No matter what happens this fall, it sure seems like we are coming to the end of a particular era in American history. From the highest vantage point it may be the end of the great 20th century battle between progressivism and conservatism; a little lower down it may be the end of the Bush era; and a little lower, the end of the Hastert-DeLay-Abramoff reign of corruption, unseriousness and extreme partisanship in the House.
NDN has been commentating a great deal these last few years about the utter failure of conservative governance. And certainly the American people have grown weary of these conservatives inability to tackle the important challenges of our time. But I think we may also be witnessing a growing weariness of the spin, deceit, lying and proproganda that has also been a defining characteristic of this era. After years of this over-the-top win at all costs proproganda strategy, Americans are beginning to distrust everything that comes from a Republican or conservative mouth. The world is just not as they describe it, tarnishing their brand in a way so elemental that it will be hard to restore in the years ahead.
Think about it. Rice just lying again and again about the run up to 9/11. Hastert's unbelievable lies these past few days, and desperate attempts to paint the Foley scandal as a Democratic one. Fox News's repeated and purposeful identification of Foley as a Democrat on the air. Progress in Iraq. Wages are rising. No one knew the levees could break. No one in the Administration sanctioned the torture of people in Iraq. It is all bullsh-t.
As progressives who have a proud history of making government work for the common good, we will have to spend time better understanding and changing this culture of untruth. Democracy requires an informed citizenry. But in this era, it would be more accurate to say we have a "misinformed" people, as the government itself, backed by fierce partisan like Fox News, Limbaugh, Hannity and Drudge spew purposeful lies and falsehoods each day.
A great deal of the energy of the early 21st century progressive era has been to counter this culture of deceit. It has been effective so far, unearthing the strategic nature of this proproganda machine. And you can see it in the most effective political ads of this cycle, many of which have the candidate, unadorned, speaking directly to camera, trying desperately to reconnect voters to an actual person, a true event, a real set of beliefs, reality.
I'm not sure how our movement and our nation should approach all this going forward. But it is clear that the American people have an inkling of all this themselves, and like a TV show whose characters no longer speak with the same authority as at the beginning of its run, people are reaching for the remote and are looking for a politics that better speaks to them and the challenges, culture and values of our time. We call it "a new politics," and I believe what we will see in the next few years is a fierce battle between the two great ideological movements to identify and claim it for their very own.
First Time reports that Fidel Castro is terminally ill. For a look at how the Cuban-American community views the coming Post-Castro era see our new just-released study.
And a Washington Post piece may have ended Speaker Hastert's political career today. The story has a 2nd staffer confirming the story of Tom Reynold's former Chief of Staff that Hastert and his team knew about Foley as early as 2003. The account seems to make it clear that Hastert and his whole team have been repeatedly lying about their covering up for a sexual predator.
I am proud of our small but talented NDN team. At a critical time for our nation, a nation so desperate to find a new and better path, it is clear that they are stepping up and taking a big swing part. In the last few weeks we've offered a powerful and wide-ranging body of work. that has gotten a great deal of attention, and is clearly helping shape the national debate.
I offer a quick review, without links, as all can be found on www.ndn.org:
- Our globalization initiative has released a series of compelling studies, from fashioning a new consensus on trade liberalization to a series of peices on wages to a review of the Bush economic record, and our Senior Policy Analyst James Crabtree keeps banging it out each day on our blog;
- On the Hispanic front, the NDN political fund's Mas Que un Partido campaign launched a new national radio ad; along with our friends at PowerPac we released a new poll of Spanish-prefered Latino voters in CA; our daily Spanish-language talking points email to Spanish-media continues; along with Sergio Bendixen we released an influential new study about the changing attitudes of Cubans in Miami in the early days of the Post-Castro era, and was picked up in the Washington Post, Newsweek, many Florida papers, and Business week; and on Monday we launch a 2nd media campaign, this one with the CPC, that will put Spanish-language ads on the air in AZ and CO in support of the minimum wage ballot initiatives in those states;
- NPI has had an incredible couple of weeks, releasing two new pieces of our Tools campaign, papers on Buy Cable and Engage the Blogs; but of course the big news is the launching of a new web 2.0 site for NPI, www.newpolitics.net, that allows us our own tools to practice what we preach about the new media;
- This week we also gave our blog a new and much more media rich look, one that will better help us bring our agenda, ideas and values to you each day; readership of the blog has increased dramatically as we've offered a much better product in recent months;
- Our daily commentary got wide pick-up outside our blog, particularly a seies of piece we wrote on the Condi Rice's serial lying about the run-up to 9/11;
- and we continued to appear regularly in publications from the New York Times to Wired to the Nation.
As I sit here on rainy Saturday morning here in DC wondering what to do with my kids today, I reflect with pride on what our whole NDN team has done these last couple of weeks, and thank them for stepping up at what is a critical time for our nation.
I sent a national email out yesterday asking our friends and family for help, one more time. As you are well aware, we have important things still left to do this year. Here it is, and if you have a little left in your political wallet for NDN and our affiliate, the NDN political fund, we will put it to good use:
"This is a critical time for our country. With conservatives stumbling, progressives have a real chance to reassert our values and our agenda. We at NDN are hard at work making this happen.
But for us to keep our agenda moving forward, I need your help. If you are going to support NDN and our path breaking work this year, the time is now.
Your support for NDN will allow us to help break the conservative ideological hold on our politics in three concrete ways:
Put more ads on the air in more places – NDN and its affiliate, the NDN political fund, are running two media campaigns designed to speak to and engage Hispanic communities across the country. Your support will help us put more ads on in more places, expanding these powerful campaigns.
Beat the conservatives in the economic debate – Your support will help us continue to challenge the conservatives in the national debate over the economy, and offer more progressives the facts and arguments needed to beat them. This is no idle act - in recent polls, the economy is the number one issue facing the American people.
Help progressives deploy the latest and best New Tools – A fast-changing media environment is creating a set of new tools that can help progressives reach more people more effectively at this critical time. Your support will help The New Politics Institute continue their “New Tools” campaign to help progressives fight for our agenda more effectively.
The NDN team is proven and accomplished. Our advisors include some of the most remarkable people in progressive politics. Our work is cutting edge. If you choose to support us in these final days I promise your money will make a real difference at this pivotal moment.
As we approach the final weeks of the campaigns, just wanted to point out a few progressive efforts at distributed net outreach:
The DSCC has a volunteer "badge" that you can add to your blog, myspace page, etc. as a tool to drive volunteers to Senate campaigns. it allows you to customize it for the races you most care about and want to point volunteers to...
MoveOn.org's "Call for Change" internet based volunteer phone banking is live...They are attempting to generate "5 million phone calls into 30 highly competitive congressional districts plus selected Senate races..."
And both Myspace and Facebook launched voter registration drives, that make it easier to reach out to your social network and get folks registered... Speaking of Facebook, they just launched "election pulse" where you can see various politician's facebook profiles organized by their district or state race and it how many "friends" each of the candidates has on the social network...
As I've just moved to DC, and have had to re-register the Chambers clan to vote, I'd personally vouch for GoVote.org run by Working Assets as a great online tool to register yourself and to point friends to. It made the process almost painless.... If anyone else has seen innovative uses of the net and new media please post in the comments here...
The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, a coalition opposed to the state’s abortion ban, successfully blocked the July 1st enactment of the law by gathering enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot. Earlier this month, the coalition launched its statewide television advertising campaign to educate South Dakota voters about the lack of exceptions in the country's most extreme abortion ban.
Pro-choice groups feel that at least 12 other states are currently lined up to introduce similar abortion bans and there will probably be more.What happens in South Dakota on election-day is going to affect women's lives across America.Both sides agree that the debate will intensify and be argued state-by-state, as well as at the national level in Washington. Any abortion law is likely to be challenged, with the final decision left to the Supreme Court. This year, the high court will review a federal law that bans a late-term procedure that critics call a partial birth abortion. Lower courts have struck down the ban, which Congress approved in 2003.
Disappointing job creation figures out today. The rule of thumb is that the economy needs something in the region of 150,000 to keep pace with the rate of population growth. So this morning's 51,000 is unusually slow, even for an economy which has been adding only in the region of 100-180k jobs monthly of late. Although it is unwise to divine anything in particular from only one month's figures, the cumulative result is clear, as this analysis today from CBPP shows. Check out especially the second graph.
Paul Krugman is - excuse the pun - waging war. And his use of Wal Mart as an example of exactly how companies chose to depress paypackets is interesting. (I'm quoting here from Mark Thoma's longer extract.)
The problem from the company’s point of view, then, is that its workers are too loyal; ... not enough workers quit before acquiring the right to higher wages and benefits. Among the policy changes the memo suggested to deal with this problem was a shift to hiring more part-time workers...
And the strategy is being put into effect. ... Wal-Mart ... wants to transform its work force to 40 percent part-time from 20 percent.” Another leaked Wal-Mart memo describes a plan to impose wage caps, so that long-term employees won’t get raises. And the company is taking other steps to keep workers from staying too long: in some stores, according to workers, “managers have suddenly barred older employees with back or leg problems from sitting on stools.”
Krugman's remarks put into practical view something that Rob Shapiro has discussed before - how company's are forced to depress wages in order to remain competitive in the face increased competition:
The first effect of an increase in competitive pressures is that companies find it harder to raise their prices, even when their costs increase.For example, health insurance and energy costs have risen by more than 60 percent since 2001, and pension costs have gone up sharply as well for many of them.When a firm’s costs increase and competitive pressures prevent it from raising its prices enough to cover those cost increases, it has to find other costs to cut – and most have turned to jobs and wages.And that’s what’s been happening in the United States.
And, as NDN has been saying for a while, this is is why this happens. So good job to Krugman for keeping the pressure on.
The purpose behind our New Politics Institute (featuring a new website!) gets tremendous validation from this article in this morning's Post. In it, John Harris points out that the Foley scandal, Senator Allen's "macaca" comment, and the interview between former President Clinton and Fox's Chris Wallace all had one thing in common: "each originally percolated in the world of new media." Touching on the dichotomous nature of the New Media, he adds that "a changed media culture that creates new perils for politicians also provides new forms of refuge."
(Hmm. Maybe I should link to our new NPI site again, since this article underscores the importance of realizing the influence new media has on politics.)