Barack Obama

Progress, Not Motion

As I am not yet really back from my vacation, I offer up a some quick thoughts on a subject I promise to explore more in the new year - the difference between progress and motion. 

The analogies we've heard - a New New Deal, Obama's 100 days, etc, a new FDR - all hearken back to a period of governance and leadership, that while simplistically similar to what the nation is experiencing today, is not at all the same. I worry that the Democrats and the incoming President are raising expectations too high, and in some ways, missing the zeitgeist of this moment. There is no quick fix to what we are experiencing now, no wave of a Congressional wand. We are not at 25 percent unemployment, and the fighting in Gaza reminds all of us that there are problems that defy easy solution even with the remarkable team Obama has built.  

The problems the Democrats are inheriting are much more structural than cyclical or temporal. Solving them will require far-sighted leadership, a steady hand and a strong management ethic that creates a culture of patient investment. Consider the challenges - how to get wages and incomes up once growth resumes; how to manage the societal, economic and political fallout of the first global recession of this new age of globalization; how to truly confront climate change; how we finally and successfully modernize our health care system, allowing universal coverage, lower prices and continued innovation; how to deal with the structural defecits left by the Republicans at the moment the Baby Boom generation begins to retire; how we best fix our broken immigration system; how to rebuild trust in the American financial system, and in the American brand abroad; how we move our people and our infrastructure into the more technology-dense and low-carbon future required for our success; how to best transform the great belt of instability from Lebanon to Pakistan into more democratic, prosperous and stable societies; and how the rise of new powers like China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia is creating competition to America's economic and political prowess in ways that we are only just beginning to understand.  

None of these challenges (and there are many more) have easy, quick, off-the-shelf, battle-tested, bipartisan solutions sitting there, ready to go. While the Democrats come off their strongest showing in the last 44 years of American politics, their majorities are still moderate in size, full of new and inexperienced members, with leaders who are fully in control of their caucuses but not yet fully experienced in leading a majority party -- a party that must now accomplish big things. The dynamic driving American politics these last two cycles has been as much about unhappiness with wages and incomes as it has been unhappiness with Bush - he is gone now, and no one really understands how to both get the economy going again and get incomes up.   

In stocking his government with smart, experienced and ambitious people, the incoming President is building a team capable of rising to the challenges we face today. But what the American people are looking for now is concrete progress, material changes to their lives.   The time for symbolic action, great focus on small-bore issues, loads and loads of congressional press conferences taking credit for things that no one believes matter very much, is over. This is a time in which our leaders need to show the American people that they get it, and explain that we have big and hard things to do; that doing them well will require patience, strong leadership and time; that they will stay focused each and every day on the big stuff and resist with all their might getting distracted by the ankle-biting politics of the every day. This would be hard in any circumstance, but will be particularly hard in the age of cable TV news and the new 24/7/365 news beast which requires to be fed each and every day, sometimes more than once...

After having lived in Washington for 16 years now, I have come to understand the difference between powerful action and motion. To a great degree, Congress, where power is so diffuse, can often be more about motion, about the perception of activity rather than action itself. But this is no time for that now - this is a time in which the Democrats must evaluate their success not in the numbers of press conferences they hold, but in how they have materially made things better for our people and the people of the world. Doing so will require patience, discipline, restraint, strong and sober leadership, time - the very opposite of a motion-filled 100 days being recommended by some. This isn't 1933. Obama isn't FDR. It is 2009, Obama is Obama, and the very 21st century challenges we face require very 21st century solutions and very 21st century leaders to bring them about.  Progress, true progress, is going to take time and it is critical that our leaders level with us about this if they truly want our partnership in helping tackle these great challenges together over the next generation.

If this culture shift is what the age of Obama brings, then we will have indeed entered an era of "new politics."

The GOP and Magic Negros

In a new Huffington Post story by Sam Stein on the GOP's now infamous Magic Negro song, I offer this observation: 

"The core play in the GOP playbook for 44 years has been the magic negro
playbook," said Simon Rosenberg, head of Democratic organization NDN
and one of the most well-versed party figures on racial politics. "They
don't have another play or another playbook. Whether it is Willie
Horton, or welfare queens and tax and spend, or the way they have dealt
with immigration... they don't have a play in their playbook that
doesn't start with the exploitation of racial divisions... They are
going to have to reject 44 years of GOP politics in order to have any
chance in the 21st century America."

That a major candidate for RNC Chair could produce this song, at this time, in this year, is yet another example of why for the GOP theirs is A Long Road Back, a topic I covered in a recent essay on our blog.  Their recent success as a national Party was built on an approach towards race that spoke to a different racial reality in America, an American one where could get away with magic negro songs, and much much worse of course.  But that America - a white/black, majority/minority America - is now an historic relic, and is in the process of being replaced by an America that has 3 times as many minorities as it did just 44 years ago, and is on track to be majority minority by 2042 (for more on this historic demographic transformation see here).  But for many in the GOP, including ones who might become their Chairman, they know no other politics than this Southern Strategy era politics, a politics that has been rejected once and for all by the American people of today's America.  

It is important that the leaders of the GOP have begun to confront its shameful racial past.  But their problem has no simple or easy fix.  It will require a complete refashioning of their politics around a very different set of 21st century demographics and a much more tolerant understanding of race in America - and a complete and utter repudiation of much of their domestic agenda for the past half century.  Which is major reason why I think their road back is such a long one - many of their leaders came to power by becoming expert in this kind of politics; it is the core play in their playbook; it is the foundation of their domestic agenda; and they know little else.  Their old Southern Strategy dogs aren't going to learn new tricks - for the GOP they will have to slowly, over time, replace their anarchronistic leaders with ones schooled in the modern governing challenges, modern media and technology and modern demography of our day.  The process of watching this generational replacement take place will be one of the most interesting political stories of the next 10-20 years, and of course has become all the more necessary in the age of Obama.  

How many reading this blog are aware that of the hundreds of Republicans in the Senate and House, just 5 are technically minorities - 4 Cuban-Americans from South Florida and a new Vietnamese-American from Louisiana? No African-Americans, no non-Cuban Hispanics.  In a nation now one-third minority the Washington Republicans remain 98 percent white and deeply out of touch with the emerging and much more complicated racial construct of our day.  

My advice to them? As you remake your Grand Old Party look to Lincoln - not Nixon - for your inspiration. And good luck.  The nation will be better off with a 21st century Republican Party rather than the failed, disgraced and intolerant one we have today.

Update: For fun check out how our A Long Road Back argument was addressed and discussed at the conservative website Townhall the other day.  

Wed am Update: The debate rages on.  The WaPo weighs in with an editorial today, and the Politico reports that "'Magic Negro' Flap Might Help Saltsman."

Fri am Update: Paul Krugman chimes in today with a very good column that echoes some of these themes.

The Obama Administration Reflects 21st Century America

Over the past week the number of Hispanics/Latinos in Barack Obama's administration jumped to 7 individuals, an historic number, with the appointments of U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis.  Even before this week, Obama was already receiving praise for setting a record of top Hispanics in the Cabinet (full First Read Cabinet Census listed here).  The number of senior Latino staff to the White House might increase once again, if Adolfo Carrion is in fact named to head the White House Office of Urban Policy.  The Latinos named to the administration so far, and their posts: 

- Gov. Bill Richardson (NM), Secretary of Commerce
- Nancy Sutley (of an Argentine mother), Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
- Moises "Mo" Vela, Director of Administration Office of the Vice President
- Luis Caldera, White House Military Office
- Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
- U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO), Secretary of the Interior
- U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), Secretary of Labor

Additionally, Rep. Xavier Becerra was approached for the position of USTR, but it is reported that he decided to remain in the House of Representatives.  Rep. Becerra and others have been asked by the Spanish-language media if they feel that the number of Hispanics named is "sufficient," which completely misses the point of what these appointments mean.  As stated by Rahm Emanuel, "diversity wasn't the driving force here....most importantly, the quality is of a single standard.  We wanted to make sure that we got a great staff of seasoned people - both on the policy front and political front - who knew their stuff."  What we celebrate is not that Hispanics are filling some sort of quota, we celebrate that the new administration is inclusive and receptive of talent, regardless of background and ethnicity, and we celebrate that the Latinos being named are leaders who have excelled in their respective fields.   We celebrate that Latinos are not only a growing demographic, but that it is finally out in the open that they are also a part of the most talented pools of leadership in the United States.

As Simon has stated, these appointments mean that Democrats - and President-elect Obama - are working to build a very 21st century, and potentially durable, coalition.  They are discovering the new electoral map of this new century, and employ the latest and potent tools to engange the American people.  Obama particularly engages the Latino community through his Spanish-language updates and press releases on the inauguration, and through the Spanish translation of all his press releases and weekly address.  

NDN congratulates all of the Presidential nominees, particularly our friends and collaborators - Rep. Hilda Solis is a longtime friend of NDN's and provided important support to our affiliate Latino voter mobilization campaign, Adelante 08.  Gov. Richardson and Sen. Salazar are also longtime friends and formed part of NDN's founding advisory board. The nomination of our fellow Latinos not only demonstrates the power of the Latino vote, it is a reflection of the reality of our nation's demographic makeup and reflect's our nation's true mixed racial and ethnic identity.  We congratulate President-elect Obama's commitment to reflecting the talent that comes from this racial reality in his Administration. Moreover,  these appointments are proof of our community's abilities - these Latinos are also the most qualified people for the job. 

More Ideas for the Stimulus: Free Computer Training for All Americans

Yesterday my family went shopping at a local Apple Store for a new iPod for my wife (she chose a Nano). In between chasing my kids as they ran through the store, we were all greeted with a remarkable sight - a youngish Apple employee patiently teaching a class of 10 or so middle-aged adults about all this new fangled technology pouring out of Apple these days. Since then, I've thought a a lot about that image of seeing learning happening at a retail store right in the middle of the holiday rush. To me, it could become an inspiring image for this new age of Obama - America and its people retooling, together, for the new economy of the 21st century. 

The new economy of the 21st century will be many things, but we know it will and must be technology-rich, built on a low-carbon foundation and with the rise of nations like China, India, Brazil and Mexico, much more globally competitive. Successfully transitioning America and its people to this new economy is one of the incoming President's most daunting challenges, and one he seems to understand. 

NDN was pleased and excited last week when the incoming President embraced some ideas we've been aggressively advocating for - investments in greening government buildings, health IT, creating universal and ubiquitous broadband and computer access, including in our nation's public schools and overall investment in our nation's aging infrastructure. These are smart investments, ones that will not only help address the short-term challenges we face but also help accelerate our transition into this new economy.  

As he and his team consider other measures that have similar dual short- and long-term benefits, we hope that they take a serious look at another idea NDN has been promoting - offering free computer training to all Americans. NDN first proposed this idea in a compelling paper by Dr. Rob Shapiro last year, Tapping the Resources of America's Community Colleges: A Modest Proposal to Provide Universal Access to Computer Training. In it he wrote:

It is time that America ensures that all workers have real opportunities to build
the skills necessary to operate one of the most important new technologies of our time, computers. Young Americans are increasingly adept at working with computers, but many American workers still lack those skills. Here, we propose a direct, new approach to giving U.S. workers the opportunity to develop those skills, by providing federal government grants to America’s community colleges to keep open their computer labs three nights every week, staffed by instructors who will provide basic instruction to any person in the community who walks in and requests it.

The primary way any nation can ensure that its people enjoy broad‐based upward mobility is to raise the productivity of its workers and businesses. Achieving that goal, as the United States has done throughout most of its history, depends largely on three critical factors. First, the economy must promote the development and spread of new technologies, new ways of organizing and operating businesses, and other innovations that create new value and new efficiencies. Second, companies must invest in those technologies and in other business and economic innovations, so workers can use them to perform their jobs more productively. Finally, workers, companies, and the government must provide continuing support for all workers to acquire the skills to operate new technologies and perform well in innovative business environments.

The program proposed here, fully implemented, could provide that support and enable all American workers to learn basic computer skills at a total annual cost of less than $125 million a year.

Later in 2007, Senator Obama's campaign embraced the idea, and Democratic Caucus Chair John Larson has been working on a bill that would introduce the idea in the House. We discussed this idea, and a sister idea - putting a laptop in every backpack of every American child - at a forum last year with Rob, Rep. Larson and Transition Advisor Alec Ross.  

There is great societal power in this program, well beyond its surface appeal. Imagine if the President launched a multi-year campaign to challenge Americans to upgrade their skills, and become fluent in the new ways of the Internet and computers. That he would offer training, ubiquitous access and in exchange, we would all go back to school - making it patriotic to retool around these new technologies and this new way of working. Older public officials could take these classes and encourage their fellow citizens to do so. Community leaders could engage in public chats with students in newly wired schools. And so on. It could become a national, communal effort to move our society and people to this new economy, together, embodying this new ethic already articulated by President-elect Obama that what must be done must be done together, that there is a limit to what government can do.  That by embracing this national effort to retool we will ensure that no American is left behind in this new economy of the 21st century.

My hope is that this moment I witnessed in the Apple Store yesterday - Americans learning, retooling - becomes a a model for an entire generation, and that together we work to make sure all Americans have the tools they need to live, learn and prosper in the new economy of this daunting new century.

Weekly Update on Immigration

"Prison" for immigrants? - A note in Dubois, Pennsylvania's Courier Express discusses expansion plans for a privately run "federal prison for illegal immigrants." According to the story, the prison is under contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. My first question is: why are any immigrants going to prisons as opposed to detention centers? Or is this a case of criminals who are serving sentences and are found to be in the country illegally? I feel like important details were left out of the story, but if non-criminal aliens are somehow being held in prisons then we have a major issue.

The Impact of the 2008 Elections on Immigration, continued: 1. "Firewall" wins -Saxby Chambliss (R) won the runoff election in Georgia against Jim Martin (D) for the Senate. The runoff was widely covered by Time and Chambliss was even on Halperin's "Five Most Important People in American Politics Right Now Who Aren't Barack Obama." In addition to the political considerations, a win by Jim Martin would have meant a key vote in the Senate for immigration reform. Now Chambliss and the Republican party are touting this "big win."  This seat would have meant a huge win for Democrats, but it's important that Democrats put up such a fight in Georgia.  Vehemently anti-immigrant and anti-reform Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin couldn't have more different views on immigration and in their approach to governing - Chambliss has been politicking, selling himself as a "firewall to prevent Democratic excess," while Jim Martin had presented himself as the man who would provide a "bridge" to the change promised by President-elect Barack Obama, and that change includes immigration reform.

2. Reality sets in, in VA - Per a piece by Anita Kumar in the Washington Post, the Virginia Panel on Immigration is changing its ways, from the hard-line stance to more productive and realistic proposals. After seeing the hard-line anti-immigrant Republican candidates lose congressional elections all over the state, the members of this commission have apparently realized that the anti-immigrant positions they formerly took to score what they considered to be political points just don't work. The panel has shifted its focus from fighting illegal immigration to working with the ever-growing population of immigrants. Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), who served on the commission and is staunchly anti-illegal immigration, noted "I can't totally disagree that some people are leery of the issue, because maybe it wasn't the wedge issue that some thought it would be," Gilbert said. The new recommendations provided by the panel to Gov. Tim Kaine include shortening the Medicaid residency requirements for certain qualified immigrants, offering in-state tuition to immigrants who meet specific criteria and creating an immigration assistance office. The commission also proposed increasing the number of English classes and creating a plan to address the needs of foreign-born residents and urged the federal government to compile more complete immigration statistics, increase the number of visas for foreign workers and pass comprehensive immigration legislation.

A Post op-ed also discusses the significance of this change in tone in Virginia in more detail: "....reform is as needed as ever. Only the federal government can get the job done, and the political climate may be more favorable than last time around." Of the 12 million illegal immigrants estimated to be in the United States, 250,000 to 300,000 live in Virginia, according to the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington. The U.S. Census Bureau says an additional 440,000 people in Virginia are not U.S. citizens but are in the state legally.

3. More Immigration Losers - The Wall Street Journal remarks: the GOP hardliners have to face the reality that immigration reform is not unpopular. This Opinion piece notes Virgil Goode's loss to Tom Perreillo - which became official this week. For the second straight election, incumbent Republicans who attempted to turn illegal immigration into a wedge issue lost their election. Anti-immigration hardliners Randy Graf, John Hostettler and J.D. Hayworth were among the Republicans who lost in 2006. In addition to Goode, joining them this year were GOP Representatives Thelma Drake (Virginia), Tom Feeney (Florida), Ric Keller (Florida)and Robin Hayes (North Carolina) - all Members of a House anti-immigration caucus that focuses on demonizing the undocumented and advocating for things like mass deportation and denying citizenship to U.S. born children of undocumented persons.

4. GOP Immigration Strategy Goes Down in Flames - El Paso newspaper citing the most recent poll conducted by America's Voice and Lake Research.

5. Jeb Bush Readies to Woo Hispanics- In an interview, most importantly, Bush said his party must embrace the nation's changing demographics:

"We can't ignore large segments of our population and expect to win," Bush said. "We can't be the ‘old white-guy' party. It's just not going to work, the demographics go against us in that regard...". "Among Hispanic voters, I think we need to change the tone of the conversation as it relates to immigration. In Florida, we've not participated much in the chest pounding and the yelling and the screaming. I mean, it just drives me nuts when there are substantive policy differences that we can show mutual respect on, but the tone needs to change. And I think we need to recruit more candidates who share our values in the Hispanic community. In Florida we've done that."

This provides a window into the strategy Jeb will use if he runs for Senate.

Intelligence Report: Anti-immigration Leader at Heart of White Nationalist Scene for Decades - This report just released by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) details more precisely what SPLC has been reporting for some time: John Tanton, the architect of the modern anti-immigration movement and founder of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has been at the heart of the white nationalist scene for decades, working with racist intellectuals, Klan lawyers and even Holocaust deniers.  Speaking of which, the "think tank" of the hate network funded by Mr. Tanton, Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) appears in this article on alleged "Green Card Marriage Fraud." While there is little data to substantiate the alleged incidence of fraud in marriages between one U.S. citizen and one non-citizen, even one case of fraud is unfortunate. In this regard, we thank CIS for furthering our argument for CIR - so long as the immigration system is broken and so long as there are insufficient legal channels for those currently living in the United States, or those wanting to come here, people will continue to find ways outside of the system to come here. So let's get a law passed that provides for a realistic number of visas, a speedier green-card process through employment and family, and additional realistic legal channels for permanent residence.

Outlook on Napolitano- A New York Times Editorial on the role Gov. Napolitano could play in achieving Comprehensive Immigration Reform as DHS Secretary. This op-ed makes many of the arguments NDN has posited on the inadequacy of "enforcement-only", and makes a compelling argument for the urgency of CIR:

How badly have [enforcement-only] efforts failed? Since Congress passed the Secure Fence Act of 2006, instead of comprehensive reform, 32 tunnels have been discovered under Arizona's border with Mexico, according to research by The Arizona Republic's Sean Holstege. That's more than all tunnels previously found in Arizona. Drug cartels finance tunnels, but transporting people into the country illegally has become so lucrative that drug smugglers increasingly are mixing their cargo. If the U.S. had a process to legally bring in needed foreign workers and legalize the current undocumented population, the reduction in the Border Patrol's workload would allow border law enforcement to focus on drug smuggling. There's reason to hope the new Congress will act on that simple reality.

The Immigration Crystal Ball - NPR is doing a great job focusing on border and immigration issues, Jennifer Ludden explores how enforcement priorities may change under President Obama and why "Immigration Experts Expect Fewer Workplace Raids." There's also a great deal of debate over whether immigration reform will happen, and when: 1) an interesting blog by Roberto Lovato, 2) A Dallas Morning News post by William McKenzie posits "Why Immigration May Go Forward," while a John Riley article in Dallas Morning News argues that immigration reform "Takes backseat to the economy."

No one really knows, all we can do is educate and advocate. The bottom line is that President-Elect Obama has demonstrated a commitment to immigration reform - he has spoken about this issue as a priority, and here's how he'll go about it.

The Economy and Immigration - And why should immigration and the economy be considered separate priorities, exclusive of each other? At NDN we've discussed why there is opportunity for immigration reform to form part of a new plan for the economy. In a post this week, Jeff Cornwall of Belmont University also posits that immigration may be part of the answer to give the economy an entrepreneurial boost:

Most studies find that immigrants are more likely to be entrepreneurs or self-employed than the population as a whole. The Philadelphia Business Journal reports on yet another study that adds more support....Current policy makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to enter the U.S. legally.

In a different post, Jaya Ramji-Nogales writes about one of the effects of the economic downturn on immigrants:

The "Lou Dobbs" effect; as xenophobic vitriol and resulting anti-immigrant sentiment has increased, so has violence against immigrants or those who appear to be immigrants. Add that to an economy in free-fall, and the result may be highly combustible.

Number of Undocumented Immigrants Continues to Fall - According the Center for International Trade of University of Texas at San Antonio, 1.3 million, or 11% of undocumented immigrants have returned to their home country this year. A right wing website similarly reports a dramatic decline, the difference is in the causes to which the decline is attributed. The UT study correctly attributes the decline to the economic crisis and a decrease in the supply of jobs, combined with increased raids and workplace enforcement. The nativist website draws a very incorrect and very dangerous conclusion: that "illegal immigrants" started heading home "immediately" after the failed attempt at CIR in the Senate in Summer of 2007, which is completely false. The first evidence of undocumenteds leaving began earlier this year, during late summer and Fall of 2008, in response to the economic crisis, as opposed to a bill in Congress. As we move forward, and as President Obama works with Congress to pass immigration reform, we have to be very careful to fight back against that 10% of people in the U.S. who will be spreading misinformation such as this.

Immigration Changing Course, A Story that Needs Telling - The Miami Herald has begun a series on the course of immigration, "It's an important story for a country built on immigration and yet often ambivalent about its impacts. Over a generation, new arrivals from Mexico, the Caribbean and throughout Latin America have reshaped this country. Nowhere is that more the case than in South Florida, where millions of legal immigrants and nearly one tenth of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States have settled."

Hate Crimes Changing Political Climate - On Tuesday, activists called for investigation of Suffolk hate crime statistics. This is the beginning of what we hope to be an ongoing PR campaign to encourage victims to report hate crimes, and to encourage law enforcement to crack down on such criminal activity.

El Universal reports an increase in remittances to Mexico over the last month, with immigrants taking advantage of the recent devaluation of the peso. Remittances rose 13% compared to October of 2007, coming to a total of about $2.4 billion. This is the first rise in remittances after 14 months of a consecutive decline. Even though they rose from last October, remittances are still less than they were in January of this year. And the AP reports on Philadephia's growing immigrant community.

Obama Pledges to Pass Economic Stimulus in Weekly YouTube Address

In his weekly YouTube address today, President-elect Obama addressed the worsening state of the economy, and vowed to pass a sweeping economic recovery bill as one of his first acts in office. Listen to his full statement here:

NDN has been a strong advocate for a stimulus package that invests in our long-term economic future as well as focusing on short-term recovery. To read some of our recent writing on the topic, check out Simon and Rob's essay, A Stimulus for the Long Run, and Michael's essay, Accelerating the Development of a 21st Century Economy.

Aside from the policy Obama is proposing, one interesting thing about this Web video is that Obama is now using the medium to build support for his initiative, using the internet as a powerful tool to advance his agenda by employing and expanding the base of supporters he built through the election.

More Amazing Numbers from Obama's Online Operations

Earlier today, we noted that President-elect Obama had gathered one million subscribers to his mobile service by the end of the campaign. In an excellent piece in the Washington Post, Jose Antonio Vargas reports some more amazing figures that show concretely just how effective the Obama team's tech-saavy approach really was. From the article:

3 million donors made a total of 6.5 million donations online adding up to more than $500 million. Of those 6.5 million donations, 6 million were in increments of $100 or less. The average online donation was $80, and the average Obama donor gave more than once...

...In September, his single biggest month of fundraising, Obama amassed more than 65 percent of his record-shattering haul -- $100 million of the $150 million -- from online donations, aides said.

...Obama's e-mail list contains upwards of 13 million addresses...Four years ago, Sen. John F. Kerry had 3 million e-addresses on his list; former Vermont governor Howard Dean had 600,000.

...On, or MyBO, Obama's own socnet, 2 million profiles were created. In addition, 200,000 offline events were planned, about 400,000 blog posts were written and more than 35,000 volunteer groups were created...On their own MyBO fundraising pages, 70,000 people raised $30 million...Obama has 5 million supporters in other socnets. He maintained a profile in more than 15 online communities, including BlackPlanet, a MySpace for African Americans, and Eons, a Facebook for baby boomers.

Before this election, there were many people who saw these new tools as gimmicky and essentially unimportant; skeptics pointed to examples like the ultimate failure of the Dean campaign as proof that the internet could not win elections.

Those skeptics may be reconsidering that position right about now. 

Obama Campaign Had One Million Mobile Subscribers

Tonight the Obama Camp brought out their mobile numbers: 1 million mobile subscribers.

A million people signed up for Obama's text-messaging program. On the night Obama accepted the Democratic nomination at Invesco Field in Denver, more than 30,000 phones among the crowd of 75,000 were used to text in to join the program. On Election Day, every voter who'd signed up for alerts in battleground states got at least three text messages. Supporters on average received five to 20 text messages per month, depending on where they lived -- the program was divided by states, regions, zip codes and colleges -- and what kind of messages they had opted to receive.

And for grins, see this snippet predicting this from our 2006 white paper, Mobile Media in 21st Century Politics:

Imagine this very realistic scenario: In the heat of the 2008 election, 1 million activists – all of them connected in a collaborative web both on their PC's and their mobiles – conspire in a collective act of mobile democracy.

...let's say a candidate has emerged that "gets" the power of the Internet and its mobile cousin. All their traditional media and Internet action combines with a call to mobile action. No speech ends without a call for those listening to join the campaign on their mobile phones – then and there. And this candidate has inspired a small portion of his base - 1 million people - to each devote ten minutes of their time to mobile action for the Presidential campaign.

The Long Road Back, Part One

Absent huge Democratic mistakes in the next few years, the Republican Party's road back could very well be a long one. They just suffered their worst Presidential defeat in 44 years, and have now suffered crushing defeats two elections in a row, a rarity in American history.   The Democrats have more ideological control of Washington than any time since the mid- 1960s. The Democrats themselves have thoroughly modernized in the past few years, building a very 21st century and potentially durable coalition, discovering the first new electoral map of this new century, employing the very latest and very potent tools to speak to and engage the American people, and have become fully focused on the big issues the American people now face. The center-left movement is also regenerating, and has created an investment and entrepreneurial capacity that has a very good chance of building a truly powerful and modern ideological movement to complement the modernizing Democrats. And of course, the Democrats are led by a thoroughly modern man, America's first true leader of this new century, Barack Obama, who so far has shown uncommon leadership potential for a man so young and so new to the national stage.  

The Republicans, on the other hand, seem unnaturally comfortable sticking to their once successful but increasingly anachronistic ways of the 20th century. Their politics has become more reactionary than conservative, as if their party's great task has become to nostalgically but angrily fight against the emerging realities of the 21st century rather than embrace them. Their coalition no longer works in the changing demography of the day, and is dangerously old; their Southern Strategy, so critical to their ascension, has become a relic of the past; their tech and media tools have not kept up with the times; their ideas have become spent and discredited; their leaders, particularly in Washington, seem content to ankle bite rather than lead. They are an aging and frayed bunch, living off the fumes of a day and politics gone by.

At this point, I really believe there is a strong argument to be made that the GOP is further from power, more discredited and more out of touch with the American people than any time since the days of FDR and Truman. The GOP's challenge isn't a moderate-conservative one, a North-South one, a black-white-brown one - it is a forward/backward one. They succeeded in dislodging the Democrats in the late 20th century. They blew their shot in this decade to build a durable majority. Their government failed at a level that has done grave and lasting damage to their brand, and their leaders seem firmly grounded in an old politics that is simply no longer credible in this new day. They are going to have to go through a total overhaul. They will have to develop a new argument that meets the emerging challenges of the new century head on; a new electoral map; a new coalition that at some point begins to accept our fast-growing, non-white population; and competency in a whole new set of media and tech tools. They will have to shed the exploitation of race that has been at the core of their domestic politics; shed their raging intolerance of people not like them; of their comfort with politics and theater over governing; of the binary simplicity of the Cold War and the limitations of free market fundamentalism; and of a whole generation of leaders from Karl Rove to Mitch McConnell to Grover Norquist, who were schooled and evangelized in this breed of politics. This task is a big and complex one, harder perhaps than anything the right has had to do since the founding of the National Review in 1955. 

And certainly one cannot expect this new modern leadership to come from the remnants of the old failed order that still controls the all too comfortable offices of the modern GOP and conservative movement. Rather, look hard at those governors on display last week in Miami for clues to the future of America's center-right. But as able as those governors are - Pawlenty, Jindal, Crist, Palin - one did not see an obvious President there, someone ready to take on Obama in 2012, and lead their Party from a deep and dark wilderness. Interesting folks, but no FDR, no Reagan, no Clinton, no Obama. Despite their claims, the GOP farm team seems awfully thin now, at least for the short term.   

For the GOP it sure looks like a long road back. 

Obama to Keep Focus on Everyday People

Following a campaign that closed strongly and successfully with a promise to focus on everyday people, Obama plans to do the same as President. In his first press conference as President-elect on Friday, Obama pledged to pass a stimulus package, and Rahm Emanuel, his Chief of Staff designee, again emphasized the Obama’s economic plans.

From the front page of the Washington Post:

President-elect Barack Obama plans to push ahead with a middle-class tax cut soon after taking office, his choice for White House chief of staff said yesterday.

Rahm Emanuel also hinted that Obama would not postpone a tax increase for families earning more than $250,000 a year despite the deepening economic gloom. He said Obama's proposals would reduce taxes for 95 percent of working Americans by an average of $1,000 each, resulting in "a net tax cut" for the overall economy.

"The middle class must be the focus of the economic strategy," Emanuel said on ABC's "This Week." Over the past eight years, he noted, median household incomes have decreased, when adjusted for inflation, while the costs for essentials -- including education, energy and health care -- have soared.

Emanuel’s comments on the economy are dead-on: rising costs and dropping wages and incomes have put everyday Americans in tough economic place. Simon has been writing extensively about the need to keep the focus on everyday people, and NDN looks forward to an Obama administration that does just that.

For more on NDN’s analysis on making the economy work for all Americans, visit the Globalization Initiative page.

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