|February 22, 2007|
||The New Face of Democracy|
||Go Beyond The Headlines|
||Coffee and Donuts Not Included|
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The media landscape in the United States is undergoing a tectonic shift, on par with the introduction of broadcast television in the 1950s, and when the media world changes in fundamental ways, “politics is forced to fundamentally change too.” Today, roughly a third of American adults — more than 60 million people — go online to get political news and discuss electoral campaigns. Americans’ Internet connections are getting faster — meaning increased access to video content like YouTube — and our mobile phones are becoming hubs for new media. Thanks to the web, millions of Americans are participating in our politics in ways that didn’t even exist just a few years ago. As the 2008 race begins, presidential campaigns will be on the leading edge of the intersection of new media and politics. Today, ThinkProgress is launching Presidential Progress: NetTrends08, a comprehensive database of presidential candidates’ activity online. From now through the end of the 2008 election, NetTrends08 will be tracking how the candidates and their supporters are using the Internet to participate in our democracy. Check out our database HERE, and don’t forget to share sites and resources that you think are particularly useful, innovative, or just plain cool.
THE SHIFT: Conservatives have long dominated the traditional media battlegrounds of radio, television, and direct-mail. With Rush Limbaugh and Fox News leading the charge, conservatives today enjoy a “wide-ranging, multimedia apparatus that when tapped will vibrate like a gigantic tuning fork.” But the media is changing, and progressives are changing with it. At the beginning of this decade, “only about half of US adults had Internet access.” Today the number is at 80 percent and rising. “Also on the increase are high powered users with broadband Internet access, many of whom rely on the Internet as their primary source for news.” YouTube announced it now serves 100 million videos per day, with 65,000 new videos being uploaded every 24 hours. Since 2004, the blogosphere has grown over 100 times in size, according to Technorati.com. Progressives are dominating this new playing field. “Nielson ratings reported that the biggest political blog, DailyKos, is visited by 4.8 million people a month,” the New Politics Institute notes. “The Liberal Ad Network, which comprises nearly 100 of the biggest blogs that are aligned with the progressive cause, pegged readership at over 90 million page-views a month.” This change is critical, since Americans are using the web to get informed. More than 50 percent say they search for information about a candidate’s voting records, and 41 percent went online to double-check the accuracy of something a candidate claimed. This is especially true for the millennial generation: among people under 36, 35 percent said the Internet is their primary source for campaign information.
THE TOOLS: If 2006 was the “YouTube Election,” defined by rogue videographers, “the already-underway 2008 presidential campaign is likely to be remembered as the point where Web video became central to the communications strategy of every serious presidential candidate.” At least five candidates — Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), and Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) — announced their candidacies in web videos, and Clinton has since hosted of a series of extended, interactive video chats. One of the most effective uses of video thus far was by former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), whose campaign came under fire from right-wing activists after video clips from 1994 were posted showing Romney voicing support for reproductive rights and gay rights. “Less than eight hours” after those clips appeared, Romney’s campaign had produced a new video showing Romney discussing his current, more conservative positions on those issues. That video was posted widely on conservative blogs, successfully minimizing the negative fallout of the 1994 tapes. Social networking tools like MySpace and Facebook are also being integrated into presidential campaigns. After grassroots supporters of Barack Obama mobilized hundreds of thousands of young people into MySpace and Facebook groups, Obama integrated the technology into his own campaign with a feature called My.BarackObama.com. John Edwards has established One Corps, which organizes online supporters to carry out community service activities and other off-line events.
THE NEW POLITICS: The goal of NetTrends08 is to highlight innovative ideas and organizing techniques that are getting people directly involved in politics. But much of that work is already underway. Hundreds of progressive campaigns, projects, and organizations — many of them founded and funded by ordinary citizens — have launched online in recent years. This month, a large bipartisan coalition of web activists teamed up to create the Open House Project, an effort endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to make Congress more open and accountable. Online activists are bringing new focus and accountability to local and regional politics, with groups like the Progressive States Network. New business models for progressive politics are emerging. Last year, legal analyst and blogger Glenn Greenwald published a book — “How Would a Patriot Act?” — through an independent progressive publishing unit. Thanks almost entirely to word-of-mouth promotion on the web, Greenwald’s book shot to the number one slot on Amazon.com’s top sellers list (up from “somewhere in the 50,000 range”), all in “less than 24 hours and without the benefit of any high-profile radio and television publicity campaign.” Strong bipartisan activism has turned opposition to net neutrality into a kind of political third rail.
CONGRESS — LOBBYING RESTRICTIONS ON ‘REVOLVING DOOR’ ARE ‘COMPLETELY INEFFECTUAL’: Despite restrictions on the relationship between lawmakers and lobbyists, former lawmakers are still able to take lucrative positions lobbying the federal government after they leave Congress. “Federal law requires lawmakers to wait a year after leaving office to lobby Congress,” reports USA Today. These rules, however, do allow the ex-lawmakers to lobby executive branch officials and direct a firm’s congressional lobbying. Since November, five of the 39 ex-members of Congress who were defeated have landed jobs at firms lobbying Congress, including former Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), who claimed that “Congress is not for sale” during his campaign. Conservative senators blocked ethics reform legislation last month that would have reduced the influence of congressional lobbyists and required more transparency in earmarks. Furthermore, “the Senate passed a bill last month that would extend the lobbying ban to two-years and prohibit ex-lawmakers from all lobbying-related activities during that time.” During debate of this bill, Sen. Bob Bennet (R-UT) called the initiative “silly” and called the “idea of the revolving door vastly overrated.” The House of Representatives will likely take up this legislation next week.
ADMINISTRATION — BUSH TO NOMINATE ANTI-REGULATORY LOBBYIST TO OVERSEE CONSUMER PROTECTION: The Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from dangerous consumer products. Currently, the three-person commission has a vacancy. Media reports indicate that President Bush will likely fill the position with Michael Baroody, “executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group that opposes aggressive product safety regulation” and “has called for weakening the Consumer Product Safety Commission.” While at NAM, Baroody repeatedly lobbied for looser business regulations, at the expense of public safety. In 2000, NAM successfully killed a bill in the Senate that would have helped reduce safety risks to motorists by requiring tire manufacturers to report accident data and potential defects to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Board. It also opposes tougher rules regulating asbestos and in 2003, teamed up with the asbestos industry and spent $180,000 opposing asbestos reform legislation. NAM’s official position states that scientific data have “not confirmed evidence of global warming that can be attributed to human activities” and calls for “voluntary” measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It “opposes any federal or state government actions regarding climate change that could adversely affect the international competitiveness of the U.S. marketplace economy.” In 2001, Baroody wrote to Bush and personally thanked him for rejecting the Kyoto Protocol. Bush has repeatedly attempted to weaken regulations that protect the American public. Recently, he issued a directive that would give the White House greater control over federal regulations.
CONGRESS – 25 LAWMAKERS WHO CRITICIZED ESCALATION, VOTED FOR IT ANYWAY: Last week, Iraq war veteran and VoteVets founder Jon Soltz appealed for members of Congress to “put country above party” and vote against escalation in Iraq. Prior to the vote, representatives in Congress from both parties publicly criticized the Bush administration’s plan. Representative of such criticisms were Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) saying he had “little confidence that a surge in troop levels will change the situation in Iraq” and Rep. Virginia Brown-Wait’s (R-FL) declaration that she got “a feeling our country was being used.” Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) said, “I’m absolutely against the surge.” Despite such clear public objections to the President’s plan, these and at least 21 more members of Congress caved to partisan pressure and voted in support of escalation. Contradictions were certainly not limited to the House: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), despite repeatedly voicing his support for escalation, skipped the Senate vote to attend an “‘old fashioned’ ice cream and hotdog social” in Iowa. The negative effects of Bush’s escalation are already being felt by the U.S. military, which is struggling to meet the demands placed on it by the Bush administration. Yesterday, the Pentagon announced that the National Guard would send 14,000 troops back to Iraq next year. A recent Government Accountability Office report found that the Guard is facing severe equipment shortages that have been exacerbated by the war in Iraq.
14,000 National Guard troops will return to Iraq next year, “shortening their time between deployments to meet the demands of President Bush’s buildup.” “The accelerated timetable illustrates the cascading effect” Bush’s escalation plan is putting on the entire armed forces.
$36 billion: Amount the military needs for equipment and reconstruction costs, “denied earlier by the administration in its $481 billion defense appropriations request for the new fiscal year.” Among the requests are “more than 5,000 armored vehicles [and] another $153 million for systems that defend against the deadly improvised explosive devices in Iraq.”
“I would assess this administration’s record on global warming as terrible,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said yesterday. He pronounced himself “very happy to see the president mention global warming and a renewed commitment from the administration to this issue.” But he added tartly, “It’s long overdue.”
Rep. Thomas M. Davis (R-VA), the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “blasted the Army yesterday, saying in a statement that it has known for years about shortcomings at Walter Reed.”
Army Vice Chief of Staff Richard Cody yesterday said that a “breakdown in leadership” was responsible for the poor conditions of Walter Reed’s outpatient facilities. “I”ll take responsibility and I’ll make sure that it’s fixed,” Cody promised.
Spurred by online activists, five state legislatures moved last week to oppose Bush’s Iraq war strategy. The Vermont legislature, California Senate, Iowa Senate, legislators in Maine, and the Boston City Council have all taken action to express their opposition to escalation in Iraq. The moves “illustrate the war’s unpopularity among elected officials at all levels.”
At least 10 people have been arrested in protests ahead of Vice President Cheney’s arrival in Australia. Cheney will be meeting with Prime Minister John Howard, who has been a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq. More than 70 percent of Australians believe the war in Iraq was not worth fighting.
And finally: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unveils one heckuva website. A DHS press release said the new site aimed to help travelers stuck on no-fly lists — https://dhs.gov/trip — was “an easy to use and easy to access online location.” “The only hitch: DHS provided a Web address that didn’t work.” The URL for the correct address, which the public will likely find a tad more difficult to remember, is here.