The last year ended on a high note for the New Politics Institute, when Time magazine bestowed its prestigious Person of the Year Award not to a person, but to the bottom-up trend we have been tracking for the last 18 months. For those who missed it, Time’s Person of the Year is “You,” meaning all the people using the new tools and new media of the web to energize our society, our economy, and yes, our politics.
NPI is the only think tank dedicated to showing how these new tools and new media are transforming politics. We have been on that case from the beginning, inspired by one of our founding fellows, Markos Moulitsas, whose Daily Kos blog is the most popular progressive blog in the country. See his in-depth video interview where he gives a wonderful introduction and overview of the blog scene. We have held events in Washington, DC on the topic, and developed a groundbreaking report comparing the very different progressive and conservative blogospheres. And our recent 2006 Tools Campaign led off with a terrific memo on how progressives should Engage the Blogs.
The NPI website is also filled with written reports and video of events and talks that explore many other new tools and media. Check out the highlighted video off the front page on an event we held on Capital Hill in December, where we reviewed “The Next Wave of Tools for Progressive Politics,” including a big up-and-comer, Mobile Media. And besides tools, NPI analyzes the changing demographics of America that affect the changing media landscape, and ultimately profoundly effect politics. We have done some pioneering work in understanding the Millennial Generation, those young people born in the 1980s and 1990s who are masters of these new tools and who are starting to make their mark on politics.
If anything overshadowed the political impact of the blogs in 2006, it was the explosion of viral video on YouTube and similar sites. Millions went online and watched the "macaca video" of Senator George Allen taunting a Virginia honor student, and using what many consider a racial slur. In the weeks that followed, Allen went from a shoo-in for reelection to losing to Jim Webb by the narrowest of margins. Understanding the opportunities of this new type of video distribution needs to be a top priority for progressives. That's why next week NPI is launching a major paper on producing video for internet distribution, as the first paper in our "Re-imagining Video" series.
Time magazine’s validation at the end of the year reminds us that much of what happens next in progressive politics is up to "You." Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel wrote that some people denigrate this bottom-up era as an amateur hour. He continues: “But America was founded by amateurs. The framers were professional lawyers and military men and bankers, but they were amateur politicians, and that's the way they thought it should be."
We share the sentiment that getting more amateurs, more regular people involved in politics is good for progressives, good for politics, and good for the country. The tools that empower these people are to be celebrated. Time’s piece was a good omen for the coming year.
It doesn't get any clearer than what is revealed in this new CBS Poll:
Sixty-eight percent of those polled expressed optimism in the 110th Congress, as opposed to the twenty-five percent who are pessimistic. (Among Republicans polled, nearly half are optimistic.)
Fifty-one percent expressed doubt that the White House will work together with the new Congress.
Sadly, this means that the road ahead in Iraq - which was the main issue Americans want the 110th Congress to address - doesn't look like it's going to be born out of bipartisanship. Americans cast doubt on whether either Party has a clear plan for the country, even though a majority of them want Democrats to follow through on their promises to bring troops home; and only twenty-three percent approve of the President's handling of Iraq (after Saddam Hussein's execution).
An interesting statistic: Americans were split, 42 percent to 42 percent, on whether immigration reform would be passed.
Time for the President to realize (through his actions) what he wrote in his Wall Street Journalop-ed from Wednesday: "we share the responsibility for what we achieve."
The Washington Postreminds us of an extremely important problem emerging on the horizon for immigration services. If Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will find itself on the receiving end of an incredible surge of applications for legal residency. "Responsible for the administration of immigration and naturalization adjudication functions and establishing immigration services policies and priorities," the USCIS is already unable to manage its existing work. Adding the applications of 12 million undocumented immigrants and you've got even more chaos. Shockingly, outside reviews concur with those conducted internally by the USCIS:
A report released Dec. 20 by Homeland Security Inspector General Richard L. Skinner cited a long list of setbacks and concurred with internal USCIS reviews that the bureau "lacks the processing capacity, systems integration and project management resources needed to manage a potential increase in workloads.
So the USCIS knows it has problems, Homeland Security knows it has problems, and now we know it has problems, but who will fix it? [Enter the 110th Congress...?]
The immigration system is broken and a comprehensive solution is the only way it will get better. NDN knows this, the President knows it, and many others know it. We need Congress to step in so that the entities in charge of these applications are funded and managed properly so that people can have a path (albeit a long one) to citizenship.
John Edwards has been doing a lot since he announced his candidacy for president in New Orleans last week. He's held town halls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, and attended a rally in his home state of North Carolina. While his travel strategy might not shock you, he's also getting his name out by using new tools like text messaging (join OneCorps by texting 'hope' to 30644), YouTube and his blog to reach out to folks from around the country.
(It's great to see Edwards employing the new tools that NPI has been discussing. Hopefully when Mitt Romney and others file/announce, we'll see the same from them.)
In his e-mail entitled "Tomorrow Begins Today," Edwards lays out his plan, telling us that "we know what we need to do."
Changing our country means:
Providing moral leadership in the world -- starting with Iraq, where we should begin drawing down troops, not escalating the war
Strengthening our middle class and ending the shame of poverty
Guaranteeing health care for every single American
Leading the fight against global warming
Getting America and the world to break our addiction to oil
**To learn more about the NDN blog's coverage of the 2008 presidential election, click here.
This article from Iowa's Times-Republican makes us think that Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack feels the same way NDN does about immigration reform. Speaking to Latinos in Marshalltown, Iowa, Vilsack said he was "outraged" by the actions of federal officials in the raids on illegal immigrants working at the meatpacking plant of Swift & Co. He said:
“This whole process suggests a crying need for immigration reform. It is clear this has been discussed and debated but not acted on by the Congress that just adjourned.”
Gov. Vilsack pointed out that his main focus is on the children who some worry will be taken from their parents. “I would hope we would be universal in the belief that children should be protected,” he said. (For good measure, the Governor - and everyone dealing with these issues - should be aware of NCLR's recent study showing that "nearly one in five Hispanics lacks sufficient access to nutritious food and one in 20 regularly goes hungry.")
(On a completely different note: watch Gov. Vilsack's new video blog on his website here.)
In an interview with reporters from The Washington Post yesterday, President Bush discussed multiple issues ranging from Iraq to his domestic agenda. On Iraq, the President turned to politics by asking if Republicans and Democrats can work together to fix problems like those addressed recently by top officials like Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker and former secretary of state Colin L. Powell (both have said in the last week that the active Army will break or is about broken). Answering the President's question, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) fired back: "I am glad he has realized the need for increasing the size of the armed forces . . . but this is where the Democrats have been for two years."
On whether persuing domestic policy will be tougher with the 110th Congress, the President said:
Quite the contrary. Quite the contrary. The microphone of the president has never been louder, and I think we have a good -- in other words, to talk about what I think is important. But it turns out that what I think is important, the Democrat leadership thinks is important, as well -- energy security, immigration reform, education -- and Republicans on the Hill agree. And so my task is going to be to talk about big issues that the American people expect us to work on, and work with both Republicans and Democrats.
Discussing the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, the President said:
I'm interested in getting a comprehensive bill out, because I believe it is vital to solving the pressure we have on our border.
One of the interesting things that, if you notice from the recent enforcement activities that ICE took, there are a lot of people who are using forged documents to do jobs Americans are not doing. And my attitude is that there ought to be a way for people to come to this country on a temporary basis and fill those jobs in an open way, a transparent way, that doesn't cause there to be, one, a smuggling operation that's vibrant and making money, a housing operation that is illegal, and a document forgery operation that clearly is in effect.
There is a better way to treat people, and there's a better way to deal with the issue of finding workers Americans are not doing, to fill on a temporary basis. And, therefore, there need -- and that in itself will take pressure off our border. In other words, if people feel like they can come in on a temporary, legal basis, they're not going to have to sneak in, which in itself does away with -- that in itself does away with this kind of underground industry that has sprung up.
The point I make to you on that is that it's a comprehensive reform of the immigration system that is going to make our borders more secure. I strongly believe that is important, and look forward to working with people on the way forward. It's hard for me to predict the dynamics yet on how the Congress is going to handle the immigration bill. The point I'm telling you is that I think it's vital and necessary, and this is an area where we can work together to get it done.
(For more on the immigration debate, check out NDN's work on it here. Also look at how business has been dealing with immigration, check out this article from the WSJ about Swift & Company's hiring processes.)
Joe Garcia, NDN Senior Vice President and the Director of its Hispanic Strategy Center, was quoted in two front page articles from today's Miami Herald discussing Radio and TV Martí.
The first article discusses the localization of Radio and TV Martí in South Florida. Joe references one of the local stations set to broadcast the Martís, Radio Mambí:
Joe García, executive vice president of the New Democratic Network, said he was outraged. Radio Mambí, known for its virulent anti-Castro commentary, is blocked in Cuba, he said.
''This is a fraud,'' García said. ``This is using taxpayer dollars for a political payoff to benefit the most Republican and politically charged radio station in Miami. They know well that the station isn't heard in Cuba, because Cuba transmits Radio Rebelde over the exact same frequency.''
Despite having dozens of U.S.-paid journalists on staff, OCB has spent about $1 million since 2001 to contract at least 49 other news gatherers who also work or freelance at major media outlets in Miami. Several have reported on TV and Radio Martí for their local news organizations.
Joe Garcia -- a former CANF director and now vice president of the New Democratic Network, which helps Democrats recruit Hispanic voters -- said paying local journalists gives the appearance that OCB is trying to buy off criticism.
Promoting the rerelease of her book, "It Takes a Village," Senator Hillary Clinton expressed both her opposition to a troop surge in Iraq on yesterday's edition of NBC’s “Today” show. Sen. Clinton also offered the most insight into her thinking about possible plans to run for President, saying she's going to make her decision known after the first of the year.
Addressing the field of potential candidates, she was encouraging, saying she wants as many people to get involved as possible (on both sides of the aisle) so the country could get "the debate" it wants. She also touched on her possible rival, Sen. Barack Obama, and the Newsweek magazine cover which asks if America is ready for either to be President. Below is the video of her appearance.
Set to the encouraging tune of "Move on Up" by Curtis Mayfield, this excellent video from RunObama.com chronicles Senator Barack Obama's recent trip to New Hampshire, showing us just how much his persona is resonating with those he encounters along his journey. Check it out below:
Since he transferred power to his brother, Raúl, and obeyed doctors orders to stay away from ceremonies honoring his 80th birthday celebration in Havana, we have all been questioning the state of Cuban President Fidel Castro's health. Putting suspicion to rest, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said that Castro is "very ill and close to death." Speaking to a group of Washington Post editors and reporters, Negroponte added, "Everything we see indicates it will not be much longer . . . months, not years."
Beginning today, Members of Congress in favor of easing sanctions will be on the island for a three-day visit. The ten member delegation is the largest to visit Cuba, a fact that emphasizes the increasing interest among policy-makers to learn more about the state of its affairs. Yet the White House position remains firm:
Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon told reporters that the Bush administration will deal with Cuba's Communist government only when it shows a commitment to democracy. During the period of uncertainty under Raul Castro, Shannon said, "the regime has actually become harder and more orthodox and is not in a position to signal in any meaningful way what direction it will take post-Fidel."
To learn more about the opinions of the Cuban-American exile community, check out the poll NDN conducted in October.