NDN Blog

Looking ahead to 2008: Dems have momentum

An upbeat piece from Reuters about Dems having momentum going into 2008:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The 2008 White House race opens in a political landscape transformed by Tuesday's election, with resurgent Democrats seeing new opportunities and wounded Republicans pointing fingers and counting casualties.

Some potential White House contenders, including Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Republican Sens. George Allen of Virginia and Bill Frist of Tennessee, suffered setbacks that likely took them out of contention.

Democrats solidified support in the Northeast and Midwest, continued their growth in the West and picked up governors' offices in battleground states like Ohio and Colorado that could give them an advantage in 2008.

"Rather than being beleaguered and lost, we have a national victory in all parts of the country and go into this two-year cycle with more momentum than we've had in 14 years," said Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, a centrist Democratic group.

Republicans bickered over what caused the voter anger at President George W. Bush and Republican leadership that cost them control of Congress. Some questioned whether the party could be successful with a message crafted primarily for core conservative supporters.

"The Republican Party will have to decide whether they want to win in 2008 or whether they are willing to impale themselves on the point of doctrinaire conservatism," Republican consultant Rich Galen said.

But conservative leaders said Republican leaders in Congress needed to return to the ideas that first helped them win government control.

"If they hope to return to power in 2008, they must rediscover the conservative principles that resonated with the majority of Americans in the 1980s," said the Rev. James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family.....""

The nation is already on a new course

As I wrote in our quick post-election analysis this week, the nation not only voted for a new course, but a more progressive one.   And within days of the election we can already see signs of how different the next two years are going to be.  

On Wednesday the President fired Donald Rumsfeld and offered to work with the Democrats on minimum wage and comprehensive immigration reform, two issues blocked repeatedly by the Congressional Republicans (and aggressively supported by the members of NDN). 

The headlines this morning are about troop withdrawals, fixing the alternative minimum tax, labor dusting off their agenda, Joe Lieberman not just caucusing with the Democrats but being a Democrat, a rethink of our anti-terrorism strategy, bi-partisanship, and features quotes from folks Charlie Rangel, Rahm Emanuel, Chuck Schumer, etc. 

Tuesday's elections were a mandate for change.  The nation already feels different, as if a difficult and contentious time is ceding to perhaps a more constructive, optimistic one.  As progressives our role should be to keep it at that level, thoughtful, constructive, focused on solving the big problems of the day.  Of course we will have disagreements along the way, but if our politics is driven by the same sense "that we are all in this together" that many are advocating for our public philosophical approach, then we will have to show that in our daily behavior towards one another and of course those on the other side of the ideological debate.

Voters deliver a mandate for a new economic strategy

Over the last few months, NDN has been part of a broad progressive campaign to explain why the American economy was not delivering the type of broad-based prosperity this country needs. This week, American voters delivered a clear and unmistakable mandate for action on our economy. The facts are simple: during the Clinton era, the average family income increased by more than $7,000; but in the Bush era the average family has actually seen their income decline by more than $1,000. And the results this week make it clear that this lack of upward mobility was a critical issue in removing the Republicans from power.

There is a prevailing wisdom emerging that this election was about the Iraq war. This is only partially correct. Of course, Iraq mattered. But the exit polls and post-election analysis make it clear that the economy mattered a grea deal, perhaps even more than Iraq. The economy was a deciding factor in key battleground states, and was especially important for swing voters. Moreover, voters who felt the economy was doing badly were overwhelmingly more likely to vote Democrat (all exit polls referenced are the official national exit polls which can be found here).

  • The economy was the most important issue. The exit poll asked voters if they considered various issue important in deciding their vote. If you add up those who responded - where issues were extremely, very, or somewhat important - the economy comes out number one.

Table 1: Which issue was most important?


Extremely Important

Very Important

Somewhat Important



39% 43% 14% 96%
Corruption 41% 33% 18% 92%
Iraq 35% 32% 21% 88%
Terrorism 39% 33% 20% 82%
Moral Values 36% 21% 20% 77%

  • Economy Crucial in Battleground States. The economy played a critical role in the key battleground states that decided the election. In these areas the results could not be clearer: the economy was the number one issue. The exit poll asked voters in key swing states about Iraq and the Economy. In each swing state more voters thought the economy was either “extremely important” or “very important” in their decision over who to vote for their senator.

Table 2: Economy vs Iraq in Key Senate Races

Economy Iraq
Missouri 83% 62%
Montana 82% 65%
Ohio 83% 66%
Pennsylvania 81% 68%
Virginia 82% 69%


  • Economy Plays Big with Swing Voters. Stan Greenberg’s post-election analysis shows that Iraq was the dominant issue for the majority of voters. However, Greenberg is clear that the economy was the second most important issue overall, and that it played a disproportionately important role in persuading swing voters who were considering voting for the Democrats. Among this group of swing voters 51% cited economic issues like gas prices, while 38% cited jobs and the economy. Only 23% cited Iraq.
  • Only 30% of Americans believe they are getting ahead. The exit poll in two separate questions about the perception of their own economic situation, only 30 percent said their own economic situation had improved in recent years. And remarkably, the same number – only 30% - said they believed the life of the next generation would be better than theirs. Of those who felt they had prospered voted about 2:1 for the Republicans. For those who were struggling, they voted the opposite way, 2:1 for the Democrats.
  • Those struggling to get ahead voted Democrat. Additional questions confirm how much a factor perceptions of the economy were in driving the Democratic vote. Those who thought the economy was “excellent” voted overwhelmingly for the Republicans (86% vs 13%.). Democrats easily carried those who thought the economy was either “not good” (74% vs 23%) or “poor” (85% vs 13%.).

All of this added together clearly shows that the American people want the new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate to focus and pursue an aggressive strategy to help them and their families get ahead.

This administration’s economic record has left America weaker, and the American people worse off. This election year, the American people held them accountable. Now it is time for action.

Also check out these links:
The Economic Debate: Bring it on (October, 2006)
Read our memo on The Bush Economic Record (September, 2006)
Read our memo on Rebuilding the National Consensus on Trade
(September, 2006) 

Latinos rechazan a los Republicans en las contiendas de 2006

NDN's Hispanic Strategy Center sends regular updates to Spanish language media outlets about the issues and campaigns that impact their communities. The releases are reprinted in their entirety on our blog for our Spanish speaking readers, and you can read the latest below.

Washington DC - Los votantes Latinos fueron a las urnas el martes pasado y dijeron decisivamente que rechazan las políticas del Partido Republicano en todos los asuntos importantes incluyendo la guerra en Irak, la educación, la economía, y la inmigración. En varias encuestas de salida tomadas el martes, se ve que hasta un 70% de los Latinos apoyaron a los demócratas, mientras que los Republicanos solo lograron un 26% del apoyo Latino. Es mas, los Latinos participaron en numeros mas altos este año que en cualquier otro año incluyendo las elecciones presidenciales del 2004. En un análisis prelimar, se ve que un 8.5% de los votantes Latinos aparecieron a las urnas en los comicios del 2006.

"Estos resultados son increiblemente positivos para nuestra comunidad," dijo Joe García, Director del Centro de Estrategia Hispana. "Lo que hemos estado diciendo los últimos meses, se cumplió esta semana - que las políticas y las estrategias anti-inmigrantes de los Republicanos iban a causar un abandono total del Partido Republicano de parte de los Latinos y que además, iba a mobilizar a nuestra comunidad de una manera histórica."

Vean abajo dos artículos de los mas grandes medios incluyendo el Wall Street Journal y el Los Angeles Times que subrayan el hecho de que los Latinos rechazaron completamente al Partido Republicano y que se les va ser muy dificil recuperar de esta gran pérdida de apoyo entre los Latinos - la comunidad mas grande y creciente de Estados Unidos.

NDN Buzz

Click here to listen to Simon on NPR. While Simon points out that the G.O.P's approach to immigration backfired, he notes that with a Democratic congress, passing comprehensive immigration reform could be easy and could improve the President's legacy.

Exit: stage right

Colbert's "video love letter" pays tribute to the outgoing Republican majority.

Millennials Rising: The Youth vote is with us again, and again

The San Francisco Chronicle had a front page story today on “Growing Youth Turnout is Good News for Dems.” I’m biased because I anchor the piece at the end, but I do think this is a great quick analysis of the growing strategic importance of the Millennial Generation on progressive politics.

Much of it was based on a bipartisan exit poll of 500 18-to-29-year-olds done by GOP pollster Ed Goeas and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake for Young Voter Strategies in Washington, D.C. This poll and others quoted lump young adults as everyone under age 30, though the New Politics Institute and other analysts consider the up-and-coming Millennial generation (those born in the 1980s and 1990s) to be age 26 and under. Still it’s a close alignment.

Some key findings: two million more young people voted Tuesday than in the 2002 midterm elections. This generation is civic-minded and gung-ho about getting involved in politics.

It’s not just turnout but how they voted and which party they identify with:

“According to CNN exit polls, 60 percent of voters under 30 cast ballots for Democrats. Seventy-eight percent of young people who vote for the same party in three elections in a row are likely to remain a member of that party through adulthood, said pollster Goeas.

"We lost (the youth vote) in 2004 by 11 percent," Goeas said of Republicans. Now, with that number doubling this year, according to early exit polls, Goeas worried that a generation of the electorate is growing up as reliable Democrats.

According to the bipartisan Goeas-Lake exit polls, 40 percent of young voters said they identify with Democrats, 30 percent with Republicans and 23 percent with independents. However, half reported that they voted for Democrats, and 35 percent said they cast ballots for Republicans.”

This is truly good news for progressives because this Millennial Generation is no ordinary generation – it is massive in size, a full 75 million people, and it rivals the size of the baby boom. If the Boomers had split this dramatically, the last 25 years of conservative ascendancy would not have happened.

The piece also made the point that this high turnout was not all about the new tools, though it started to make a difference. My quote at the end of the piece addresses this:

"The 2006 election was an experimental one for new media," said Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a liberal San Francisco think tank that focuses on the intersection of new media tools and politics. "But even if it wasn't fully integrated into campaigns, what things like YouTube did was energize and excite young people about politics."

Peter Leyden


AP News: "Youth turnout in election biggest in 20 years"

From Rueters News on the youth vote and the election, here are excerpts: 

"Young Americans voted in the largest numbers in at least 20 years in congressional elections...

About 24 percent of Americans under the age of 30, or at least 10 million young voters, cast ballots in Tuesday's elections that saw Democrats make big gains in Congress. That was up 4 percentage points from the last mid-term elections in 2002.

"This looks like the highest in 20 years," said Mark Lopez, research director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, which compiled the data based on exit polls....

 Rock the Vote, a youth-and-civics group, said young voters favored Democrats by a 22-point margin, nearly three times the margin Democrats earned among other age groups and dealing a potentially decisive blow to Republicans in tight races...

 Future elections could also be at stake. The "Generation Y" of Americans born from 1977 to 1994 -- shaped by the September 11 attacks, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina -- in nine years will make up a third of the electorate."

Dems Win Senate

Just in case anyone missed this - Allen is giving up, and the Democrats have control.

Democrats' Senate Win Seals Control of U.S. Congress (Update1)

Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Democrats clinched majorities in both houses of the U.S. Congress for the first time since 1994 by winning a Senate seat in Virginia, capping a dramatic return to power on Capitol Hill.


California is the Future: what really happened in the election on the west coast

I’ve been taking in the largely east coast analysis of what happened in the historic election of last night. But from my perch out in San Francisco, I thought I’d give a quick analysis of what happened in California that may have implications for the rest of the country too.

I have always maintained that California is the future. I know that can rub people the wrong way, but it’s a useful rule of thumb when trying to forecast how many different trends in many different fields might play out across America. Look to California first. The same case can be made in politics. California often foreshadows larger trends that make their way into American politics over the long haul.

I’m not the only one who uses that frame. A couple days ago I even quoted Republican strategist Ed Rollins from a newspaper article: “California has always been a trendsetter,'' Rollins said. “Politically, it's always two to six years ahead of the rest of the country.''

If that’s the case, or even often the case, then what happened this election that politicos should pay attention to?

# First up, Arnold. Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger whomped Democrat Phil Angelides in a landslide victory with almost a 17 point spread. Why? Because Arnold is becoming a form of Republican that we have not seen in a long, long time: a progressive Republican.

I wrote a whole post on this before the election, but the results bear it out. Californians clearly responded to his shift to the left, which started with his state of the state speech in January where he laid out a hugely ambitious and largely progressive agenda that he and the overwhelmingly progressive Democratic legislature largely delivered throughout this year. By working with progressive Democrats on progressive issues like landmark legislation to aggressively solve global warming, Californians rewarded him with their vote. Even in the very progressive San Francisco Bay area he was getting 50 percent of the vote in many counties.

Just last fall those same Californians had soundly defeated all four of Arnold’s clearly conservative ballot initiatives in the special election that he called. So Californians don’t just like Arnie, they like progressive Arnie. It’s crystal clear from the opposite results of two elections only one year apart.

This is very important for the future of American politics because Arnold is about the only Republican success story of this cycle and many people are going to study his formula very closely. He is blazing a trail for the next wave of Republicans who will flee the conservative formula like rats from a sinking ship.

# Aside from Arnold, the rest of California’s elected officials are overwhelmingly Democrats, and progressive Democrats at that. This election held true to a progressive trend that has been inexorably evolving since roughly 1992. (Before that time, California went for Republican presidents in the six previous cycles, and the state was not nearly as “blue.”)

In Tuesday’s election all the top statewide races went to Democrats, save one, the Insurance Commissioner, Steve Poizner, who was a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and moderate Republican running against a damaged Democrat who was dogged by accepting illegal contributions, among other things. US Senator Diane Feinstein had a bigger landslide than Arnold at about 25 percent. And Dems won for Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer, and Attorney General.

# The US Congressional delegation stayed overwhelmingly Democrat, with Dems bringing down or seriously challenging even conservative Republicans who had been entrenched in their red state-ish districts inland. The notorious Richard Pombo, the seven-term member of the House leadership, fell to a political newcomer.

That Congressional delegation will be led by San Franciscan Nancy Pelosi, soon to be the first female speaker of the house. (Where would you look to see the manifestation of her politics?) And Ellen Tauscher, another representative from the Bay area, will head the more centrist but still generally progressive New Democrat Coalition in the new House too.

# Both California’s state houses stayed lopsidedly in control of progressive Democrats. The key leaders are from progressive bastions of the state: Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez is from Los Angeles, and Senate President Pro tem Don Perata is from Oakland. These houses have been the ones serving up the progressive proposals of the last legislative cycle – not Schwarzenegger. Arnold has been glomming onto the bills and signing them, or trying to one-up their initiatives, which have been big and bold.

# Californians approved $40 billion in public works spending this election, which will some from a series of bonds that had to be approved at the ballot box. All but one did. These bonds will go to finance roads and levees and schools and low income housing. This is the kind of public investment that is reminiscent of past eras of progressivism. Big, bold, and needed.

# That said, a series of proposed tax increases were voted down by Californians. The most high profile example was a proposition that would have taxed oil production in the state and invested the money, as much as $4 billion, in alterative energy research and development. This measure was defeated, partly because of $100 million spent on television advertising by the oil companies that would have been taxed. Another proposition was to put another $2.60 tax on a pack of cigarettes. Voters struck that down too, perhaps because it was overreaching.

(There is some learning to be done about how 21st century progressivism will work in the wake of decades of conservative brainwashing about never allowing new taxes.)

# The more progressive viewpoint prevailed on four other stateside propositions, including one on parental notification for abortion, and putting restrictions on the public's right of eminent domain. In other words, conservative attempts to push their agenda through state initiatives were beaten back by the California electorate.

What does all this add up to? In the coming weeks, all eyes are going to look to the Democrats of the US House and Senate to put forth their progressive agenda that will replace the discredited conservative one. Many Democrats, not to mention average Americans, are worried that progressives don’t have an alternative agenda.

In fact, there has been a progressive experiment going on in that test-bed of the future, the state of California. There are a lot of progressive ideas about what to do about global warming, and health care, and the minimum wage, etc. There are many fully-baked policies and legislation about how to move those ideas into law. And there are a lot of precedents about how a progressive majority might conduct itself in power in the early 21st century. It’s a long way from perfect, but it’s more than just a start.

It is a glimpse of a possible future, right here in California. Tune in and check it out.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

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