Greetings From Chile

I'm checking in from Vina Del Mar, Chile, where I am attending a terrific conference put on by the Policy Network, a British think tank. It is an impressive gathering of leaders and thinkers from Europe and the Americas. Today we will be hearing from Vice President Biden, Chilean President Bachelet, Brazilian President Lula, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and many, many others. I will be a respondent on an economic break out panel later today. 

For those interested, you will be able to watch some of the proceedings live today at the conference site. Be sure to check out their handbook of ideas, "Responses to the Global Crisis: Charting a Progressive Path," which contains a series of thoughtful essays from European, American and Latin American authors on where we go from here. 

First impressions: people here have great hopes for our young President. There is a powerful sense that we are entering a whole new era of politics, one unlike what has come before. There is fear that there are still very tough days ahead in the current economic crisis. And, as there is an ever greater sense that we, the people and the countries of the world, are all in this together as never before, we need to create more forums, more venues like this to connect current and future leaders of our nations to better able learn from one another, create friendships and partnerships, and to model the kind of global cooperation we all are advocating -- and believe is necessary -- to tackle the emerging global challenges of the early 21st century. 

Kudos to Policy Network for putting on a great event, and I hope to check in again a little later. 


Thursday New Tools Feature: "Open for Questions" Comes to WhiteHouse.gov

The big news this week on the New Tools front was, of course, President Obama's virtual town hall earlier today, in which he answered some of the most popular questions submitted and voted on at WhiteHouse.gov. The event, which took place in front of a live audience but was centered around questions submitted online, was streamed live to about 65,000 viewers. Here's what Simon and NDN fellow Morley Winograd had to say about the event in an internationally syndicated Associated Press article today by Philip Elliot, a smart and tech-savvy reporter on the White House beat:

"In the new world of online media, formal press conferences are just one element or program to get the message out — to those, usually older, who watch such things on TV. The online version he is doing is an alternative way to get out the same message, in this case on the budget, targeted toward a different audience, usually younger," said Morley Winograd, a former adviser to Vice President Al Gore who now runs the Institute for Communication Technology Management at the University of Southern California.

"In both cases the questioners are just props — or, in some cases, foils — for the star, Obama, to deliver his message. But in the latter case, they get to self-nominate instead of be selected by elites," Winograd said.

In a way, it's part campaign-style politics and part "American Idol," said political strategist Simon Rosenberg.

"Barack Obama is going to reinvent the presidency the way he reinvented electoral politics," said Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network and a veteran of presidential campaigns. "He is allowing everyday people to participate in a way that would've been impossible in the old media world."

Obama's campaign allowed supporters to organize themselves to go door-to-door and raise money. Because of that, many felt an ownership of the campaign and devoted countless hours to giving Obama the Democratic Party's nomination and then the presidency.

Obama's aides are taking that step forward, incorporating tools that let visitors to the White House Web site pick the questions Obama will answer, turning the president's Thursday event into a democratic press conference.

"Average people get to shape the outcome, like 'American Idol,'" Rosenberg said. "This is not a couch-potato age. Average people are expecting to be part of the process."

This virtual town hall was a great gesture on the President's part. Obama owed much of his campaign success to his ability to make ordinary Americans feel tangibly involved in the campaign, and he's making strides to make them feel the same way about government. I agree with Simon that participation is absolutely critical in this new political era, and it's great to see that the President understands that.

That being said, there are certain dangers to this approach. Back in January, in reference to Obama's "Citizen's Briefing Book" experiment, I wrote that it would be interesting to see how the

Obama administration handles [unexpected or uncomfortable questions or suggestions that arise through this process] - are they merely attempting to create the appearance and feel of accessibility and openness, or do they really believe deeply in the intrinsic value of this enterprise? How far will they be willing to push this experiment? How far should they? These are questions that undoubtedly will come increasingly to the fore as we enter headlong into a new era of American politics.

We saw similar issues arise today. The New York Times wrote that "at the outset, at least, the forum had a canned feel." In the town hall today, President Obama laughed off one of the most popular submitted questions, which asked if he would consider taxing and regulating marijuana to create a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Here are just a few of the comments on the Politico post about the President's response:

"Because a 50 billion dollar/year untaxed industry is something to be laughed about..."

"Same old goverment ...they ask what we are concerned about and then ignore it. Im sure the Mexican Cartels are happy!!! We dont need the billion in tax money from mj, we have own printing press to make money!!"

"It is a shame that he did what he did. There were quite a few respectful, well articulated questions regarding marijuana and legalization. Obama tried to play them off as silly questions from a bunch of stoners. Meanwhile, people are dying in Mexico thanks to the 'War on Drugs.'"

"The way it was handled makes me believe that he is completely ignorant about this issue or else he could have provided a much more thoughtful response then just to laugh at it. I would have accepted some old talking points but to laugh it off as a joke should be insulting to those of us that take this issue seriously."

"The pot question was #1 under jobs, green economy & energy, budget, and financial stability. this is a big issue and i'm disappointed that it was dismissed so casually given the fact the white house is the one who initiated this forum in the first place. what a let down."

Of course, in the midst of a battle to pass his budget, it was unlikely that President Obama would spend political capital on this issue. But the most fundamental issue here is this: When the President asks people for their input, they will naturally want and expect that input to be taken seriously. The American people know the difference between genuine participation and the mere appearance of it; Obama's campaign made it easy for people to actually become directly involved, and people appreciated the authenticity of the experience. If, as Morley says in the article, it becomes too clear that "the questioners are just props — or, in some cases, foils — for the star, Obama, to deliver his message," the President's gesture of openness could potentially backfire on him.

Weekly Update on Immigration: Yes We Can! Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009

I. Signs That Immigration Reform is On Track - Last week I previewed the meeting held between President Barack Obama and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Immigration, Simon provided NDN's Backgrounder on the issue, and Andres recapped for us what occured during the meeting and afterwards at a townhall meeting in Costa Mesa.  The CHC meeting was declared an important step forward for immigration reform by those who participated.  Immigration reform was the sole issue discussed, which demonstrates the level of importance this issue holds for Hispanics, as well as the commitment on the part of Members of Congress and the President to pass reform.  Dan summarized the coverage of these steps  towards movement on CIR, and NDN's thoughts on the same:

1. The San Francisco Chronicle:

After the hour-long meeting, the Latino leaders pronounced themselves pleased, saying they had gotten the president's pledge that he would move forward with a plan for "comprehensive immigration reform" this year. Caucus chair Nydia Velazquez of New York had this to say: "The President made clear to us that he is a man of his word. He clearly understands the consequences of a broken immigration system. We believe that under his leadership we can finally provide some dignity to the thousands of families that are living in the shadows and in fear."

Pro-immigrant Democratic strategists were also calling the confab a success. "It's an exciting day," said Simon Rosenberg of NDN. And given the magnitude of Obama's other legislative challenges, he predicted: "The White House is going to realize that passing comprehensive immigration reform is one of the easier things he can do this year."

2. Major Mexican Publication, El Excelsior: "Immigration Reform Takes on Greater Importance." This piece reports that President Obama has set immigration reform as a "national priority," and quotes Simon's political outlook on issue (translation):  Democrats promised passage of CIR this year, and it is an issue that could help them secure the electoral gains achieved in 2008 among Hispanics, while Republicans need this issue to sue for peace with the Hispanic community; "oppose CIR this year, and watch your chance to win national elections again evaporate for a generation or more," said Simon.

As Andres pointed out, the President continued to outline his position at a townhall in Costa Mesa:

"We are a nation of immigrants, number one. Number two, we do have to have control of our borders. Number three, that people who have been here for a long time and put down roots here have to have some mechanism over time to get out of the shadows, because if they stay in the shadows, in the underground economy, then they are oftentimes pitted against American workers. Since they can't join a union, they can't complain about minimum wages, et cetera, they end up being abused, and that depresses the wages of everybody, all Americans."

Importantly, the President also announced that he will be visiting Mexico to discuss this and other issues with President Calderon.  

As President Obama puts Immigration Reform back on the agenda, a realization suddently hits folks: maybe our biggest menace is not immigration?  Maybe illegal immigrants aren't our worst nightmare? As articulated in this op-ed by Lawrence Downes.

II. Immigration and Public Opinion - As Kos discussed a recent statement by Congressman Steve King - "the overwhelming majority of Americans who support enforcement of our immigration laws, border security and no amnesty for illegal immigrants" - he lays out all the evidence, including NDN polling, that disproves such a statement, and reiterates: Immigration Bashing Isn't the American Mainstream. 

III. Would You Stop a Hate Crime In Progress? - This hidden camera experiment found that most would NOT intervene.  What would you do?

IV. In Case You Missed It - Sheriff Arpaio appeared on Al Punto yesterday - the Univision Sunday morning political program.  On the recent DOJ investigation and Congressional hearings to investigate his methods, he does not fear criticism.  He feels Chairman Conyers, "...only reads the New York Times editorials..." and doesn't know what it's like to be sheriff. When challenged by Jorge Ramos on the increase in crime in Maricopa County despite his "tough" enforcement efforts, and the increasing number of pending criminal cases, he argues crime has actually dropped, and that he has support of Hispanics in Arizona. 

Monday Buzz: Rolling Stones, Rocks and Hard Places, Immigration, and More

It was an especially diverse week for NDN in the media. First off, Simon had a great quote in Rolling Stone's "100 People Who Are Changing America." Guess who was number 1 on the list? Here's what Rolling Stone had to say about America's Change Agent-in-Chief:

WHAT HE'S CHANGING: The every-man-for-himself ethos of the Reagan Revolution, in favor of a greater idea of America: We're all in this together. The change is reflected in the successes of his first six weeks — the largest-ever middle-class tax cut, passed with the stimulus; his extension of health care to 4 million children; and the act he signed to bring fair pay to working women. "He has already brought about an amazing amount of constructive change," Al Gore tells Rolling Stone. "And he has succeeded in greatly expanding the limits of what is now considered possible." The crises Obama faces in domestic and foreign policy are immense, but his opportunity to implement sweeping change is similarly historic. "He has a capacity to do so much in the next eight years that he'll leave behind a very different understanding of what government can be — and of America itself," says Simon Rosenberg, president of the Democratic think tank NDN.

Simon was also quoted in several stories about immigration reform - in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Associated Press (Spanish-language), El Extra (Texas, Spanish-language) Excelsior (Mexico), and World Journal (Chinese-language). From the Chronicle piece:

Pro-immigrant Democratic strategists were also calling the confab a success. "It's an exciting day," said Simon Rosenberg of NDN. And given the magnitude of Obama's other legislative challenges, he predicted: "The White House is going to realize that passing comprehensive immigration reform is one of the easier things he can do this year."

And from the Mexican paper Excelsior:

Salas destacó que aunque Obama no especificó el mes en el que podría promoverse la reforma, los legisladores confían en que sea en el otoño venidero, por su parte, Simon Rosenberg, presidente del Instituto de Nueva Política, aseguró que le conviene tanto a demócratas como a republicanos promover una reforma migratoria este año.

“Para los demócratas, porque ellos se comprometieron con los votantes latinos a lograrlo y, para los republicanos, porque si no hacen las paces con la enorme y creciente comunidad latina, estarán arriesgándose a quedar fuera del escenario político en una generación y la única forma de reconciliarse con la comunidad latina será salir y apoyar esta reforma migratoria, y reconciliarse con esta enorme fuerza de votantes” explicó.

Our recent event with Joe Rospars and Simon was also picked up in the Polish paper Gazeta (the online version also embeds our video of the event).

Rob got major play in an excellent story by Thomas Edsall in the Huffington Post today:

Democrat Robert Shapiro, former Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs during the Clinton administration, and chairman of the economic advisory firm Sonecon argues that, by generally deferring to Wall Street leaders, the administration has become the target of populist resentment, drawing attention to the fact that many in the administration came from the financial industry, or the New York Fed -- which is closely linked to the industry, including Larry Summers and Tim Geithner. Now, Shapiro added, Summers and Geithner are in position of virtually defending Wall Street - only backing off on the AIG bonus issue, for example, when the public rose up in fury.

Shapiro argues strongly in favor of temporary nationalization of those banks which are on the verge of collapse. A full scale, short-term takeover of insolvent institutions "is the only reasonable course at this point," he said, if that means "pulling out the bad assets and the leveraged borrowed to hold them (without having to put a particular value on them), and selling what's left to a new group, under a new name or the old one. It could actually be done very quickly - so the institution is closed for a short time while the depositors' accounts are quickly transferred to the new entity."

Shapiro contends that "these institutions are so stricken that there's no other practical solution."

Finally, NDN Fellows Morley Winograd and Mike Hais were featured in the San Jose Mercury News in an article about Obama's online mobilization of support for his policy initiatives. From the piece:

Some analysts and political experts believe Obama will be able to springboard from his campaign success, using online tools to keep backers connected and motivated, and that will put new pressure on Congress to enact the president's agenda on health care and energy. Votes on the budget are expected in the next two months.

"The legislative branch is about to experience crowd-sourcing," said Morley Winograd, the co-author with Michael Hais of "Millennial Makeover." He was using a term for leveraging Web technologies to enable mass collaboration.

"The ability to communicate and organize is a powerful weapon, and this will be part of a transformational change in politics," he predicted Thursday. Winograd and Hais believe "millennials" (voters under 30) are using online tools to remake politics.

President Clinton faced a similar challenge, how to keep his backers involved after the 1992 election, "and basically did nothing — that was a costly mistake," Winograd said.


Thursday New Tools Feature: New Toolbox

NDN affiliate The New Politics Institute has become one of the nation's leading experts and advisors on how the rise of a whole new set of media and technology tools is changing the practice of politics. The New Politics Institute has produced one of the most influential and dynamic series of papers in politics, the New Tools series. These papers, along with hundreds of major events and great videos about an array of new tools, have helped many progressives manage the transition to a 21st century media and technology environment.

I'd like to use today's New Tools column to highlight some of this body of work:

  • Go Mobile Now by Jed Alpert and Chris Muscarella, Co-founders of Mobile Commons, October 2007
  • Engage the Blogs by Jerome Armstrong, Founder of MyDD and Internet Strategist, September 2007
  • Advertise Online by Henry Copeland and Megan Mitzel of Blogads.com, October 2007
  • Leverage Social Networks by Chris Kelly, Chief Privacy Officer and Head of Global Public
    Policy for Facebook, November 2007
  • Microtargeting by Mark Steitz and Laura Quinn, Catalist, October 2007
  • Speak in Spanish by Simon Rosenberg, President and Founder of NDN, October 2006

Each one of these must-read papers can teach you how to message, organize, and advertise more effectively using the tools of this new political era.

If you're still hungry for more, or if you can't take the time to read through everything right now, you can also learn more about these new tools by watching top experts explain them here:

Co-Founder of Dewey Digital and Media 50 Group Tim Chambers speaking on Going Mobile:

Chief Technology Officer for Catalist Vijay Ravindran on Microtargeting:

Google’s Director of Elections and Issue Advocacy Peter Greenberg on Advertising Online:

CEO and Executive Producer of PoliticsTV Dan Manatt on Reimagining Video:

For more New Tools videos, click here.


Congressional Hispanic Caucus to Meet with President Obama

As highlighted by KOS, Roll Call, and The Hill, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will meet tomorrow with President Barack Obama.  Immigration reform is expected to be one of - if not the - issues of top priority discussed.

In anticipation of the meeting tomorrow at the White House with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, NDN is re-releasing its basic backgrounder on the recent history of the immigration reform debate.  You can find it and download it here.

Simon Rosenberg and Andres Ramirez, VP of Hispanic Programs at NDN, are available for comment on the background and future of the immigration debate.  Simon is also available to discuss the issue on television news programs tomorrow.  Contact Dan Boscov-Ellen: 202-384-1226.

Simon stated, quoted by Kos:

Our broken immigration system is a national disgrace, yet another terrible vexing governing challenge left over from the disastrous Bush era. Legitimate workers have a hard time getting legal visas. Employers knowingly hire and exploit undocumented workers. Our immigrant justice system is a moral outrage. And of course, the scapegoating of the undocumented migrant has become the staple for right-wing politicians and media, giving them something to rail against as the rest of their agenda has collapsed all around them. It is long past time to fix this broken system and replace it with a 21st century immigration system consistent with traditional American values and the needs of our modern ideas-based economy.

For links to other reference materials including a great deal of recent polling on immigration, click here.

Why I Love the Internet

The Polish newspaper Gazeta picked up our recent event with Joe Rospars; here's an excerpt from the article, which also links to our video of the event:

Joe Rospars odpowiadał za promocję Obamy w internecie, a kampania obecnego prezydenta USA uznana została za przełomową pod tym względem. Rospars jest również współzałożycielem firmy Blue State Digital zajmującej się tworzeniem kampanii i narzędzi internetowych dla firm, organizacji pozarządowych i polityków.

Syndicate content