New Politics Institute (NPI)

New Politics Institute (NPI)


* Politically oriented think tank dedicated to studying changes in voter demographics and the technologies by which potential voters may be contacted and influenced
* Instructs progressive political figures in the effective use of blogs, Internet advertising, and cell phones to engage their constituencies

Established in May 2005 to counter “the rise of the conservative movement,” the New Politics Institute (NPI) describes itself as a “new kind of think tank helping progressives understand today’s transformation of politics due to the tumultuous changes in technology, media, and the demographics of the country.” Focusing “on politics, not policies,” NPI “acts like a strategy center” designed to “deal with the new realties of politics right now.” The Institute pursues this goal by helping media and technology experts collaborate with “critical constituencies like Hispanics and young people of the Millennial Generation … to modernize the practice of politics for … progressives of all stripes.”

NPI was founded by the Democratic Party operative and strategist Simon Rosenberg. His co-founders included Gina Glantz, Andrew and Deborah Rappaport, and Cecile Richards. The Rappaports in particular were key providers of NPI’s initial funding, as was the Service Employees International Union.

Peter Leyden, based in NPI’s San Francisco office, is the Institute’s current director. He previously worked for Global Business Network, a futures research and strategic consulting firm. He also was a journalist with several newspapers, and served as the managing editor of Wired magazine, which helped drive the digital revolution and pioneered the early online new media.

NPI currently focuses its work on two major areas:

1) The Coming America program targets specific demographics whose support could prove crucial to the Democratic Party, most notably:

  • The Millennial Generation: The allegiance of the roughly 83 million young people born during the 1980s and ’90s will be “absolutely essential to any winning progressive political formula going forward,” says NPI. “Early indications are that this generation is trending progressive.”
  • Hispanics: NPI advises progressive political activists and candidates to “speak in Spanish” in order to reach this “critical new constituency” that is “poised for inexorable growth in the future—far more than the Anglo population, which is aging.”
  • Exurbs: NPI maintains that the “exurbs”—i.e., “those fast-growing counties at the fringes of metropolitan areas populated by legions of conservative white voters”—need not be “lost to conservatives forever.” Rather, they “can be progressives’ next frontier for successful political mobilization.”

2) The Tech and Media Content program is founded on the premise that each form of communications-related technology offers its own distinctive “political opportunity” that progressives must recognize and exploit. For example:

  • The Internet: “Being savvy on search and search optimization, or techniques to ensure your material gets favorable treatment in search, should be standard knowledge among progressives.” Further, NPI advises progressive political candidates to “feed” whatever “dirt” they have collected regarding their opponents, to bloggers whenever possible.
  • Wireless Mobile Media: In its “Mobile Media in 21st Century Politics” report, NPI touts the use of cell phones as a vital conduit through which political activists and campaign workers can effectively reach potential voters with audio and video messages.[1]
  • Games: Noting that adults older than 25 now constitute 60% of the multi-billion-dollar online PC gamer industry, NPI suggests that the “highly visual and engaging environments” of such games “potentially make for very emotional connections” that could help progressives “make inroads into a significant section of the population that is growing.”
  • Broadcast: “Although politicos should get weaned off their fixation with broadcast television, it still has a role to play.”
  • Cable: “For the short term, political actors should still be very attracted to cable channels that reach targeted audiences, both demographically and geographically.”
  • Radio: “There is still a political use for local radio, because, as we know, all politics is local. For some constituencies, like those in dispersed rural communities, radio still is the best way to connect.”
  • Newspapers: “There is much promise in merging the best of newspapers and the best of citizen activated blogs. In fact, combined, they hold the promise of being even more effective public stewards than either one working alone.”
  • Books: “There seems to be a revival of sorts for short books in the pamphleteer tradition. These can get pushed at customers at the checkout lines of bookstores. Progressive books have done well in this form and this should be expanded.”

Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga serves as a Fellow with NPI. He is joined in this role by a number of individuals who have had ties to such entities as the Southern California ACLU Foundation, America Coming Together, the Apollo Alliance, the Brookings Institution, the Center for American Progress, the 1992 Bill Clinton presidential campaign, Current TV, the Democratic National Committee, the Economic Policy Institute, the 2004 presidential campaigns of John Kerry and Howard Dean, the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, Mother Jones magazine, NARAL, National Public Radio, Planned Parenthood, the Progressive Policy Institute, the Sierra Club, Sojourners, and Working Assets.[2]

To disseminate its message as broadly as possible, NPI has held numerous public events in Washington, DC; has written many reports that have been posted on its website and distributed to key organizations and opinion-shapers across the United States; and has held private meetings with a range of progressive groups and individual political actors.

NPI is closely affiliated with NDN (formerly known as the New Democrat Network) and the New Policy Institute.


[1] By NPI’s calculus, if 1 million people would each devote a mere 10 minutes of their time to “mobile [phone] action” during a presidential campaign, their aggregate efforts would amount to some 83 “person years” of labor.
[2] As of September 2012, these Fellows included Sergio Bendixen, Tim Chambers, Jamie Daves, Michael Kieschnick, Jennifer Nix, Julie Bergman Sender, Jonathan Spalter, Ruy Teixeira, Joe Trippi, Luis Ubiñas, Theo Yedinsky, and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga.

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