NDN Blog

The Election Reviewed (Again) in Progress Magazine

At the risk of truly outstaying my welcome, and in once again foisting upon NDN's readers more articles in British magazines that they don't care about, i have just written the cover story for Progress, a British magazine associated with the Labour party. It is the magazine of an organization, also called Progress, which is basically the UK equivalent of NDN. And - look! - it has a sad picture of Bush on the cover. Awwww.

Anyhow, its a general overview of the recent campaign. It also includes some amateur musings on the road into 2008. The usual caveat about this not being NDN's official view is to be seen there in big letters. Anyway, this is how the piece begins:

Following their mid-term success, are the Democrats on course to win the White House in 2008?

At his post-election press conference President George W Bush told it like it was. The American people had just handed him, and his party, ‘a thumpin’’. Some days later, Karl Rove demurred. If 77,611 Americans had voted differently, the Republicans would have held on to their majority in the House of Representatives. The 2006 Congressional elections were, he mused, ‘more of a transient, passing thing’. Who was right?

There is much to support the ‘thumpin’ thesis’. The results exceeded all but the most optimistic Democrat expectations. At the beginning of the summer few thought that there was much chance of winning back either house of Congress. With a week to go, the Senate still looked comfortably out of reach. Even in the hours beforehand most commentators still thought winning both houses unlikely. When Senator-elect Jim Webb lifted his trademark combat boots aloft at his victory rally in Virginia, his party rightly celebrated a remarkable, improbable victory.



Anybody want to work for the Bush administration...anybody at all?

Massive electoral defeat and record low poll numbers aren't the only signposts of how far the Bush Administration has fallen.  Things have gotten so bad that Secretary of Rice can't convince anyone to take the prestigious position of Deputy Secretary of State, the number two post in the State Department previously held by Robert Zoellick, who left to work for Goldman Sachs.  It's hard to blame the people who have turned Rice down already.  Would you want to sit through a Senate confirmation hearing and provide explanations for the failed Bush foreign policy?  The Washington Wire reports:

Among those who have said no are Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt and Gen. James Jones, former Marine Corps commander and now head the United States European Command.

There is now talk that Rice is reaching out to Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, with some suggesting that the offer has been sweetened with a promise to give Negroponte the top job should Rice leave the State Department before the end of the administration.

Voters believe immigrants should have path to citizenship

In a new poll released by Quinnipiac University, American voters expressed their desire to let illegal immigrants have a path to citizenship.

Demonstrating that Congressional Republicans were out of step with the views of their voters, the poll finds that "Republicans support the guest worker to citizenship path 66 - 31 percent, while Democrats back it 73 - 23 percent and independent voters back it 71 - 24 percent."

Those surveyed also largely reject (71%) the 700 mile fence as the end-all-be-all solution, saying "additional measures are needed from Congress to deal with illegal immigrants entering the country."

Once again, this poll shows that the support for comprehensive immigration reform is there. What has been lacking is leadership. Hopefully the fresh faces in Congress can fill that gap quickly with a sensible piece of legislation.

Rob Shapiro in Superb Business Week Overview of Fast-Changing Economic Debate

Democracy, sometimes, is amazing to watch. The election has clearly changed the tenor of the economic debate. It is clear to me that the disucssion we were having in the weeks prior to the election has shifted sharply. Jim Webb is taking a leading role, both with his rambunctious WSJ article, and his robust performance on Sunday's the Meet the Press in which he said the economy and globalization were his first priorities for action. There have been important articles in the Times, including this excellent overview of the debate by Eduardo Porter, where he leans heavily on influential Saez and Pitteky study of rising income disparity. This week's American Prospect goes all out for one side, arguing the case for "Why Populism Wins" and making Sherrod Brown perhaps the first cover star to wear a sheep skin jacket for some considerable time. And even in today's papers you see the divide. The Wall St Journal has a big piece saying that "Divide Between Rich and Poor
Continues to Widen; Spurs 'Robin Hood' Plans
", while the Boston Globe notes the "Pelosi team tries to steer Democrats to the center." What is going on? The lid has come off the debate on globalization. It's exciting to watch.

But the single best introduction to the contours of this debate comes in the main story in this week's Business Week: "Can Anyone Control This Economy?" And, I promise, i'm not just saying this because our own Rob Shapiro is quoted prominently. The piece is by Michael Mandell, something of a prince among economics commentators. This is a least in part because he predicted the internet bubble bursting, while others were prattling on about Dow 36000 and the rest. Mandell's blog - Economics Unbound - is excellent also. But i digress. His piece is an extremely insightful take on the dillmmas facing economic policy makers at present. I'll quote it at length. This is the set-up.

No matter which party you belong to, or which Big Idea or school of economic policy you subscribe to, one thing is clear: Globalization has overwhelmed Washington's ability to control the economy. Whether you're a Republican supply-side tax-cutter, a Wall Street deficit hawk of either party, or a Silicon Valley techie type, your preferred levers of economic policy just don't work as well as they once did.

He then moves on to discuss some of the difficulties of the current administration, and quotes Rob:

President Bush encountered a similar problem. His huge tax cuts poured hundreds of billions into the economy and kept output rising at a decent clip. Nevertheless, the fiscal stimulus generated far fewer jobs than anyone expected, as more and more production headed overseas. "Traditional macro policies are less effective than they used to be," says Robert S. Shapiro, a top economic adviser to President Bill Clinton who now runs a Washington economic consulting firm. "We don't know how to ensure strong job creation and strong wage growth anymore."

He then moves on to discuss the limitations of current approaches.

Even the Big Idea of devoting more tax dollars to research and development to make the U.S. more competitive--an idea repeatedly advocated by such tech leaders as John T. Chambers of Cisco Systems Inc.CSCO and John Doerr of venture capital giant Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers--is beginning to look economically and politically troublesome.... But in the brave new world of the global economy, where companies move factories and facilities around the world like game pieces, it's no longer a given that U.S. workers benefit directly from U.S.-funded research.

And get this: We don't even know how to measure whether we as a country are succeeding or failing. The traditional metrics for economic security and prosperity are capturing impressive signs of life. Washington has responded to these concerns, in large part, with a series of small fixes, like tinkering with the pension system. But what's needed is a new Big Idea for economic policy--or two or three competing Big Ideas--that accounts for the verities of the global economy.

It really is an excellent overview of the debate. Kudos to Mr. Mandell both for writing it, and for mentioning Rob's views.

In other news, NDN's Globalization Initiative will shortly be announcing a major event to discuss the way forward on economy, on November 30th, at lunchtime in downtown DC. Put it in your diaries, and check back on the blog later for details.

Keep Jane Harman at Intelligence

I'm with the LA Times, the New Republic and many others in believing Speaker Pelosi should keep Rep. Jane Harman as Intelligence Committee Chair. 

Governing America after the Bush/Hastert/DeLay era is not going to be easy for Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  These unfortunate years have left a series of big messes, and left many other important challenges unmet.  No area will be tougher, or more important to the country, then putting American foreign policy back on track and re-establishing the credibility of our intelligence services.  To do so, the new Speaker and Majority Leader are going to need the very best team on the field.  Jane Harman should be a leader of this new team. 

There is little question that Jane Harman is one our most respected and thoughtful foreign policy leaders.  While there are difficult internal caucus issues with keeping Rep. Harman at Intelligence, reasonable people can arrive at a solution that works for all involved and keeps Rep. Harman in a position that allows her to make her greatest contribution to finding a better path for the nation.  

Given all the daunting governing challenges in front of her, I have a feeling that in future years Speaker Pelosi will view this decision as one of the simplest things she had to deal with in her early days, and for the good of the nation, hope it gets resolved quickly, and decisvely, and wisely,

To learn more about Rep. Harman, watch her thoughtful remarks at a recent NDN forum in Washington. 

Follow the TV Ad money this cycle towards more targeted buys

The National Journal has a fantastic article off its front page called “Follow The Money” that analyzes the record-breaking amount of money spent on TV ads in the 2006 cycle. The article is only available to subscribers so we will tease a bit of it for you to taste. The lede goes like this:

If couch potatoes thought that they were hit with an unusually high number of campaign ads in 2006, it's probably because they were. Analysts are reporting record spending on TV advertising during the midterm cycle. But perhaps more notable than the bombardment of ads was the rise of new strategies that helped candidates target voters more effectively, thus earning them more bang for their buck.

Total spending on broadcast TV political advertising surged to more than $2.1 billion in 2006, a $1 billion increase from the 2002 midterm election cycle, Evan Tracey of TNS Media Intelligence recently told AdWeek. A report by the non-partisan research firm PQ Media also found that political advertising hit a new record in 2006, fueled by the number of competitive races. TV "[a]dvertising expenditures will account for 69 percent of all political media spending in 2006, up from 67.5 percent in 2004," the report states.

The sheer numbers ($2.1 billion) and percentages (69 percent of all media spending) show how important it is to make sure progressives develop the best possible strategies to maximize their impact in this still critical television space. And the bulk of the piece explained how the shift to cable television buys is a central part of those new strategies.

This is something that the New Politics institute has been championing for the last year, most notably in our New Tools campaign in the fall. Our Buy Cable memo made the rounds during the fall and may have made some difference in changing habits, though there still is a long way to go. From the article:

The PQ Media report found that broadcast TV remains the dominant medium for political advertising and "will command the largest share of political media spending in 2006" with 50 percent. That is still lower than 2004, however, when campaigns spent about 53 percent of advertising expenditures on broadcast TV, and from 2002, when they spent 56 percent.

The whole piece is anchored by an extended quote from the NPI Buy Cable memo that sums up the trend:

"Advertising across an entire media market is a little like hammering a nail with a sledgehammer," a report [PDF] by the New Politics Institute, an offshoot of the Democratic group NDN, suggests. The report estimates that viewers of an ad for a New Jersey Senate candidate on Philadelphia broadcast TV will be viewed by almost three times as many voters in Pennsylvania and Delaware as in New Jersey. The report goes on to note that "cable allows you to ensure that almost all of your advertising dollars go into the targeted state or district -- in some cases down to the precinct or zip code."

Peter Leyden

So many signs...

Obama in '08? While we're all tempted to take the results of our jump to conclusion mat to heart, we shouldn't assume anything about Senator Barack Obama's political aspirations. Yet it's pretty hard not to after the Senator presented his plans for troop withdrawal in Iraq. Taking a somewhat firm approach today during his speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Sen. Obama said:

I have long said that the only solution in Iraq is a political one ... the days of asking, urging and waiting for them to take control of their own country are coming to an end. No more coddling, no more equivocation.

For those of you who need a refresher, Sen. Obama opposed the war before it started. (Also watch this where he discusses Iraq at a Town Hall meeting earlier this year.)

Signs of Hope on Immigration

This piece from The New York Times (also pasted below) offers a look at how approaching comprehensive immigration reform, an issue on which NDN has been a leading voice, has potentially found new life.


Signs of Hope on Immigration

The political earthquake in Washington has knocked loose some of the big obstacles to fixing the immigration system. A decent solution is now there for the taking, if President Bush and the newly Democratic Congress are willing to grab it.

It won’t be easy. Some of the debate’s loudest shouters, liars and dead-horse beaters were ushered by voters from the room — people like J. D. Hayworth and Randy Graf in Arizona, John Hostettler in Indiana and Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania. But the public is still in a prickly mood. All those shrill Republican ads about Mexicans stealing your Social Security failed as an electoral strategy, but that doesn’t mean politicians always lose by being immigration hawks. Voters approved tough ballot measures. In Arizona, they made English the official language and restricted illegal immigrants’ ability to sue, receive bail and qualify for benefits.

And except for the losers on the border-fixated fringe, not many in the restrictionist camp seem particularly chastened by the election. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, an opponent of the comprehensive reform bill that passed the Senate this year, won his race, as did several new Democrats who ran as immigration hard-liners. Local lawmakers in Texas and other states are still going after illegal immigrants with fervor.

The roots of a divisive, grinding immigration debate have not gone away. But it is crucial that the Democrats find their voice. The effort to revive immigration reform should start in the Senate. There is a decent bill under the barnacled hulk of legislation that passed the Senate last May. It used to be called McCain-Kennedy, before other senators tacked on tough-posing amendments that made it fundamentally unworkable and unjust. The Senate should strip those away, like the ones that divide immigrants into three arbitrary tiers of worthiness and needlessly force those seeking legal status to trek to a border state to apply for it.

The principles that guided the original McCain-Kennedy bill are those that should guide the coming reform effort: laws should be enforced at the border and workplace, fairly and evenhandedly; temporary worker programs must not be used to create a permanent official underclass; and any reform must be designed to work and not just create another smothering bureaucracy.

Immigration remains a high-voltage issue that Congress may be too timid or distracted to touch. The new Democratic leaders, including Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, have conspicuously not listed immigration among their most urgent priorities. Even Senator John McCain, who is an architect of the most reasonable bill out there but also has presidential primaries on his mind, spent a lot of time this fall stumping for misguided restrictionists like Mr. Graf. We hope he and his moderate colleagues have the integrity to honor their sensible immigration views now that the dismal ’06 campaign is done.

Many voters who scorned Republicans over immigration reacted as you would expect them to after being mocked and exploited by a party that elevated the issue into an urgent crisis and then offered nothing to solve it but faux hearings, strident campaign ads and a pretend fence. The same fate may await any Democrats who posture, deceive and dawdle over immigration reform in the next Congress.


The role of independents in the 2006 elections has been overstated

On Saturday the New York Times ran an op-ed from a Duke professor named David Rohde which ran hard against the early conventional wisdom coming from the elections:

..."THE midterm elections have been widely viewed as a sudden change of direction, with Democrats seizing the wheel from Republicans. While that may be true, the big electoral news — news that has gone largely unnoticed — is this: After decades of weakness, after sideswipes from independent candidates, the two major parties are back. Indeed, they are more potent and influential than at any time in the past century."

There are really two pieces to this argument.  The first is the role of the Parties themselves in relation to other organizations and leaders in the political firmament.  I will not tackle that argument today, though I do agree with him, and a lot of it has to do with the way the internet allows people to have a much more intimate and direct relationship with their parties.  What I do want to write about is a related trend, the increased partisanship of the electorate. 

In the last two elections, 2004 and 2006, 74% of all voters identified themselves as a partisan, either a Republican or Democrat.  Only a quarter, 26 percent, identified themselves as independent.  These ratios did not change from 2004 to 2006. 

In 2004 37% of the electorate described themselves as Democrat, the same Republican.  In 2006 Democrats picked up a point as a share of the electorate, Republicans lost a point, leaving it 38D/26I/36R.  Remarkably stable ratios given that the vote changed from 51/48 R to 52/46 D.  

The early storyline then is that the shift from 2004 to 2006 came about from how independents swung.  They did swing 17 points, from 48R/49D to 39R/57D.  But a far greater shift happened inside the two parties, where there was an 8 point shift within the Democratic electorate, and a 4 point shift inside the Republican electorate, or a total of a 12 point shift. The Democratic vote went from 89/11 to 93/7, and the Republican vote 93/6 to 91/8.   

While less in percentage terms this 12 point shift happened in what is 3/4 quarters of the electorate, and this 18 point shift happened in what is 1/4 of the electorate.   So this means a far greater number of votes shifted in the last two years between and among the parties than shifted with independents - meaning that Democrats owe their victory much more to gains with Democratic and Republican partisans than they do to the gains they made with independent voters. 

This reduced role for independents was evident even in 2004.  John Kerry did what every Democrat was told was necessary to do win the Presidency - he won independents - and yet he still lost the election.  Why? Because the Rove machine pushed the percentage of the electorate that was Republican to an all time high, 37%, equalling the Democratic share, and they kept 93% of these Republicans.  Kerry while winning independents, only won 89% of Democrats.  This difference - between Rove's 93 and Kerry's 89 within their own parties - cost Kerry the election. 

Tim Kaine, writing about his impressive win in Virginia in 2005 in the DLC's magazine recently, described his "Democrats first" strategy, one that seems very much in touch with the notion that winning elections in this more partisan era starts first with expanding and holding one's own partisans:

"Just as Warner had done in 2001, I had to accomplish three things to win in a red state. First, I had to find and energize Democratic voters. Second, I had to share my story with the voters. Third, I had to reach out to independent and Republican voters in a strategic way. And that's exactly what we did."

I'm in no way suggesting that winning with independents was not an important part of how Democrats won in 2006.  Of course the big swing with independents was impressive and critical.  But with so few people considering themselves independents these days, we have to be careful not to overstate their impact.  It is clear from the exit poll data of the last two years that what has been far more important in determining the outcomes of the two elections is what has happened within and between the two parties, which is today about three-quarters of all voters. 

Additionally, Democrats should not discount the power of what Rove, Mehlman and his team did and have left behind. Despite their epic collapse this year, the Republicans only lost a single point of market share as a percentage of the electorate, and today almost 40 percent more Americans consider themselves Republicans than independents, an historically very high number.  As Mehlman said after the 2004 elections, they spent a great deal of money persuading Republicans to vote and to vote Bush.  Their "Republicans first" strategy was actually very successful in many ways, as this investment they made in creating more Republican voters has changed the nature of the American electorate, dimished the influence of traditonal independents, and has indeed made more Republicans than there used to be. 

The problem they had this year wasn't these voters becoming independents and fleeing the party, which one would have expected.  They may have voted Democrat this time, but in this year's exits they still consider themselves Republicans.  To repeat, independents did not gain a single point as a share of the electorate despite the tremendous collapse of the Republican brand.  

Update: Blogger James Hupp has challenged my math in a new post.   He was right about one thing, I had the change in independents to be at 18% when it was 17%.  I changed that above (thanks James).  But in reviewing his calculations, his raw numbers still indicate what I wrote above: it still seems that a 12 point net shift in 74% of the electorate is greater than a 17 point net shift in 26% of the electorate (add the two point net shift for Democrats and away from Republicans)  Hey, if I am wrong with my numbers here I will chuck it.  In reviewing his math this morning am still not convinced (and James of course I had these numbers weighted - a little unfair there.  If we can talk of a 17 point shift with indies you can talk 12 with partisans).  Open to your thoughts. 

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