Renewing Our Democracy

Tufts/CIRCLE's new Millennial report

The US's foremost academic center for the study of youth engagement in politics, Tufts University's CIRCLE, has put out a must read study looking at where this all important vote is likely to most influence the vote in 2016.

"Parties and other political groups often overlook the votes and energy of young people even where youth can have a decisive influence on the outcome of the race. CIRCLE is providing data-driven insights about the states and congressional districts where youth are posied to have a disproportionately high electoral impact in 2016."

The top ten states where the youth vote will impact the 2016 presidential election are: Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, and Nevada.

Monday Musings: On to Nevada and South Carolina

On to Nevada and South Carolina - The race changed quite a bit last week with Sanders and Trump scoring significant victories in New Hampshire. The unorthodox nature of the race was captured in two stats: “extremist” Trump won the vote of moderate Republicans, and “extremist” Sanders beat a Clinton in NH (a state long favorable to them) among independents by 3 to 1. Sanders and Trump continue to defy easy ideological classification, and the traditional “left-center-right” way of understanding US politics, long overstated and exaggerated, is proving to be particularly unhelpful this cycle. Discontent with the elites and the DC political class continue to be a significant – if not paramount – sentiment driving 2016 on both sides.

On the Democratic side much comes down to the Nevada Caucus this Saturday. If Sanders prevails in such a diverse state, the Dem contest could go on for some time. If Clinton prevails, given her advantage in South Carolina, it could be the beginning of the end of the spirited Sanders insurgency.  There is, however, a growing body of evidence (here, here and here) that despite the conventional wisdom, Sanders now has a larger, better funded and deeper campaign, something that could become truly significant in the early March states. It sure appears now that the Clinton campaign simply did not contemplate or plan for a competitive Sanders effort, raising over $80m for the DNC and their SuperPAC over the last few months that would not be accessed until after the nomination was settled. That so much effort was expended raising this much money not designed for use in the primary itself will be a decision long debated; but it leaves the Clinton campaign with the very unpleasant reality that they may be out-spent and out-organized over the critical month ahead (though some of Bernie's possible advantage will be mitigated by free media advantage of Clinton's powerful surrogates, including her husband and daughter, allowing them to be in more than one place a time). 

The good news for Hillary is that she is a vastly improved candidate.  In my mind she bested a tired Sanders in the debate last Thursday and in general is putting in strong performances when it really matters now.   She has also found what may be her first successful and durable attack on Sanders - that she will be far more effective at building on the Obama legacy (i will have more on both the pros and cons of this argument in a later post).   I am less convinced the "single issue" attack will work, as Sanders has been anything but a single issue candidate in the election so far.   There is a difference from having a powerful overarching narrative (rigged economy, corrupt political system) and being a single issue candidate. 

Given that over 50 percent of eligible voters will vote in the two weeks from March 1st through March 15th momentum and organizational strength really matters now. If Clinton wins both Nevada and South Carolina, she will a big advantage heading into our March Madness. If they split, given Bernie’s apparent organizational advantage, expect this period to be very competitive and potentially dangerous for the Clinton candidacy.

On the Republican side, it is a different story. Trump has once again become a powerful and capable frontrunner, and he question of whether any of the next four – Bush, Cruz, Kasich and Rubio – can emerge to go one on one is the big one on the GOP side. As long as the anti-Trump vote remains split, he remains the front runner. The sad truth for Republicans is that just isn’t clear that any of their remaining four challengers is strong or capable enough to defeat Trump. And all of these candidates are going to start having money problems soon, and may not even make it to the all important March window. The unprecedented compression of the primary season into this extraordinary March run benefits candidates like Trump and Clinton with strong name ID and money. Sanders appears to be the only other one with enough of both to seriously challenge after Nevada and South Carolina.

What’s Next – On Thursday, the Democrats have one of their television “townhalls,” this one with MSNBC and Telemundo. On Saturday, the Democrats caucus in Nevada and the Republicans have a traditional primary in South Carolina. Another big week ahead!

GOP Silliness on the Supreme Court – The Republican argument on the next Supreme Court justice boils down to “we don’t want to do it.” Isn’t any more to it than that. And of course that just is not good enough.  Yes this is a big new development in 2016.  More on this next week. 

GOP’s debates continue to outperform the Dems – We have updated our report on Presidential primary debate audiences to include the latest debates. Summary: GOP on track to 5x their 2008 debate totals, Dems will just barely top theirs. So far the R debates have generated 143 viewers, the D debates 55m. It is a large and consequential difference.

Showing Up In the Press - You can find some of my recent 2016 media appearances and quotes here, and have fun with my segments on Bernie and Hillary and Trump and the Supreme Court from yesterday's MediaBuzz show on Fox News.  

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You can find previous columns here.   Full disclosure: I will vote for Hillary Clinton in the DC Democratic primary, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign.  

Monday Musings on 2016 – What Will New Hampshire Bring?

Trump, Sanders lead the polls – Both Sanders and Trump seem to be in good shape in New Hampshire as of today. But as Iowa showed us last week, anything is possible in this volatile race. Iowa could have given us two nominees if Trump and Clinton had decisive victories. But it didn’t, and as I wrote last week, the entire election changed. What surprise will NH produce? What order will 2-4 be on the GOP side? We will find out tomorrow night. But here are a few things we know:

- Rubio had a campaign altering meltdown on Saturday, and so far his reaction to it seems to be digging the hole deeper.

- Cruz isn’t wearing well. His exchange with Carson on Saturday, and his incredible lie about what actually happened was a bad sign for his campaign. He is still very much in this thing but there are all sorts of warning signs emerging.

- That Rubio and Cruz have had a rough week means that the Donald has had a good one.

- Sanders outraised Clinton last month by a third ($20 to $15m). Remarkably, Sanders will likely be able to match Clinton’s money as the map gets bigger. No one could have imagined that even a few weeks ago.

No predictions, but my sense is that Trump may re-emerge as the frontrunner this week; Clinton will close and make NH tight but not win; Sanders will close everywhere else, including the next Dem contest, Nevada.

What’s next for the Democrats? The two Democrats will debate this Thursday on PBS/CNN, and then have Nevada on 2/20, South Carolina on 2/27, and on 3/1 AL, AR, CO, GA, MA, MN, OK, TN, TX, VT, VA. It is going to get big, fast.

Still can’t understand why Clinton is embracing more of a reform agenda – I’ve covered this issue in the last few weekly memos but it remains the great mystery of the race to me. Sanders, Trump, Cruz and Rubio have all made challenging the broken system central to their campaigns. The resistance by Clinton to do so, given that she has a very strong set of campaign and voting rights proposals, seems at this point – at best – tone deaf. Something to watch in the days ahead, and be sure to review Ari Berman's smart piece "Hillary Clinton's Bold Plan for Voting Rights." 

Bad Week for Dems and debates – The much and appropriately maligned DNC approach to the debates is perhaps best understood by the audiences garnered by the recent New Hampshire debates. The first DNC NH debate was the on the Saturday before Christmas. The second was hastily thrown together by candidates needing greater exposure than the inadequate DNC schedule had given them. The first debate, on ABC, received 8m viewers. The second, on MSNBC in weekday primetime, received 4.5m viewers. The GOP NH debate which aired this past Saturday also on ABC received 13.2m viewers. The GOP weekend debate outperformed the weeknight DNC debate three fold this week; the GOP ABC debate on a far better Saturday night had a 65% higher audience than the Dem ABC debate; and the single GOP NH debate this week had more viewers than both Dem NH debates combined.

The inferior and flawed debate DNC approach has let the Democrats down this cycle, giving their candidates and their arguments far less exposure than what Republicans have received. So while we are pleased that the two campaigns decided to add four more debates to the original six, it is tragic that these campaigns, in the middle of the most intense period of the election so far, had to take so much time to improve what was a terribly inadequate approach crafted by the DNC. 

For more on the debate debate see our memo which compares the audiences received by both parties in the 2008 and 2016 cycles.

Enthusiasm/Interest – Watch tomorrow night for turn out numbers. As we wrote last week, in Iowa Democrats experienced a 40% drop from their 2008 Caucus vote, while the GOP saw a 50% increase. We know GOP debates are on average getting more than 60% more viewership than the Dems. Are numbers like this predictive of the outcome in the fall? Of course not. But they are instructive as where the two parties stand today; and I want to go on the record now saying I believe this is a problem for the Democrats in 2016, exacerbated by a horribly misguided approach to their debates. 

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You can find previous columns here.   Full disclosure: I will vote for Hillary Clinton in the DC Democratic primary, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign.  

 

After Iowa, A Different Race for President

On Wednesday, February 3rd, this version was revised, and corrected, from the original.  See note below.

Those pesky voters did their thing last night and created a brand new Presidential race in both parties. Cruz, Rubio and Sanders all outperformed expectations, and head into New Hampshire with renewed vigor. Trump disappointed, though one would assume he will do better in a primary state where organization matters a bit less (if he doesn’t collapse). Hillary Clinton retains a huge structural advantage in the Democratic race, but received a very real warning that she will need to continue to improve, grow and respond to current circumstances or face a far more serious challenge than her team has seemed prepared for (see this recent Greg Sargent piece in the Washington Post for more on this).

What happens next? As I wrote last week, we all have to more humility in our projections about this race, as it is volatile and uncertain. Conventional wisdom has Trump and Sanders winning New Hampshire next week, but we have a week of campaigning, town halls, debates and other things that could once again toss the CW of 2016 on its head. Remember that in both 1992 and 2008 New Hampshire was very very good to the Clintons, and could be again. I have no real thoughts about the race post New Hampshire at this point though my assumption is that Sanders will close the gap with Clinton nationally and in most states, and raise enough money to allow him to compete with Clinton head to head for as the election moves beyond the four state early window.

A few additional observations on the Tuesday after Iowa:

The Democratic debates – Last week the Clinton campaign advocated for a debate to be added this week in New Hampshire, the Sanders campaign agreed but only if they and the DNC could agree to three more debates. The issue of a new debate schedule remains unresolved as of this morning, and of course all debates and forums for the Democrats going forward will only be Clinton and Sanders now. For the DNC this negotiation is an opportunity to erase the impression of favoritism they have clearly showed in the debate schedule to this point; or reinforce it. The outcome of the talks could have a huge impact on 2016.

Enthusiasm – Democrats should remain worried about enthusiasm. As we’ve documented elsewhere, the GOP debates are getting far larger audiences than the Democrats. Compared to 2008, the Rs debates are generating 5 times the viewership while the Dem debates are only up twofold. Similarly, the 2016 Iowa caucuses saw a 50% increase in turnout for the Rs from 2008 (120,000 to 180,000), while the Democratic turnout number was off by 40% from 2008 (240,000 to 171,000). While these numbers are not predictive of outcomes this fall, and the two primaries are of course very different, given the enthusiasm problem Democrats have experienced in 2010 and 2014 any evidence of an enthusiasm gap in 2016 has to be worrisome to party leaders.

Young People – According to the entrance polls last night Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton by 70 points with voters under 30, 84-14.. 70 points!. Will be important to watch if this gap begins to show up with voters of color in the coming states, mitigating Clinton’s much noted early advantage with nonwhites (particularly in higher turnout primary states). I will have more on issue later, as it is emerging as perhaps the most significant demographic story to watch on the Democratic side.

Political Reform/Changing the Clinton Narrative I made the case last week that Clinton’s refusal to take up the political reform mantle has been a bit inexplicable. She can run as both an experienced hand who can make the system work better, and argue that those who know the system best are most able to change it. But the agenda she offers on reform has to be real, meaningful, biting and persuasive. My piece from last week offers some ideas on what that agenda could be but it has to start with a commitment to close the Clinton Foundation and have family members forgo all speaking fees while she is President.

David Axelrod had a great related insight last night on CNN.  Paraprhasing, he said that when you run on "experience" the campaign is all about you, not about the country, the voters, an agenda.   Bernie has made it all about us, the future, the country.   As a Clinton 1992 guy I remember, deeply, about how we made our entire campaign about his argument, about the future, about the US.  Perhaps it is time for Clinton to invert her campaign, and make her pitch about us and her compelling agenda for the future, and not so much about her and her complicated family.

Note 2/3- In the original version of this memo, I mistakenly attributed the difference between Sanders and Clinton in the Iowa Caucus to coin tosses in six precincts.  While there were coin tosses, I misunderstood what type of delegate they were awarding.  As this good piece from Media Matters explains, those six delegates awarded by the coin tosses due to the arcane system used in Iowa would have not have been enough to wipe away Hillary Clinton's 3.77 delegate lead as of yesterday afternoon.  So I stand corrected, and have removed the incorrect passage from the current draft of the memo.  

This column takes the place of my regular "Monday Musings" column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You can find previous columns here

Full disclosure: I will vote for Hillary Clinton in the DC Democratic primary, and given the maximum contribution to her campaign.  

NDN Analysis Featured in Greg Sargent's Washington Post Column

A very smart Greg Sargent piece today in the Washington Post about lessons Democrats need to learn from Bernie Sander's remarkable campaign contains this passage: 

"Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg has suggested that Clinton, who has rolled out robust campaign finance and voting reform proposals, needs to get back to highlighting that agenda while linking it to an argument that only someone with her deep knowledge of the system can reform it in fundamental and profound ways from the inside."

You can read the piece Greg is refering to here.  The key graph: 

Clinton and Political Reform – One of the more puzzling elements of the 2016 campaign is why Hillary Clinton hasn’t run more aggressively on her very ambitious and thoughtful political reform agenda. I think there is an obvious way to turn her experience and understanding of the dark side of politics into a broader argument that it takes an insider to fix the system from the inside. She can not only run on her articulated plans, but could commit to suspending the foundation if she were to become the nominee and closing it if elected, leading a government wide effort to modernize the treatment of data and email in a new cyber age, tying Congressional pay to getting budgets done on time (no budget no pay), creating a minimum number of days Congress must be in session each cycle, etc. The reforms she could offer to change the system have to be biting, real, and bring about real change. While I think she is smart to hug Obama and offer continuity as a matter of core strategy, this is one area she should offer a sharper break with him. Trump, Sanders and Cruz all are offering some version of a radical overhaul of the system. She needs to join this chorus in her own way, recognizing that part of her argument – first women President – is unlikely to be sufficient.

Monday Musings: Trump Rising, Dems Battle, Thoughts on Political Reform/Dem Bench

The trend lines we discussed last week continued into this one: Trump appears to be in the process of besting Cruz in Iowa and everywhere else; and the Democratic race remained too close to call in Iowa and New Hampshire. Some observations:

Humility About What Comes Next – Given the poll mistakes/errors of recent years, the challenges with getting an accurate likely voter screen rate, lots of political volatility, rapidly changing demographics, voters having far more access to political information than before, it is important that all of us have a bit of humility about predicting outcomes this election season. I’ve tried to stick with poll aggregates and trends, which while not predictive, are instructive. Doing a deep dive on the numbers this morning it sure seems as if Trump is in a very strong position to win the GOP nomination, while the Democratic race is too close to call. If Sanders wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, I have far less faith in the Clinton “fire wall” than others. Wins in those early states along with a very strong grassroots money machine and organization could make Sanders a significant threat to Clinton as the map gets bigger. But if Hillary wins Iowa she will re-assert a degree of control over the race she doesn’t have right now.

Likewise, I am not convinced at this point that Trump ends up being a disaster for the Rs in the general. Possible, but so is a long transformation into a more conventional figure enhanced by extraordinary Trumpian media instincts and skills. Folks have been underestimating him from the get go, and it would be unwise to write him off in the fall.

Returning to the Democrats, it is also important to remember that the last three Democrats to get to the White House ran against the “establishment” and beat the conventional wisdom of their time. Democrats are just not in the coronation business. Along these lines be sure to review Greg Sargent’s recent piece which explains why the Sanders challenge is important for Clinton. What happens now with the Democrats? All comes down to strategy and execution. A great window into this final week is the new Sanders and Clinton “closing” ads. And be sure to watch the CNN “town hall” tonight at 9pm - will matter!

Clinton and Political Reform – One of the more puzzling elements of the 2016 campaign is why Hillary Clinton hasn’t run more aggressively on her very ambitious and thoughtful political reform agenda. I think there is an obvious way to turn her experience and understanding of the dark side of politics into a broader argument that it takes an insider to fix the system from the inside. She can not only run on her articulated plans, but could commit to suspending the foundation if she were to become the nominee and closing it if elected, leading a government wide effort to modernize the treatment of data and email in a new cyber age, tying Congressional pay to getting budgets done on time (no budget no pay), creating a minimum number of days Congress must be in session each cycle, etc. The reforms she could offer to change the system have to be biting, real, and bring about real change. While I think she is smart to hug Obama and offer continuity as a matter of core strategy, this is one area she should offer a sharper break with him. Trump, Sanders and Cruz all are offering some version of a radical overhaul of the system. She needs to join this chorus in her own way, recognizing that part of her argument – first women President – is unlikely to be sufficient.

Reflections on the Democratic Bench – The strong reviews Senator Cory Booker received this weekend while stumping for Hillary Clinton brought to mind the ongoing debate about the strength of the Democratic bench. My own take on this debate is that the high end of the next generation of Democrats is very strong, and can match the Ryan, Rubio, Cruz cohort – Booker, Newsom, Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Patrick Murphy, Castro, Cuomo, Kaine, O’Malley. If Democrats didn’t have such an usual election this time we may have seen many of these candidates take a run and audition on the national stage the way the Rs have done this time. Part of what is holding back this next generation of Democrats is the success of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and their larger than life allies – Gore, Hillary, Kerry, Biden, Reid, Pelosi – who occupy a space that has no equivalent on the Republican side. There is only so much space in the political universe, and the Democrats have a highly successful aging boomer cohort that is just not leaving a lot of room for the next generation. The next gen Rs – a group I call the “children of Reagan” – have no successful set of Presidents and allies to crowd their progress. So the “lack of a Democratic bench” insight is actually the result of a good problem to have, one the Rs don’t have – the presence of two living successful Democratic Presidents and Administrations (filling the Cabinet over 16 years also took many potential Senators and Governors out of electoral play). 

While this upper end of next gen Democrats can hold its own with the upper end of the Rs, the problem for the Democrats is what comes underneath this talented tier. This is where the enormous GOP advantage in the state legislatures and governor’s mansions will, over time, become an enormous structural problem for the national Democratic Party. The pipeline the Rs have now will allow them to produce far more higher and medium tier politicians capable of winning elections and exercising power. Add to this the exposure a more open party is giving to Ryan, Rubio, Cruz, Christie etc and you can imagine the Rs being able to maintain a degree of political power in Washington and in the states for a decade or more, even as the nation as a whole moves closer to the Democrats. My analogy is the Democrats have a better product but the Rs have a better management team right now. No Democrat should be optimistic about how this competition is likely to play out in the short and medium term.

Tuesday morning update - The Dem Town Hall.  I thought all three candidates performed well, continuing to show growth and improvement on the trail (why you have these things on TV).  Sanders was probably seen by the most people by going first, and did well, adding more information to people still wanting to learn more about him.   Hillary was unusually animated and effective last night too, showing her experience and facility on a wide range of issues.   I don't know if the Town Hall was seen be enough people to be a difference maker, and was hard to see how last night could have swayed people one way or the other (and Clinton did get dinged up a bit).  But Clinton and her campaign have clearly begun to rise to the serious Sanders challenge now, and are throwing everything they got into this final week in Iowa.  

"Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You can find previous columns here

Full disclosure - I will vote for Hillary Clinton in the DC Democratic primary.

NDN Endorses Clinton's Plan to Make Voting Easier

NDN endorses in the strong possible terms the speech and plan offered by Hillary Clinton yesterday to help renew our democracy and bring initial reforms to our political system.

Complaints about our “dysfunctional” democracy have become as common as laments about traffic or the weather in the US. Yesterday Hillary Clinton made it clear that she wasn’t going to accept the status quo and was making political reform and making it easier for every day Americans to participate in our democracy central to her campaign. Bravo! we say to that.

The issue of political reform – particularly ways to make our electoral system more democratic – has been a major issue for me and for NDN for many years. We were significant early funders of the Oregon vote by mail experiment which has now created a system with the highest participation rates in the country. We were among the earliest champions and advocates of the democratizing potential of the Internet, a new political tool that has allowed millions of Americans a far more meaningful way to participate in their democracy. When I ran for chairman of the Democratic Party in 2005, I made “making it easier for everyone to vote” one of the core tenets of my campaign, and I helped advise the DNC on their new efforts in this area last year. I also was the central architect of the plan which added a southern and southwestern state to the early primary window for the national Democratic party, a move, which implemented in 2008, allowed people of color to play a far more meaningful role in picking the Democratic nominee (and look what happened!).

In recent years we’ve aggressively advocated for the center-left to make these matters far more central to our work. We held a major forum on these issues at the Tisch School of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University a few years ago, and have published numerous studies and opinion pieces, a selection of which you can find below. Throughout all of this we have been guided by a simple belief that the center-left could not be a true champion of everyday people unless we helped imagine and build a 21st century political system that made it far easier for everyday people to participate in our democracy.

One thing my many years in politics has taught me is that Presidential primaries are a vital time for political parties and leaders to test out new thinking and new approaches. They are incredibly important for the renewal and regeneration of political leaders and the cultures of their parties. What we saw yesterday in this bold and ambitious speech by Hillary Clinton is that she understands that the single most powerful thing she can bring to 2016 is an inspiring argument for how to make our country better in the years ahead. And with this speech she is off to a great start.

For more from NDN on political reform, read these pieces:

"The Consent of the Governed," 12/17/14. This new analysis takes a look at whether, due to how fewAmericans are able to cast a meaningful vote in a Federal elections our electoral system, is still capable of conveying the “consent of the governed” to those in power in Washington.

"A Wake Up Call For Democrats - Simon's 2014 Post-Election Memo," 11/7/14. Republicans have made substantial gains in recent years, and are a much stronger national party. Democrats have a lot of work to do to compete and win against a resurgent GOP.

Leaving the Reagan Era Behind - Why Political Reform Matters for the Center-Left,” Simon Rosenberg,” NDN, 12/15/12. Some thoughts about the post-Sandy Hook shooting political environment, and the hard, tough struggles ahead necessary to usher in a new and better age of politics.

Has Congress Developed an Undemocratic Small State Bias?” 05/12/12. Ezra Klein referenced some recent research we published on what might be a creeping "small state" bias in Congress. Half of the country now lives in 9 states, the rest in the other 41 states.

Improving Our Democracy: Reforming The Electoral College,” 10/18/12. There may be no more important way to improve our democracy than to reform or eliminate the anachronistic Electoral College.

"The 50 Year Strategy: A New Progressive Era (No, Really!)," Mother Jones, 11/2007. The seminal long-form article by Simon and Peter Leyden which made the case that big changes in demography, media and technology and in the issues in front of the American people was opening a new and promising political age for the American center-left.

Renewing Our Democracy

Over our many years of work NDN and its extended family have been at the forefront of a national conversation about how to best improve our democracy itself.  While at the DNC in 1993, Simon put the first American political party on the Internet.  We were early champions and supporters of Oregon’s innovative Vote By Mail program which has produced some of the highest voter turnout figures in the nation.  We have promoted same day registration, early voting, and eliminating the Electoral College as ways of encouraging broader civic participation.  We were early proponents of “internet based campaigning,” understanding that a digital age politics would make it far easier for people to participate than in the TV “couch potato” age.   We have argued that a pernicious small state bias has crept into our democracy, one which is thwarting the will of the majority and a far more diverse US population.  We have marveled, and worried, about how the design of our democracy could give one political party is strongest levels of support in seventy years while simultaneously stripping it of control of both legislative chambers. We were very early in raising the alarm about the ability of foreign powers to intervene in our political system, and about one party's clear enabling of this illegal and pernicious interference.  And finally, we were the primary champion of the idea of expanding the early Presidential primary states  beyond Iowa and New Hampshire, a reform which for the 1st time allowed people of color to play a truly meaningful role in picking the nominee of the Democratic Party.  

It is now a universal belief in the United States that our democracy is no longer working as it should. Trump's Presidency has confirmed many of our worst fears aobut the fragility of our democracy rather than its resilience.  Many traditions and norms are being tossed aside with far too much ease.  There is no question that in the coming years a great deal of work will have to be done to address some of the very real weaknesses in our political system exposed over the past generation.  For the rising Millennial generation, one of the most civic minded in our history, renewing American democracy for a new day will be one of this new generation's greatest opportunity, and perhaps responsibility too. 

Some of our work in this vital space: 

Major Pieces

Founding Fathers and Consent of the Governed, Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 7/25/17. Simon reflects on the the Founding Fathers and their quest for creating legitimacy through elections, not blood and divinity.

A Department of Jobs, Skills and Economic Development, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 7/20/17. Simon makes the case that the US government needs to innovate in a time of global competition and technological change, and offers the idea of creating a new government department focused solely on job creation and skill acquisition.

Stand Firm: Democrats should ask for 3 major things in their coming negotiations with Trump, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 4/20/17. Democrats should put Russia, corruption and tax returns on agenda with Trump.

The RNC's Russia Problem: The RNC Should Take The Lead In Preventing Future Inference In Our Election Campaigns, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 4/14/17. The RNC helped Russia interfere in our elections. It should now take the lead in making sure it never happens again.

Drawing the Line with Trump, Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 1/31/17. In his column, Simon argues that Democrats need to abandon traditional responses to the Trump Presidency, and set new rules of engagement.

An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary, Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 1/12/17. In his column, Simon argues that Trump's plan to keep all of his holdings establishes new far weaker norms, encourages public corruption, creates many new terror targets, and exposes the US to exploitation by foreign governments.

Trouble Ahead - 4 Scandals That Could Alter the Trump Presidency, Simon Rosenbeg, US News & World Report, 12/1/16. In this column, Simon looks at four looming scandals that could alter the trajectory of the Trump Presidency - unprecedented levels of public corruption, collusion with Russia to alter the outcome of the election, the FBI's late intervention and Melania's immigration troubles.

A Call For Rs to Find Inner Patriot, Strengthen US Democracy, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 10/14/16. While in a reflective mood about the future, their nominee and party, Simon suggests two other activities Republicans should swiftly denounce and distance themselves from.

Voting Machines As Critical Democracy Infrastructure, Chris Murphy, NDN.org, 9/2/16. Our friends at the Open Source Election Technology Foundation (OSET) penned this thoughtful piece to provide a plan to protect our elections systems from disruption, foreign or domestic.

Renewing Our Democracy, Restoring Consent, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 4/28/16. In a note to the NDN community, Simon discusses his long history in working for a better politics, and lays out a three part agenda which will guide our in the months ahead.

Keep the Faith: Three steps to modernize and reform American elections would help rebuild faith in our democracy, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 4/25/16. Simon outlines ways to remove barriers to participation, create deeper structural reforms, and modernize our election machinery.

NDN Endorses Clinton's Plan to Make Voting Easier, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 6/5/15. Hillary Clinton made it clear that she wasn’t going to accept the status quo and was making political reform central to her campaign.

Consent of the Governed, Simon Rosenberg and Corey Cantor, NDN.org, 12/17/14. This analysis takes a look at whether, due to how few Americans are able to cast a meaningful vote in a Federal elections our electoral system, is still capable of conveying the “consent of the governed” to those in power in Washington.

Leaving the Reagan Era Behind, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 12/15/12. Some thoughts about the post-Sandy Hook shooting political environment, and the hard, tough struggles ahead necessary to usher in a new and better age of politics.

Forward of Backward? The Descent of the GOP Into A Reactionary Mess, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 10/25/12.  It is almost as if the more the world moves away from the simplicity of the Reagan moment the more angry and defiant – and of course wrong – the Republican offering is becoming.

Has Congress developed an Undemocratic Small State Bias? Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 05/12/12. Today Ezra Klein of the Washington Post referenced some recent research we published on what might be a creeping "small state" bias in Congress. Half of the country now lives in 9 states, the rest in the other 41 states.

Improving Our Democracy: Reforming The Electoral College, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 10/18/12.
There may be no more important way to improve our democracy than to reform or eliminate the anachronistic Electoral College.

Thoughts on Renewing Our Democracy, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 4/6/12. Simon returned from a great discussion on the Tufts University campus convinced it is time for a big national conversation about ways we can "Renew Our Democracy."

Renewing Our Democracy, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 3/24/07. Simon takes a look at the Bush administration and asks has there been anything like this in American history?

Other NDN Materials

Report: Presidential Primary Debate Audiences, Simon Rosenberg and Chris Murphy, NDN.org, 5/25/16.

SF Chronicle: Simon on Democrats and the Sanders Legacy, Chris Murphy, NDN.org, 4/28/16.

Backgrounder: Improving the Democratic Debate Schedule, Chris Murphy, NDN.org, 4/19/16.

Tufts/CIRCLE's new Millennial report, Chris Murphy, NDN.org, 2/16/16.

NDN Analysis Featured in Greg Sargent's Washington Post Column, Chris Murphy, NDN.org, 1/29/16.

Trump Rising, Dems Battle, Thoughts on Political Reform/Dem Bench, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 1/25/16.

Some Thoughts on Election Day, 2014, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 11/4/14.

Another Reason to Reform the Senate, Chris Bowman, NDN.org, 3/12/13.

Renewing Our Democracy: Suggested Reading, Catherine Walsh, NDN.org, 4/2/12.

Read about NDN's long history in working for a better politics, a task made ever more urgent by Trump's Presidency. 

The Consent of the Governed - The Latest in NDN's "Renewing Our Democracy" Series

Today, I am excited to release the latest installment in our “Renewing Our Democracy” series.  This new analysis takes a look at whether due to how few Americans are able to cast a meaningful vote in a Federal elections our electoral system is still capable of conveying the “consent of the governed” to those in power in Washington.   This analysis is an early stage, and we welcome and encourage feedback and critiques. The document is available at the bottom of the page to download in pdf form. 

Over our many years of work, NDN and its extended family have been at the forefront of a national conversation about how to best improve our democracy itself.  While at the DNC in 1993, I put the first American political party on the Internet.  We were early champions and supporters of Oregon’s innovative Vote By Mail program which has produced some of the highest voter turnout figures in the nation.   We have promoted same day registration, early voting, and eliminating the Electoral College as ways of encouraging broader participation.   We were early proponents of “internet based campaigning,” understanding that a digital age politics would make it far easier for people to participate than in the TV “couch potato” age.   We have argued that a pernicious small state bias has crept into our democracy, one which is thwarting the will of the majority and a far more diverse US population.  We have marveled, and worried, about how the design of our democracy could give one political party is strongest levels of support in seventy years while simultaneously stripping it of control of both legislative chambers.  And finally, we were the primary champion of the idea of expanding the early Presidential primary states  beyond Iowa and New Hampshire, a reform which for the 1st time allowed people of color to play a truly meaningful role in picking the nominee of the Democratic Party.  

It is now a universal belief in the United States that our democracy itself is now longer working as it should.   We hope this analysis adds another log to that fire, and puts the issue of the lack of competitive states and races in Federal elections up there with all the more familiar diagnoses of what ails our democracy today.   

Some Thoughts on Election Day, 2014

Some thoughts on this very close election on a beautiful fall morning in Washington, DC:

2014 Predictions: A Dead Even Race – We enter Election Day with an enormous number of critical races in statistical dead heats.   Making predictions in this environment is a bit tricky (wish the media had held back a bit more), but my predictions for 2014 were once again submitted to the Hill’s Election Prediction contest.  Proud to have won this competitive contest in both 2012 and 2008, I predict Democrats will end up with 51 Senators and control the Senate after the Georgia run-off.   My admittedly optimistic analysis has been bolstered by the final WSJ/NBC poll, the last major media poll in the field this year.  In what might be the poll closest to the actual results, it shows the national race dead even.  Democrats have a 46-42 advantage with registered voters, and are tied in the Congressional Generic, Senate Battleground and in vote interest.  These findings comport with many of the polls in the individual races these last few days showing them true toss ups, and the effect of strong Democratic ground games kicking in.  Analysis of the poll from Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann has this fascinating data showing the Congressional vote preference (Congressional Generic) progression from their previous polls:

Aug. 2014: GOP 49%, Dem 41% (GOP +8)

Sept. 2014: GOP 49%, Dem 44% (GOP +5)

Mid-Oct. 2014: GOP 46%, Dem 44% (GOP +2)

Now: GOP 46%, Dem 45% (GOP +1)

If the GOP Takes the Senate, Tenure Likely to Be Unstable, Short – Even if the GOP takes the Senate, it is not clear who will really be in charge of the Congressional agenda.  Whoever is the GOP’s Majority Leader will face challenges from a bigger pool of Tea Partyish hardliners in his conference; struggles with aligning with the even more conservative House; the challenge of having up to 4 members of the conference run for President; and perhaps most importantly, the difficult math of passing anything through the Senate.

For argument’s sake, let’s give the Rs 51 in the Senate next year.   This means they will still need to get 9 Democrats on board to break any filibuster.   Of the 34 Senators up for re-election next year, 24 are GOP held seats, just 10 are Democratic, and only 2 Democrats are likely to face tough races (even these – CO, NV – fair far better for Democrats in a Presidential year).   For the Republicans 7 of these 34 seats come in states Obama won twice and are likely to go Dem again in 2016 – FL, IA, IL, NH, OH, PA and WI.  Of these 7, 4 – FL, IL, PA and WI – were won with less than 52% of the vote in a high water mark GOP midterm election.   These Senators are simply going to have a hard time aligning consistently with the more conservative part of the conference as they will be facing Democratic electorates in their states next cycle.   There will be no similar gang of Democrats being pressured to vote with the Rs, however.   Given this it may be hard for the GOP Senate Leader to get to 50 votes on some major GOP priorities next year, let alone 60.

Pulling against this GOP “gang of 7” will not only be a more conservative Senate, but a more conservative House.   Speaker Boehner had a hard time rallying his caucus behind his priorities in this Congress.   The anti-establishment Tea Partyish wing of the GOP will be stronger, and the establishment wing weaker in the coming Congress.    This means that whatever comes out of the House over the next two years is likely to be even more conservative than before.   This will make getting to 50, and to 60, even harder in the Senate next year.  Certainly one would expect President Obama to be far more aggressive in issuing veto threats early in these legislative fights to put even more pressure in the Senate for Dem heavy Rs and more conservative Dems to oppose whatever comes out of the Republican House Majority.  

The Senate map is so favorable to Democrats in 2016 that it will put the Rs on the defensive politically from day one, something that may encourage McConnell’s team to be even more cautious of the hard line House than usual.   Taken together, it is a bit hard to see how the Republicans can make their possible new found control of Congress anything other than messy.   The issue next year will not be what President Obama does – his agenda is well established at this point – but what can this new unstable and fragile Congressional majority do.  

Not A Lot of Good News in the 2016 Map for the GOP – At this point, it doesn’t look like the GOP has done very much to weaken the Democratic Electoral college advantage of recent years.  Most of their Senate wins will come from outside the Presidential map.   In critical 2016 states – FL, GA, MI, PA, WI – the GOP is showing ominous weakness in Senate and/or gubernatorial races.   Hard to argue that dead even Senate races in CO and IA are big bright spots, though the GOP’s success in Ohio this cycle could become significant in 2016.   Whatever GOP strategic gains might come from Ohio moving to be a true Presidential toss-up are likely to be offset by Democrats adding two Red states – AZ and GA - to their 2016 targets. 

All of this comes against the backdrop of an electorate becoming 2 percentage points less white every four years, making the GOP’s 2016 Presidential Hill that much higher to climb.   In 2012 the electorate was 72% white.  Due to inexorable population trends, it is estimated to be just 70% white in 2016.   Additionally, far more Millennials will be of voting age in 2016, and though the Dem advantage with this group may not be what it was, it is still significant and there will be more of them in coming elections.   The math means that even a lower vote share for Democrats with Millennials in 2016 might not translate into the GOP gaining any additional net vote given the expanding voting age Millennial population. 

No Evidence of Any Big Shifts in the Hispanic Vote - Election Day may tell a different story, but today there is no evidence of a statistically or politically significant shift in the Hispanic vote in the US.   The most recent Pew Hispanic poll – perhaps the most credible independent poll of Hispanics - released just a week ago has the 2014 Hispanic vote at 2-1 Democrat, 57-28, or about where Obama ended up in 2008. Diving deeper into the data, the favs/unfavs also show 2008 level numbers, which of course may leave the GOP a bit better off than 2012 but far away from being competitive at the Presidential level.   In their pre-election poll from a few weeks ago, the Democratic leaning pollsters at Latino Decisions have the numbers even worse right now for Republicans: 59-25 in 2014, and 55-20 in 2016.  And in their recent state polls in CO, FL and NC traditional Democratic advantages are holding, and there is no sign of Republican gains. 

The Pew Hispanic poll has data which suggests that advocates on both sides may have exaggerated the impact of the President’s delay in taking Executive Action on the Hispanic vote.   Only 24% of Hispanics in this poll say they are unhappy (disappointed/angry) with the delay in Executive Action, and only 6% say they are angry.   76% either had no opinion about the delay, or supported it – three times as many as were disappointed or angry.   These findings reinforce that what we are seeing is a slight dip in support for Democrats in this community but no real structural change. 

Claims from Republican interests of their gains with Hispanics thus seem to be far more wishful thinking than data-driven analysis at this point. 

And while the possibility of a Bush on the ballot in 2016 might improve the Rs standing with Hispanics, the underlying trends are far worse for the Republican Party than is commonly understood.  The last four years has seen a dramatic escalation by the GOP in advancing policies hostile to Hispanic and immigrant interests, while Democrats have perhaps advanced an agenda that is among the most pro-Hispanic and immigrant of the modern era.   Depending on the candidates the two sides choose, and the agenda their allies in Congress advance, it is far more likely that over the next two years the Democrats will be able to make this stark contrast clearer they have this cycle than the opposite taking place - the Republicans switching core positions on things like the ACA, minimum wage, opposition to CIR and the President’s coming Executive Action, deportation of DREAMers, cutting federal education spending and advocating voting restrictions.   Remember that the only potential 2016 GOP candidate with an unequivocal embrace of Comprehensive Immigration Reform is Jeb Bush.   So there is no real evidence in the data of GOP gains with Hispanics, and the path for them to regain critical lost ground seems politically out of reach.   

Our System Needs Reform – Assuming the GOP takes the Senate tonight, in just three elections the US political system will have given one Party its biggest back to back majorities at the Presidential level in 70 years will also stripping both Houses of Congress from that Party and giving it to their opposition.  From a political science/design standpoint, it is frankly hard to produce election results like this in a political/electoral system even if one tried.  

And it gets worse.  In 2012 Democrats won more one than 1 million more votes in the House than the GOP but didn’t win the chamber.   In 2014, according to the latest major national poll, registered voters favor the Democrats 46-42, and likely voters are split evenly 46R-45D.  Yet the Republicans are likely to make significant gains in both the Senate and House.  It is at this point a realistic possibility that the Democrats could win more votes nationally in 2014 and end up with the GOP controlling both Houses of Congress.   Results like these should raise legitimate questions about whether something has gone wrong with the way our democracy works these days, and reinforce the need for the center-left to make political reform one of its highest priorities in the years ahead. 

In a recent essay, I raised related questions about whether with so few people voting in contested races every two years our democracy is still capable of providing the “consent of the governed” as imagined by The Founding Fathers. And of course there are many other issues – the role of money, the difficulty of voting, the pernicious development of a true small state basis in our Congress, the anachronistic Electoral College and more.  I hope in the coming months the chattering classes in Washington can start having a serious conversation about what is happening in our political system, and whether there are things we can do to make it better.  

The DNC Should Have A Single Minded Mission: Expanding the Electorate – The return of the mid-term turnout problem for Democrats, and what appears to be early evidence of success in mitigating it in targeted Senate races, suggests a new and very concentrated mission for the DNC:  single minded focus on closing this gap, and advancing efforts to make it easier for people to vote in all 50 states.   While these efforts are already underway at the DNC, they needed to be stepped up, funded and staffed at a level commensurate with the challenge.   

Can a Party Run Away From Its Own President in the Mid-Terms?  I have long doubted that a Congressional Party has the capacity to distance itself from its own Presidential candidate or President.   I fall in the camp that believes Democrats should have found a way to run on their record this cycle, as 6 years of a Democratic President has made once again made the nation far better than he found it (been true of both Clinton and Obama, not true of either Bush).  Whether that narrative was an easy one to sell or not we will never really know for while it is statistically true it was never really tried.   Democrats managed to get all of the downside of President Obama this cycle and far too little of the upside.

The across the board policy successes of President Obama on the economy, deficit, health care reform energy policy and border security also leaves the GOP very little running intellectual and policy running room in the next Congress, and reinforce how little of a mandate the GOP will have in 2015-2016.   Will be interesting to see how exactly GOP leaders criticize plummeting deficits, gas prices, unemployment and uninsured rates; declining costs of health care; very strong stock market valuations and GDP/growth rates; significant advances in renewable and traditional energy production;  and a net undocumented flow of zero and declining crime rates all along the US-Mexico border.    Do we think in any kind of serious and sustained debate the GOP will be able to convince the US public that Obama has been a bad President given all this, and that they somehow could have done a better job?  Assume this is possible, but it sure isn’t a given.  

Finally, in what should be one of the major stories of 2014, the total meltdown of the conservative experiment in Kansas, and the struggles/loses of GOP governors in FL, PA, MI and WI reinforce that while 2014 might be a good election for the GOP politically, it has not been a good one for them ideologically.  A dead even national vote, power potentially granted by a handful of races decided by a few thousands votes, no big argument, significant setbacks and struggles in big states does not a mandate make.   The potential for overreach by a new GOP Congressional majority is very real, and may be hard to avoid. 

More to Come - Look for an update (and perhaps corrections) later this week. 

NDN’s Corey Cantor also contributed to this memo. 

Other Items We Found Helpful

Ronald Brownstein: “The Tectonic Plates of 2014,” National Journal.

Norm Ornstein: “A Republican Victory Could Splinter The Party,” National Journal.

Nate Cohn: “Why 2014 Isn’t Good As It Seems for the Republicans,” New York Times.

Joe Rospars: “Obama  Digital Guru to Democrats: Stop Being Lame,” Time Magazine.

Jill Lawrence:  “A Wasted Opportunity for Democrats,” National Memo.  

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