Yesterday, in the first of a series of Virtual Town Halls, MoveOn.org members had a chance to ask questions of sevent leading Democratic candidates for the Presidency - Republicans were invited too, but none elected to participate. This Virtual Town Hall series is another example of the success progressives are having in using new tools to break down traditional barriers and allow for more and better communication between candidates and voters. You can watch all the video here, and below is one clip that illustriates both the quality of the questions submitted by members and the candor candidates are capable of in this environment.
"When economic policies are built on the four pillars of prosperity, economic growth, upward mobility and more efficient government are the result ... Fiscally conservative leadership will help restore the confidence of our shareholders: the American people."
For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.
The NYTimes offers a smart look at the immigration debate today with an editorial, Bush On the Border:
President Bush went to the Mexico border in Arizona on Monday and showed once again that immigration is an issue he understands. He said America suffers from a system that exploits people who come to do jobs that citizens won’t do. He said the country needed “a practical answer” that promotes an orderly flow of legal immigrants, eases pressure at the border and opens a path to citizenship for the hidden 12 million who keep our economy humming. And he urged Congress to find that answer through a “serious, civil and conclusive debate.”
It was good that Mr. Bush made these points, as he periodically does. But there was a dissonance in his speech, because it came only two weeks after he and a group of Senate Republicans circulated a list of “first principles” about immigration that amounted to a huge step backward for efforts to fix a broken system in a reasonable, humane way.
It proposed new conditions on immigrant labor so punitive and extreme that they amounted to a radical rethinking of immigration — not as an expression of the nation’s ideals and an integral source of its vitality and character, but as a strictly contractual phenomenon designed to extract cheap labor from an unwelcome underclass.
New immigrant workers and those already here would all be treated as itinerant laborers. They could renew their visas, but only by paying extortionate fees and fines. There would be a path to legal status, but one so costly and long that it is essentially a mirage: by some estimates, a family of five could pay more than $64,000 and wait up to 25 years before any member could even apply for a green card. Other families would be torn apart; new workers and those who legalize themselves would have no right to sponsor relatives to join them.
In a country that views immigrants as its lifeblood and cherishes the unity of families, the Republican talking points were remarkable for their chill of nativism and exploitation. They were also unrealistic. The hurdles would create huge impediments to hiring and keeping a stable work force, while pushing the illegal economy deeper underground.
The thrust of Mr. Bush’s speech leaves little room for a vision as crabbed and inhumane as the one he and his party have circulated. It’s hard to tell whether his plainspoken eloquence in Yuma was meant to distance himself from those earlier and benighted talking points, or whether he has simply been talking out of both sides of his mouth.
Mr. Bush should clear up the confusion. He should reaffirm the importance of family-based immigration and of an achievable path to citizenship for those willing, as he put it, “to pay their debt to society and demonstrate the character that makes a good citizen.”
Clarity and forcefulness from Mr. Bush are important because the prospects for a good immigration bill this year are so uncertain. The Senate plans to take up the issue next month, but there is no bill yet, and the talking-points memo shows the debate drifting to the hard right. Edward Kennedy, the Senate’s most stalwart advocate of comprehensive reform, has been left in the lurch as the Republican presidential hopefuls John McCain and Sam Brownback have run away from sensible positions to court hard-line voters. A decent bipartisan House bill, sponsored by Representatives Jeff Flake and Luis Gutierrez, may not get the hearing it deserves.
Mr. Bush made a strong case for comprehensive reform on Monday. He should keep it up — publicly and forthrightly, as he did this week, and forget about backroom negotiations that produce harsh political manifestoes to appease hard-liners.
There is so much energy and passion on the progressive side of politics these days. I think this period will be seen as a time of dramatic reinvention of the progressive movement. A time when entrepreneurs, bloggers, regular old people and elected leaders re-imagined what progressive politics could become, and went out and made it happen. It is as if a whole industry is being born right in front of our eyes.
Consider for a moment that our largest think tank, CAP, our most influential advocacy organzation, MoveOn, our most influential and widely read blog, DailyKos and our most exciting new candidate, Barack Obama all are very new to the scene. And in each case these new players are not just influential but are reinventing the very form and space in which they are operating, making them all very 21st century versions of what had come before.
And the list keeps going. Huffington Post. Media Matters. America Votes. Air America. Dozens of other blogs. Brave New Films. PoliticsTV. Drinking Liberally. Democracy Journal. The Blue Fund...
Remarkably, it feels as if this pace of innovation, the velocity if you will, is accelerating. Look at MoveOn's Presidential TownHall. The way the Presidentials are using internet videos, the explosion of politics on social networking sites and YouTube. Hillary's innovative Hillcasts. That the Democratic Presidential candidates outraised their Republican opponents by 50% - 50%!!!!! - in the first quarter. The way all the states are moving up their primaries. All of this is being driven by this incredible rise of energy and passion in our politics right now. People see this as a consequential time, a time to stand and be counted. They want to get in the game - give, blog or read a blog, sign up on Facebook, watch a video on YouTube, volunteer locally, vote.
Perhaps the most dramatic example of this new era of passion on our side is what is happening with Barack Obama's campaign. It took Howard Dean, using the new tools of his day, 6 months to sign up 160,000 people on his web site. Obama had 100,000 donate to his campaign in just ten weeks, and perhaps as many as another 500,000 people sign up on various social networking sites. It is reasonable to assume that by the end of the 2nd quarter he will have a million people in his network, and perhaps 2-3 million by year's end. Having this many people participating in a political campaign requires a re-imagining of what a political campaign is. These folks are looking for assignments. They aren't content with sitting on the sidelines. How do you run a campaign every day where you have millions of people on your team and not just 200 people in a headquarters?
We are about to find out.
As we are living in the moment it may be hard to see the transformation that is happening all around us. But there should be no question any longer that progressives are undergoing a period of dramatic and powerful reinvention, one fueled by the new politics of the early 21st century, but more than anything else one fueled by this powerful sense in the American people that this is a time to stand up and be counted, a time to fight for the country we love and the values we hold dear. I for one am happy to have so many people joining this battle to create an America of the 21st century as great, and good, as the America of the 20th.
NDN needs your help to update our agenda. We'll be working on each section in the weeks leading up to our Annual Meeting May 21-22 in Washington, DC. You can read the current version below or on our website. Share your ideas by commenting on the bottom of the post or by email. We'll incorporate your ideas in the updated agenda that we'll be rolling-out at this years annual meeting. Come back often to join in as we work on individual sections of the agenda in the weeks ahead.
For over two hundred years America has led the world on a steady march of progress. Across the globe we've helped bring peace, freedom and prosperity to more people than at any time in world history. At home, brick by brick, we've built a society that gives every new generation a greater chance at the American dream and has built the most remarkable middle class the world has ever seen. America has become more than a country, it has become an idea – of a self-governed democracy, committed to liberty, capitalism, free trade, peace and the "pursuit of happiness" – a powerful beacon of hope and light that has inspired many in what has too often been a dark and dangerous world.
Despite America's unparalleled success in recent decades in moving the world towards greater peace and prosperity, conservatives in Washington today seem intent on taking us down a different path. Their governing agenda has taken a sharp turn to the reckless right, offering an economic strategy ill-suited for the challenges we face, a foreign policy too belligerent and too ineffective, and a style of governing too arrogant and corrupt for our proud democracy. Their approach has not only failed to yield the results they've promised, but has endangered America's leadership in the world and broad-based prosperity at home in ways that will take many years to repair.
NDN believes we can, and must, restore the promise of America. We must work together to offer a new, optimistic, clear, achievable governing agenda that strongly affirms the common purpose of progressive politics, and brings along Democrats, Independents, and disaffected Republicans in a sustaining majority coalition committed to ensuring that the world we leave for our children is a better one than has been left for us.
It is in this spirit that in 2003, working with hundreds of allies from across the country, NDN proposed A Commitment to Hope and Progress: NDN's Agenda for the First Decade of the 21st Century. This annually updated Agenda serves as the basis for all of NDN's advocacy work.
If you share our concern that this bright light that has inspired the world is in danger of dimming, then join us. Join our network. Fight for these priorities – and against those reckless proposals that would undermine them. Use these Agenda items to spark a conversation and offer up suggestions of your own. But take action. For centuries the idea of America – the idea of hope and progress – has inspired millions to stand and be counted. Stand today, with us, and be part of this effort to restore the promise of America.
NDN's Agenda for Hope and Progress
1. Meet the Challenges of the 21st Century Global Economy: Enact a 21st century economic strategy that will help all Americans succeed in the global economy and create broad-based prosperity and opportunity; restore fiscal responsibility and genuine progressivity in the tax code; champion free and fair trade; ensure the integrity and vitality of America’s capital markets and the U.S. dollar; promote entrepreneurship, innovation and broad access to capital; update national telecommunications policy to foster universal broadband; enact a new national energy strategy; raise the minimum wage; prepare for the retirement of the baby boom; and protect and promote the retirement security of all Americans.
2. Assert Responsible Global Leadership: Win the war on terrorism and end international conflicts that threaten our interests and values; foster security and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan; ensure that America's military is the strongest, most agile, and best equipped in the world and our nation honors the service of our veterans; combat AIDS and other pandemics that threaten global stability; and work together with our allies and international organizations to advance democracy, human rights, liberty, free markets, opportunities for women, and rising standards of living across the world.
3. Protect the Homeland: Implement a comprehensive homeland security strategy; improve our nation's counter terrorism intelligence capabilities and performance; ensure that those on the frontlines have the very best tools, training and support to protect our communities; secure our nation's borders and ports without impeding the free flow of goods and people; and fight to protect the civil liberties for all Americans that have long been the envy of the world.
4. Strengthen Families and Communities: Put families, children and communities at the very center of our agenda by improving the nation's schools through higher standards, greater accountability, more choices for parents, quality teachers, and promised additional resources; fostering family friendly policies that help parents succeed at work and at home; expanding college opportunities; promoting safe neighborhoods, home ownership, and personal responsibility; keeping abortion safe, legal, and rare; embracing legal immigrants seeking a better life in America; developing an improved path to citizenship; and striving towards equal opportunity for all.
5. Modernize Our Health Care System: Increase access to quality and affordable healthcare; address the rapid rise of healthcare costs; ensure the solvency and effectiveness of Medicare and Medicaid; and invest in and encourage the extraordinary promise of the knowledge revolution in science and medical care.
6. Respect Our Natural Heritage and Move Towards Energy Independence: Fight for clean air, land, and water; combat global warming; strive for energy independence through improved efficiency, greater production here at home, and investment in renewable energy sources; and preserve our national resources so that they are available not only for the recreational uses so important to our quality of life, but also for those future generations of Americans to whom we owe our greatest responsibility.
7. Restoring our Democracy: Foster engagement in our democracy and civic life by making it easier to register and vote, ensuring all can have a voice in the national debate, and promoting civic education along with an ethic of political participation and national service.
Tonight MoveOn attempts a rather remarkable thing - a virtual townhall meeting with the Democratic Presidential candidates. You can participate or learn more at www.moveon.org.
Additionally, the Boston Globe's Rick Klein has a must read piece on the meaning of the Democratic Presidential candidates huge 1st quarter fundraising advantage. It starts:
WASHINGTON -- Democrats appear to have erased the decades-long Republican edge in campaign fund-raising, building a network of well-off donors that rivals that of the GOP -- and that recently has generated more cash.
In dwarfing the sums raised by Republicans in the first three months of this year, Democratic presidential candidates capitalized on growing support from upper-income professionals. While higher-earning households overwhelmingly favored Republicans as recently as the start of President Bush's first term, the gap has narrowed to 4 percentage points among voters with annual household incomes of more than $100,000, according to the Pew Research Center's latest polls.
Democrats' recent fund-raising success challenges the traditional assumption of the Republican Party enjoying a reliable financial advantage -- and points to the outlines of a new Democratic coalition that could change the nation's political dynamics in 2008 and beyond, according to campaign finance specialists.
"It's a whole new world," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant who was a top adviser to Vice President Al Gore, who was out spent by more than $65 million by Bush in the 2000 election. "To call it revolutionary is not a stretch. It is a game-changer."
The shift leaves Democrats confident that for the foreseeable future they will be able to compete dollar-for-dollar with Republicans, after decades of expecting to be outspent. By reaching a new crop of contributors -- largely through the Internet -- Democrats have tapped into a potentially powerful army of higher-income and better-educated voters who are increasingly aligning themselves with Democratic values, according to polls and demographic data.
As recently as 2002, 45 percent of voters with annual household incomes of more than $100,000 identified themselves as Republicans, while just 28 percent said they were Democrats, Pew polls found. But Pew's 2007 polling shows that gap closing to a 33-29 GOP advantage, with most former Republicans now calling themselves independents.
Just as working-class voters have been drawn to the GOP because of the party's emphasis on traditional values, many higher-income, higher-educated voters who once favored Republicans over tax policy have been moving toward the Democrats because of more liberal stands on social issues and a more internationalist perspective on foreign policy.
Those trends powered voting shifts toward Democrats in the suburbs in last year's congressional elections, where widespread dissatisfaction with the Iraq war and the Bush administration gave Democrats control of Congress for the first time in a dozen years.
"We're going through a period of transformational change," said Alan Solomont , a veteran Boston-based Democratic fund-raiser who is working on the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. "Business folks -- not ideologues, but entrepreneurs, new economy workers, venture capitalists -- are [looking at Republicans and] saying, 'This is not how I want my government represented around the world.' "
Throughout recent history, Republicans have been able to count on greater financial resources than Democrats, with an immense fund-raising operation that relied on big business and wealthy individual backers. Many observers predicted that the gap would grow wider in the wake of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform act, since Democrats had long relied on labor unions' unlimited "soft money" donations, which the 2002 law banned.
But Democrat John F. Kerry surpassed fund-raising expectations in his 2004 presidential campaign, bringing in $253.9 million, just $38 million less than President Bush, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Democrats built on that trend in last year's mid-term congressional elections, with the party's House and Senate campaign committees pulling to within $7 million of their Republican counterparts.
In the first three months of this year, Democratic presidential candidates blew past Republicans, raising a total of $78 million compared to only $52 million for Republicans. Two Democrats -- Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton of New York -- surpassed $25 million apiece; the leading Republican fund-raiser -- former governor Mitt Romney -- hauled in $23 million.
"Clearly we've had more success with people who named themselves independents and moderate Republicans," said Hassan Nemazee , a New York-based fund-raiser for Clinton and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "We're able to pick into areas where we haven't been able to in the past."
On one level, the tremendous amount of cash flowing to Democrats is a measure of Democratic excitement about 2008. Energy translates into campaign dollars, particularly with online tools making political donations the equivalent of civic activism.
While much credit is given to the Democrats' extensive efforts to use the Internet to raise money, no fund-raising tool can be effective unless potential donors have the resources to give to a party or cause. There, Democrats are encountering a political landscape that is vastly different than it was just two years ago, when some conservatives boasted of building a permanent Republican majority in the United States...
Earlier today I released the following statement to the media:
"In this time of deep partisanship in Washington, there has been one issue on which the President, Senator McCain, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, the Catholic Church, the Chamber of Commerce, numerous labor unions and many other grassroots groups were able to find common cause and work together: the McCain-Kennedy approach to comprehensive immigration reform that passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support in 2006.
Based on various news accounts, the President and his Party appear to be walking away from this broad and deep coalition, abandoning a smart, tough and sensible approach to immigration reform. Floating a brand new approach to immigration reform, the President and his Party have stepped backward and devised a new path that will do much more to please their partisans than solve this important problem.
We hope that on this vital national issue of immigration, the President doesn't follow the lead of his Party, but rather leads it and the nation to a comprehensive solution this year. While his speech today was one we welcome, the President needs to publicly distance himself from the plan being floated by Senate Republican leaders, and say right now that he intends to pick up where we left off in 2006 - with the McCain-Kennedy approach that has already passed the Republican-controlled Senate. Anything less will show that the President, despite his passionate rhetoric today, is simply not serious about passing comprehensive immigration reform this year.
Years of work went into crafting the McCain-Kennedy approach. It has made great progress through Congress. It has a deep and broad coalition behind it. Democratic Congressional leaders in both chambers have made it clear that passing this bill this year is a very high priority (see video from our recent event with leaders from both chambers reiterating their support). The new and flawed Republican approach being floated will unravel this coalition, and deal a severe blow to those hoping to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.
The Republicans lost power in 2006 because their government did not produce the results it had promised and had left many important challenges unmet. At NDN, we believe the American people sent a clear message to Washington to stop playing politics and start focusing on solving a daunting set of 21st century challenges. On this issue of immigration reform, once again the Republicans seem to be on the verge of listening more to their partisans than the American people, and are in the process of walking away from a good and sensible bipartisan solution to a difficult national challenge."
The bar just keeps getting higher when it comes to all the innovative ways new tools are being used in politics, and now, government. I’m referring to two very recent developments where average people are given opportunities to contribute their own ideas on what to do about issues for a candidate, and for a sitting governor.
The first is Obama’s new feature on his campaign website where he gives people the opportunity to submit their ideas about what to do about the national health care problem. The ideas, and the supportive contributions, can take many forms: a written idea blurb, a written personal story, a video that sheds light on the issue, or a recorded audio message that people can make with any computer with a microphone, which is most decent ones. The audio contribution was something I had not seen done before. But taken all together, the package opportunity is different too.
This appears to be just the beginning of many other tool rollouts for Obama. Healthcare is just the first issues of many that will soon appear but also the website indicates that there will be opportunities to collaborate in other ways too. Collaboration, after all, is the essence of the new power of what is called Web 2.0.
Then there’s Deval Patrick’s morphed campaign site. The new governor of Massachusetts, who rode the new tools and much bottom-up energy to his election victory, is now trying to harness them in governing. His nascent attempt gives residents a chance to propose and support issues that the governor should take up and try to enact.
It’s very early days in both these efforts, but they are telegraphing a trend that is bound to pick up steam in the months ahead. If this country is truly going to take on the new challenges of the 21st century in effective ways, then people in politics will need to tap into the creativity and brainpower of millions of Americans who have been shut out of politics and governing – until now.
I released the following statement to the media earlier today:
"Today’s announcement by Barack Obama that he has raised $25 million shows that Democrats are clearly ahead of Republicans in adapting to the new opportunities and realities of 21st century American politics.
It appears that the collective Democratic field has raised about 50 percent more than the collective Republican field. When the official FEC filings come out next week, there is little doubt that Democrats will far exceed Republicans in the number of people who have donated as well.
No matter how you measure it - money raised, sign-ups on social networking sites, people at events, downloads on YouTube and of course as the recent Pew poll showed, party identification - Democrats are structurally ahead of the Republicans in mastering the new politics of the 21st century.
The 100 dollar revolution that started in 2003 continues to radically change American politics. A combination of more states voting earlier in the primary process and an acceleration of the adoption of new tools that are making it easier for people to participate in politics will mean that by late February of 2008, tens of millions of Americans will have voted, donated, volunteered, blogged, signed up or taken some sort of action on behalf of a candidate.
There also should be little doubt that effectively managing and tapping into the new prominence of average people in our 21st century politics is going to be one of the most critical tests of our political leaders.
Another measure of how Democrats are better adapting to the new realities of the 21st century is the historic diversity of the Democratic Presidential field: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, and Joe Biden look like the diverse America of the 21st century."
Social networking is going to play a big role in the politics of this cycle, but I think having a primary on MySpace might be going a bit far. We’ll see.
The MySpace primary seems to me to be gimmicky at this point, and I hope that does not turn off political people from the idea that social networking tools can be a powerful way to do what politics has always been about – connecting up people and their “social networks” of family and friends behind a campaign or candidate.
I made that point in an interview I did today around the breaking news. Separate the importance of social networking from the potential relevance of the MySpace primary. They should be evaluated on their own terms as two separate things.
There is no question that social networking will be big in politics – not the least because it is a critical medium to reach the Millennial Generation, that increasingly important young constituency.
There are a lot of questions about how a MySpace primary will fare in a real-world primary world. But you never know. I could be wrong….