made stronger economic gains in the US last year than Hispanics, and it is just a fact that under Clinton and Obama things have gotten much better for Hispanics, and under Bush much worse. The GOP has repeatedly fought raising the minimum wage, something very important to Hispanic workers in the US.

And even look at Cuba policy, something that could very easily become a powerful surrogate for the broader acceptance of Latin America and its peoples by the US and Americans. Rubio and Bush have doubled down on an anachronistic policy that is deeply unpopular in the US, in Cuba, throughout Latin America and even in Florida. The more nuanced and welcoming Obama stance on Cuba has played well in Florida, helping give the Democrats a majority of the Cuban-American vote in 2012. New polls out in the last few weeks show that a majority of Cuban-Americans back the President’s most recent diplomatic opening. The Bush/Rubio position on Cuba is a political dead end, and it will make it harder for them to reach the rest of the Hispanic population – something that was not the case in the W Bush era.

In my thirteen years studying the Hispanic vote, the issue contrast between Democrats and Republicans on the issues Hispanics care about most has never been greater or more potentially dangerous for the GOP. And the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, is well regarded among Hispanics and will run a well-funded and competent campaign. She starts with a strong personal and family standing, among the strongest of any Democrat in the modern era; with a large, significant and growing structural electoral advantage; and I would argue a structural issue advantage far more favorable for the Democrats than in any time in the modern era. So while it is possible that a Bush or a Sandoval could help the GOP limb a bit out this enormous political hole dug by other Republicans in recent years, it is my belief that today is far far more likely that Hillary Clinton gets to 70% percent with Hispanics and puts the election away than it is any GOPer makes the Republican ticket competitive again with this fast growing and vital vote in 2016. The hole is just too deep, the likely Democratic nominee is just too strong, and the potential GOP field just not compelling enough to make the difference.


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