On Wednesday, major Democratic officials, including the co-chair of Barack Obama's transition team, released a comprehensive outline for the incoming administration that could go a long way in determining aspects of the president-elect's agenda.
John Podesta, who heads Obama's transition effort, and Mark Green, a long-time New York Democrat who advised the Clinton transition in 1992, have completed a 300,000-word project titled, "Change For America: A Progressive Blueprint For the 44th President," that charts out a governing path for the next Democratic president.
Podesta, who recused himself from the work after he was appointed to his current post, offers glimpses of his transition priorities in the book's introductory pages. Writing in some ominous terms about a future Democratic government, he emphasizes that the next president-elect (he penned this before Obama's election) must move aggressively on his agenda "regardless of the environment," or face a revolt from voters.
"[I]f the president and his administration do not take the time upfront to develop a clear and coherent blueprint for action -- and find ways to move this agenda regardless of the environment -- then they will quickly find the windows of opportunity shutting before their eyes and will face increased public frustration and disappointment," he writes.
Speaking more broadly about policy priorities, Podesta identifies addressing the economic crisis as the "primary goal" of the new administration. "The new president must deal immediately with the global financial and mortgage crisis and focus long term on enhanced global trade, economic mobility for workers, and innovation and technological advancement."
The book provides other keyhole views into the future construct of an Obama White House, the summary of which Green provides in a second preface. Framed as "Progressive Patriotism" -- think "Compassionate Conservatism" from the left -- the tenets of the approach are: democracy, diplomacy, economic opportunity, and a greener world. From there, Green lays out a variety of priorities that the next president (in this case, Obama) should pursue, that range from the broad -- "an Apollo-like project to produce a green, low-carbon economy" and shutting down Guantanamo -- to the specific -- creating a "a White House Office of Democracy" and giving "a speech in a major European capital calling for a new alliance to combat and prevent terrorism."
It is an all-hands-on-deck approach to revamping governance -- the product, as Green notes, of Democrats having bottled up their agenda and ideas over the last eight years. And unlike the slew of other "white papers" being offered as advice to Obama, this one -- authored by officials likely to end up in senior administration spots -- may actually have a marked impact.
"[T]he progressive community used their time out-of-power after 2000 to rethink and re-plan at least as well their conservative counterparts did after the 1964 Goldwater shellacking," he writes. "So by 2008, a body of work had developed over time -- in think tanks, universities, congressional offices -- that together constituted a progressive plan to renew Washington and America. Change for America, therefore, is not based simply on more big-government -- "cap-and-trade" is not just old-fashioned command-and-control regulation -- but on more transparent accountable and common sense government that looks to the market when it can as well as to regulation when it must."
Podesta and Green first developed the concept of writing "Change For America," in December 2006. The project, which spans more than 600 pages contains more than 50 sections, and touches on nearly every single topic under the auspices of the president, was co-authored by a wide-range of progressive officials and academics. These include Obama adviser Greg Craig, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, environmental activist Van Jones, and Center for American Progress staffers Larry Korb and P.J. Crowley. The book, according to Green, will come out in January, though portions are being released now because of the Obama transition.
Read Mark Green's introduction to "Change for America" here.
Read John Podesta's preface to "Change for America" here.