Andrea Batista Schlesinger
DMI’s Future, and why now is a good time to be a progressive think tank
Some of you have asked what the election results mean for DMI. "You were a gadfly. Now Democrats are in power. Isn't it easier to complain? What the heck are you going to do now?"
In many ways, the election was an affirmation of the effectiveness of DMI's strategy. While the campaign was a referendum on the war, it was very much a referendum on the economy.
We knew that the middle-class framework - that all people are united by economic anxiety, and that our nation is rapidly becoming one of the wealthy and everyone else, and that the best evidence is the disappearance of our middle class - would resonate. We knew that we had to talk about the middle class, in great part because everyone identifies as middle class, and not just about the rich and the poor. In the campaigns that captured the public attention the most, like Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Jon Tester of Montana(pictured), the candidates talked directly about this "middle class" squeeze.
We knew that it would resonate if we framed it from the perspective of people's aspirations, and restoration of the American Dream, and not by their fears (e.g. "you're screwed).
We knew that we had to transcend the single-issue paradigm -- just talk about health care, just talk about education, just talk about labor policy - and talk about all of these policies as examples of a larger failure to create policy that actually improves people's lives. But at the same time, we knew that we could only create the momentum and will to address these issues - health care, higher education - if we framed them explicitly as middle-class issues, and not just issues impacting the poorest Americans.
We knew that it was better to try to connect the dots to shape the debate, rather than offering a few policy proposals here and there that didn't address the fundamental issues. (We can leave that work to our centrist brothers and sisters - if you want to hear me debate one, click here. Our goal was always to make progressive solutions resonate to the middle, not to come up with middle-ground solutions.
I hope you feel good that DMI, without a doubt, contributed to this dialogue. Our Congressional scorecards were used throughout the country -- from blogs to letters to the editor from citizens about the grade of their representatives to national radio and the National Journal, to labor unions who distributed them to their members. (If you want to see some of the ways our scorecard was used, click here). Through our Google ad word campaign, people saw the ads that we created advertising the middle-class scores of members of Congress 24 MILLION TIMES. That's right: 24 million times. And, with the exception of one, all of the incumbents who lost their races got F's on our scorecard.
Don't worry about the future. DMI has been preparing for this moment for years. Through our Marketplace of Ideas series, we have been highlighting the most effective progressive policymaking across the country. Our archive will become a source of ideas for legislators now in power. Here's a perfect example: our December 11 event is on making prescription drugs more affordable! This is Speaker Pelosi's top priority, and we'll have a state Senator from Maine who actually negotiated with the pharmaceutical industry to bring down prices.
We will be hard at work getting our immigration framework out there. Through all of our Internet properties, we will continue to engage thousands of people in conversation. DMI Scholars launches this week, so we will soon be providing progressive young people interested in public policy careers to our constituents to serve as young interns, staffers, etc.
Our work has just begun. DMI was never meant to be a complainer, to just lament the failures of the Bush administration. Our mission is to do two things: shape the public conversation, and influence public policy. Our success at the first goal is evident in the last election. And now, we will have the opportunity to accomplish the second.
So thanks to all of you for your support. And now I've got to get back to work!