Just a few years ago, I would not have thought this day was possible.
I remember election day in 2004 as one of the worst worst of my life; after watching Bush and his cronies destroy everything they touched for four years, I didn't understand how anyone could vote for him, let alone the majority of the country. It made no sense. It is no exaggeration to say that that day nearly destroyed my faith in our democracy, and as the administration continued to methodically strip away rights and regulations and transform the Judicial branch into an appendage of the Executive, I basically assumed that it was game over, and gave up.
The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor describes what I was feeling as political fragmentation: "the individual citizen is left alone in the face of the vast bureaucratic state and feels, correctly, powerless. This demotivates the citizen even further, and the vicious circle of soft despotism is joined." I felt that there was nothing I could do to change anything, and so I stopped trying.
But the interesting thing about this feedback loop, and the thing that Senator Obama helped me realize, is that as Taylor says, "there is a potential vicious circle here, but we can see how it could also be a virtuous circle. Successful common action can bring a sense of empowerment and also strengthen identification with the political community." Simon has written about Barack Obama's virtuous cycle of participation, and I can personally attest to the truth of that analysis. And I know that I'm not the only one who feels this way; watching the reactions that others have had to Obama's candidacy has been hugely inspiring in itself.
I don't agree with Senator Obama about everything, and I don't think he will single-handedly save American politics. I definitely have no illusions about the enormity of the challenges that still lie ahead on the path of progress. But even so, the simple fact that he is likely to be the next President of the United States makes me believe that real change is at least possible.
And if things don't go well tonight, hey, there's always Costa Rica.
Yesterday, we released a compendium of NDN’s best political analysis from the past several years. These memos and essays cover the main arguments coming from NDN: The end of the conservative ascendancy and the dawn of a "new politics," the emergence of new voting groups like the Millennials and Hispanics, the power that a whole array of new media and technology tools are unleashing into our democracy, and old-fashioned number crunching and analysis on everything from the role of independents, the economy and video in the elections. We've also included some of our analysis from the election of 2006, a day that saw the end of the conservative era, and set the stage for tomorrow's election, which will mark the beginning of a new one.
Millennial Makeover Authors Join NDN as Fellows - NDN is excited to announce that Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, authors of the best-selling book Millennial Makeover, have joined NDN as Fellows. Morley and Mike are two of the most insightful and prescient interpreters of the profound demographic shifts taking place in our country today. NDN has a long history of working with Morley and Mike; they co-authored a seminal 2006 paper, "Politics of the Millennial Generation," for our affiliate, the New Politics Institute, and have spoken at several NDN events, including one in March about the Millennial transformation of American politics. They are an important and tremendously impressive addition to the NDN Team. To read bios of Morley and Mike, please click here.
NDN Breaking Through - NDN has been a major player in shaping the narrative surrounding the 2008 election. Here's a recap of our press from the last few weeks.
Simon's election analysis was recently featured in the Financial Times (11/4), the Arizona Republic (11/4), and The Hill (11/3), on NPR (11/4/08), and in DemFromCT's daily poll roundup on DailyKos (11/1), which linked to his front-page Huffington Post (10/31) article, as well as in Newsday (10/27), the Arizona Republic (10/26), and the Huffington Post (10/28, again). He was quoted in the VIBE cover story, "The Tipping Point" (10/14) about the historic implications of the rise of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. Dan Balz quoted Simon in the Washington Post after the third and final presidential debate (10/16). Simon also provided analysis of the election in the Independent (10/22), Reuters (10/22, as well as here on 10/17), and in several more featured posts on the Huffington Post (here, 10/21, here, 10/22, and here, 10/17). His election commentary also aired on radio stations across the country (10/22), and he was featured on WAMU's "Power Breakfast." Finally, Andres was featured in the Wall Street Journal (10/31) speaking about the increasing importance of early voting.
Our work on Hispanic issues has garnered widespread attention in the last few weeks. Our recent polling on immigration reform was featured in a front page article in the Wall Street Journal (11/1). Ron Brownstein quoted Simon about demographic shifts on MSNBC's "Road to the White House." Simon hit on similar themes involving the Hispanic electorate and the country's changing electoral map in the San Francisco Chronicle (10/26), Bloomberg (10/26), the San Francisco Chronicle (10/13), Bloomberg (10/17), and Hispanic Trending (10/9). Andres also talked about the importance of the Hispanic electorate in the Latino Journal (10/12), and our recent immigration poll of battleground states was featured in a diary on DailyKos (10/16).
On the green front, Michael was featured in the Council on Foreign Relations (10/30) discussing energy prices and cutting carbon emissions, and had a featured post about dealing with climate change in a troubled economy in the Huffington Post's Green section (10/22). Rob was featured in Grist (10/28) speaking about clean infrastructure and a second economic stimulus.
Finally, NDN also made several TV appearances recently. Our event with Simon and Joe Trippi was broadcast on C-SPAN, Simon went on BBC World News to discuss the election (relevant section begins at 1:40), and Andres appeared on several Nevada TV channels, including Fox and ABC, condemning illegal voter suppression tactics targeting Hispanic voters.
While much will be made today on political blogs and cable news channels of long lines at urban polling places, some of the most important battles in this presidential election have been fought in the nation’s exurbs. Exurbs, typically the areas painted red beyond the purple of the suburbs, are places the Obama campaign is fighting in hard, sometimes to win, but much of the time to lose by less than Kerry lost to Bush in 2004. (The New Politics Institute, and NDN affiliate, studied the exurbs extensively in 2006.)
Yesterday, Alec MacGillis wrote about these efforts in Ohio on the front page of the Washington Post, saying:
Obama has mounted an ambitious effort to correct the mistakes of Kerry's campaign, which boosted turnout in cities but lost the state by ceding exurban counties and rural areas. Obama has scattered dozens of offices and scores of paid organizers across central, southern and western Ohio, hoping to find enough pockets of support to put him over the top.
Indeed, should Obama win Ohio today, these efforts will have been crucial to that victory. But, these exurbs, which were recently some of the fastest growing areas of the country, have been hard hit by both the troubled economy and high energy prices. Over the summer, as gas flew past $4 per gallon, it was no coincidence that John McCain campaigned for a gas tax holiday, a move targeted at the Republican exurban and rural base that he needed (and perhaps still needs) to consolidate. The housing market cave-in has also not been kind to the exurbs, and this array of factors means politics of these regions could likely decay in coming elections.
Tonight, as early returns come in, savvy election watchers will be sure to look not just at urban centers for high turnout, but also crucial exurban and rural areas for the size of McCain’s margins. If Obama outperforms Kerry in these regions, look for a big night.