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Rob Horowitz: 5 Reasons for New Year’s Day Optimism

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

As we begin the New Year there are sound reasons for optimism, despite the dispiriting and dysfunctional nature of too much of our day-to-day politics. Five significant positive developments are outlined below:

1. Both Parties Embrace Comprehensive Immigration Reform: The stars are now aligned for the adoption of comprehensive immigration reform including a path to citizenship for the 12 million or so undocumented immigrants presently in the nation. In the wake of President Obama winning the Latino vote over Mitt Romney by the overwhelming margin of 71% to 27%, a critical mass of Republican elected officials have finally recognized that the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric of this past year’s Republican Presidential primaries combined with rigid unworkable immigration positions are a recipe for continuing to lose national elections. Adopting comprehensive immigration reform and sending a welcoming message to the best and brightest from around the world is one of the keys to our nation’s ability to compete in a tough world economy where capital is mobile. Throughout our nation’s history, the American Dream has been renewed and revitalized by the new energy and ideas provided by immigrants. We are now poised to reap the benefits once more.
2. Rise of Online Technology and Social Media: The growing use of the internet and social media have given average citizens, without the ability to write big checks, the tools to shape the political conversation and make a significant impact on campaigns and politics. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, more then 1-in-5 registered voters shared their choice for President on social media. The ability of citizens to reach beyond their neighborhood and engage others with similar interests through online conversations is an increasingly powerful force in our politics and campaigns—one that is helping to realize the true promise of our democracy.
3. Rhode Island’s Substantive Economic Development Conversation: As the old saying goes, you can’t solve a problem until you recognize you have one. Through the impetus of The Rhode Island Foundation ,among others, a discussion began last year among the key economic stakeholders can provide the momentum and political muscle required to achieve lasting policy results. There finally appears to be broad acknowledgement of the fact that our state’s economic problems are deep and structural and will only be overcome with a strategic plan and vision, accompanied by significant investments and dogged implementation. Of course this is only a beginning, but it is a promising one.
4. Progress on Marriage Equality: In 2012, voters in the states of Maine, Maryland and Washington approved Marriage Equality—the first marriage equality laws to be adopted by referendum. According to polls, there is now a national majority for marriage equality as well as a majority in Rhode Island. There is an excellent chance that Rhode Island will adopt marriage equality this year. The Rhode Island House of Representatives will vote on marriage equality early in the session and the Senate President has announced that she will allow a vote in the Judiciary Committee. The 2012 elections resulted in more marriage equality proponents being elected to the State Senate. (full disclosure: I served as strategic and media consultant for Steve Archambault, one of those proponents elected in 2012). For the nation as a whole and for Rhode Island, achieving this fundamental civil right for gay and lesbian Americans is a matter of when—not if

5. The Political Arrival of the Millennial Generation: For the second straight Presidential election, more people between the ages of 18 to 30 voted than people 65 and over. This signals the political arrival of the large Millennial Generation-the 95 million Americans that were born between 1982 and 2003. Research shows that this is the most politically engaged, civic-minded generation since the Greatest Generation. As this civic-minded generation continues to emerge and make its political voice heard, it bodes well for the future of our democracy and our nation.

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