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I know you’re trying to strike a positive not but is referring to US health care and sustainability as ‘second tier’ not a bit optimistic?

Maybe you could whack a few stats in here e.g. number of Americans without healthcare before recent reform, and mention US per capita emissions / 5 planet living to ram the reality home?

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I don’t mean optimistic, I mean generous – tired brain!

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    Totally! The U.S. is ranked 37th in the world according the the World Health Organization. Rather than getting too specific, we’re just wanting to make the point that the U.S. is clearly not best at everything (contrary to the popular myth of American Exceptionalism).

I think another major factor not explicitly mentioned is that the media, corporations & government have long (always?) idolized pursuit of wealth and material consumption and other extrinsic values, and have encouraged Americans to consider their identity in terms of the ego (see A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle) i.e. career achievements, size of house, national pride, type of car etc rather than through intrinsic values like compassion.

Maybe also worth mentioning the prevalence of a long-term politics of fear (e.g. McCarthyism, ridiculous defence spending etc)?

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“Middle-class African-Americans have been the group hardest hit by the recent economic downturns, which mitigates some of this loss for the short term. ”

Perhaps it’s my interpretation, but this sentence seems rather cynical (I’m sure it wasn’t the intention), as if the suffering of Middle Class African Americans is being considered simply in terms of a mitigation for loss of electoral support for progressives.

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Perhaps you could swap “almost entirely” with “to a large extent” or something like that – don’t want the oldies to feel redundant : ) Or perhaps you could follow with a line like “Yet the experience of current generations could provide helpful guidance for the young to fulfil their potential” perhaps followed with a line about the ‘young’ helping to teach their elders how they can be empowered by online tools to help create a positive future for the US of A?

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I bet conservatives stay racist in 20 years. Especially with all the anti-immigration policies being pushed along with the pending cuts to urban social services. There might be more people of color to tokenize, but the right wing policies will remain racist to the end.

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capitalism, boooooooo!

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IMO these aren’t just the new context that we need to take into account. These are the actual causes for American decline.
1) The fact that the America is already in transition and can’t go back to the way things are now speaks to the historical momentum that causes all societies to rise and fall. Deal with it.
2) Contemporary global patterns show that a multilateral world of equal competitors means that the US is no longer a monolithic giant that can always gets what it wants.
3) Intergenerational shifts and the “worldwide digital communications infrastructure” have created new identities, communities and citizenships that make national identities like “American” irrelevant.
4) The Age of Consequences is just another way to say our upcoming energy crisis. Without constant energy consumption, economic growth cannot be maintained. Without constant economic growth the US government cannot be maintained at the same level as we’re historically used to.

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That things are born, grow old and die is a fundamental aspect of the universe. All societies rise and fall. Deal with it. The British Empire was the ruling hegemony of the world not 100 years ago. When British hegemony ended the world did not go to hell and the British people still did (and do) pretty well for themselves. I can safely assume the same in the case for US hegemony; and this is the reason why every instance of American exceptionalism in this article is annoyingly overblown.

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The truth of the matter is that these 4 issues are not causes, they are symptoms: symptoms of a society in decline. An entire society can not turn on a dime and it’s because of this fact that these 4 symptoms of reactionary forces constantly arise throughout history. A quick look in the history books demonstrates that past societies from the Roman Empire to the British Empire displayed these 4 symptoms during their decline.

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This article’s call for the US to be “more like Europe” in regards to healthcare coverage and greening its infrastructure is completely ludicrous. The reason is because as we’ve seen since the housing market crash even Europe can’t afford to be like Europe anymore and the reason is because constant economic growth cannot be maintained in light of the energy crisis.

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It has changed sounds so final. How about the change has begun?

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“It has changed” sounds so final. How about “the change has begun”? (Makes more sense with the quotations)

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IMO the Middle-class African-American example should be removed from the paragraph. The example is not in line with the main thought, and fractures the cohesiveness of the paragraph.

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Capitalism is failing the majority of the people of the United States and the world.

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Not only is the concentration of wealth a problem, but the system by which wealth is channeled to the few–such as monopoly and chain stores, big banks on Wall Street taxing the people for the benefit of the few, ownership by one instead of by the workers,the false idea that the CEO must be paid more than three times (a thousand times) as much as the employee (see the TV show “Undercover Boss” in which the CEO tries to do the work of the employees but can’t),which belies that idea, the misuse of individualism to nay say working for the common welfare, and an overblown military budget.

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Eighty percent of our economy happens in large cities due to the close geographic connections and cooperation of research and development, universities, and manufacturing.

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“has changed” implies that a) it changed in the past, and b) change has come to a stop; its all past tense.

How about “is changing” or “is already changing”?

Either way, it sounds rather trivial. For good or bad it has never stopped changing. No living dynamic thing ever does. Only dead or inert things are static.

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The unprecedented concentration of wealth isn’t unprecedented – it’s America’s SOP. Far from being broken, *America has always been an old-fashioned exploitative empire* very much in the old European colonial mode.

The prosperity and bottom-up political change of the late 50s to mid 70s were unprecedented. Now that the US is returning to type, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that colonial politics are in the ascendant.

So if the debate is being framed as some sort of return to a mythical democratic golden age, it’s already drifted into mythology, not reality.

The challenge isn’t to return to an ideal America that never actually existed, but to create a new international model for democratic politics that is distributed, participatory, post-nationalistic, evidence-based rather than narrative-based, objective, optimistic, and non-local.

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I think the word capitalism should probably just be eliminated for now. There are too many people from the left that view it as an evil, and a lot of people in neutral territory that feel it’s the only feasible system. The truth is capitalism has positives and negatives. It has given people an incentive to work hard, it has helped spur new innovations and inventions- like the technology being used in the current revolutions in the Middle East, & it has provided (particularly the Western world) a political economy that is needed to bolster democracy. Although, left unchecked, unregulated it can have dire consequences, usually stemming from corporate greed- i.e. the global reccession, the explotation of the developing or undeveloped world, the overall decline of the middle class in the United States, etc. We must not embrace in its extreme form or condem it’s overall ideology.

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    I’ll argue that there is no alternative economic system to capitalism, yet (Even China has given up on the socialist system). I continue to argue that capitalism is not working currently for all, under the Neo-classical theories (Even the “Coke” [Koch]brothers are not acting “rationally” under this system – spending all that money to satisfy a power play) . And will close with an argument that those “innovations” and “inventions” where support by a state interventionist, by taxes [Keynes & Veblen theories].

There needs to be a general awareness of near open criminal intent and action, even breaking actual laws that has impoverished the Society. The Pirates have landed and are still running rampant and need to be restrained, much less stopped. That is the real threat that we face.

A factory the keeps workers enslaved is not the pirates that don’t even have factories but only con games and coercion to remove all of value from the society.

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“The changes we’re facing in this century are so different…” I’m no grammarian but isn’t something dangling here? “different” from what? maybe this:
“…we’re facing in this century are so unprecedented” ?

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“new kinds of entrepreneurship” yes indeed, I think the advent of the “B” Corp. opens up huge vistas.

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“The conservative philosophy of governance that has” convinced many of our fellow citizens of the perverse notion that our competitive nature trumps our empathetic nature.

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“China owns the manufacturing capacity for solar panels and wind turbines…” ???

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Did you see the piece about how Facebook is herding us into ideological echo chambers? http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

Would somebody please invent the NEW VIRTUAL COMMONS, that will operate purely out of mutuality, without the need to be monitised ?

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…maybe “China has huge potential manufacturing capacity for solar panels and wind turbines…”

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“…shareholders who will divert the proceeds overseas” or hoard them.

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America has already begun a fundamental transition. Many vested interests cling to the status quo without realizing that the world has changed under their feet. But progressives already know the truth: It has changed, and there’s no turning back. This fundamental truth will define the future of America and shape the progressive response throughout the global community, both at home and abroad.

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The changes we’re facing in this century are so different that we can’t rely on tactics we used on the last century’s battlefields. New strategies are needed that reflect our updated knowledge that:

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  • America is already in transition and cannot go back to the way things were;
  • A confluence of global patterns has created a threat unprecedented in human history;
  • Intergenerational shifts have changed who we are and how we interact with one another;
  • We have entered an epic Age of Consequences and must ensure that the United States becomes an exemplar of progressive leadership in the world.
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Let’s look at each of these in turn.

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The Inevitable Transition

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The United States has transitioned from a burgeoning experiment in capitalistic democracy to the position of unparalleled world super power. And now it has become a place of widespread inequality, crippling personal and national debt, and corroding infrastructure, where opportunities are unevenly distributed and future prospects for the majority of our citizens are uncertain.

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The United States has fallen out of sync with the times. The institutional models that brought it greatness in past centuries are ill-equipped for the challenges of tomorrow. We can take advantage of this situation by recognizing that we are breaking free from the outdated models that created our current predicament. We are now entering a new era, full of opportunities for new kinds of entrepreneurship and innovation. We are privileged to be the pioneers of a new America that is now taking shape.

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As we develop strategies for the progressive movement, we must be mindful that the future will not be like the past. We cannot simply assume that our companies will be the most innovative, nor that our currency will remain the standard for global commodities like oil and grain. And we cannot perpetuate the frames of national development that place us above other countries as the global leader in technology, clean energy, urban design, agriculture, and other vital economic sectors. These frames conceal and obfuscate the realities of our second tier status in health care, manufacturing, human security, education, sustainability, and economic prosperity.

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We are a country that has lost its way. This should be a rallying call to progressives everywhere. Those who want to keep us in this quagmire have no vision for the future. It is up to us to create one that captivates the imagination of the American people and the world.

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To understand the way forward, we must first understand why our country has fallen into decline. There are many contributing factors. The four that we believe are most critical to address are:

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  • The unprecedented concentration of wealth in the hands of a few powerful groups;
  • A consolidated corporate media system that promotes the conservative worldview and marginalizes progressive voices through an array of propaganda techniques;
  • A broken national political system that is structurally incapable of producing democratic outcomes; and
  • The conservative philosophy of governance that has destroyed our heritage of democratic ideals.
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The Need for Global Context

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While this handbook focuses on the progressive movement in the United States, it is essential that we also remain aware of the larger global context we’re working in. The next generation of progressive leaders must contend with the depletion of natural resources, a destabilizing planetary climate system, and rapid urbanization across the globe that threatens to exacerbate these seemingly intractable problems. Hundreds of new cities will be built to accommodate the massive populations of India and China, driving economic pressure for extraction of an ever-scarcer pool of resources.

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A global green economy is already starting to take shape, though the United States is not among the countries taking the lead in this transformation. As many of our elected officials deny basic science about the seriousness of environmental degradation, we see bold leadership in many other places that are already reaping the rewards of entrepreneurship and innovation. Germany is rapidly renovating its residential energy systems toward renewable sources. Places like Amsterdam, Melbourne, and Copenhagen exemplify 21st Century walkable cities while U.S. cities are enmeshed in outdated urban planning paradigms that created car-centric suburban sprawl. And China owns the manufacturing capacity for solar panels and wind turbines—including some technologies that first originated in the U.S.

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Competing in this rapidly changing global economy will require that the U.S. invest in innovation and entrepreneurship like it did throughout the middle of the 20th Century—and ensure that the benefits of this innovation are used to increase our overall prosperity at home, rather than re-directed to financiers and shareholders who will divert the proceeds overseas.

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The monumental shifts in the global economy have risen on a growing worldwide digital communications infrastructure—a vast network of satellites, internet server hubs, and widespread access to computing in the form of desktop computers, laptops, and mobile phones. Out of this web of technologies has emerged a vibrant information ecosystem that is producing disruptive innovations in every sector of the economy, while also transforming communications and organizing in the realm of politics.

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These converging trends are culminating in a new paradigm for the 21st Century global economy based on ecological insights and social media tools. The progressive movement will find its greatest strengths by leveraging the tremendous opportunities that come with this monumental transition. At the same time, a threat exists that is unprecedented in human history. Never before has a civilization reached the planetary scale, where resource depletion threatens the viability of not just one culture but of the entire human race.

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So the progressive movement must span beyond our borders and collaborate with our international allies in order to participate in the global transition that is taking place.

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Intergenerational Change in the United States

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While the larger global community is changing, there are also major demographic shifts underway within the United States. The progressive movement of the next few decades will look and feel different than it did in the late 20th Century. We’ll draw attention to just two aspects of this shift that will affect progressive strategy-making—the ascent of a multi-racial majority in America, and the rising Millennial Generation.

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Non-Europeans are no longer a minority in much of America, and will become the national majority sometime around 2040. Ethnic groups hailing from Latin America, Africa, and East Asia represent the new multi-tonal majority in the United States. The implications of this changeover are nuanced and difficult to predict, but the early information we have suggests that this majority is ours to lose. Latinos, African-Americans, and Asian immigrants all vote very solidly progressive at present. However, this advantage is weakened by two factors.

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The first is a rising wave of young conservatives who are rejecting their elders racism. The Republican Party has used race as a wedge issue for over 80 years; but its possible that in another 20 years, we could be faced with a conservative party that no longer deals in racial politics, and may thus be more attractive to immigrants and people of color. Hispanic and African-American Evangelicals, who already agree with some social conservative positions, may be particularly responsive to these appeals.

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The second potential pitfall is that historically, voters from all groups tend to become more politically conservative as they move from the working class into the middle class. So, ironically, progressives open up the doors to social mobility; but those who pass through them fall farther away from progressive positions as they rise. Middle-class African-Americans have been the group hardest hit by the recent economic downturns, which mitigates some of this loss for the short term. But as their prosperity increases in the future, we may expect to lose them again.

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The second way that demographics are changing is that a supermajority of Americans now lives in large metropolitan areas, and this trend will continue into the foreseeable future. So urban politics will become increasingly important and the major focus for economic development will be at the regional scale of metropolitan areas. This is an exciting prospect for progressives because the density and diversity of urban communities promotes heightened tolerance and open-mindedness in the spirit of progressivism.

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However, this increasing urbanization is also being accompanied by a long-term trend in which white Americans over 40 are rapidly exiting into all-white enclaves that re-create the segregated suburbs of the 1950s. Some scholars are concerned that by 2025, these whitopias, which range from working-class exurbs to affluent resort cities that cater to the wealthy, will polarize the country along new lines. On one hand, well have urban areas which are younger, multi-racial, and poorer; and on the other, there will be enclaves that are the last bastions of old, concentrated white power. The two camps could end up in deep political conflict over which one represents the True America.

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In the end, however, it will be the Millennial Generation that redefines our political and economic realities over the next 40 years. Born between 1980 and 2000 (roughly), they are the first native internet generation—and the most socially adept and technologically skilled users of information ever to walk this earth. They grew up immersed in networked environments that promote systems thinking and egalitarian group structures. They define authority differently than past generations did, and expect the powerful to use their power for the good of everyone in the group. Raised in a time of extreme financial turbulence, they value security, and believe in the power of the collective—the government or the community—to provide it. They are also the most ethnically diverse generation in American history: 44% self-identify as non-white or multiracial, and they speak more languages and have more friends abroad than any generation before them.

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Millenials are also pro-sumers and makers of “user-generated content” who expect to be able to hack into production systems and modify them for their purposes. As such, they are highly interactive and entrepreneurial in their approaches to problem-solving. And they collaborate instinctively through the pervasively social environments that surround them. The future of the progressive movement depends almost entirely on how well we can harness the creativity and organizing power of this young generation as they begin to assert their political and economic power.

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Entering the Age of Consequences

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This brief survey is just a sample of the vast web of changes that are altering the landscape that progressives will be working in. Simply seeking to elect more Democrats or fund policy initiatives will not be enough. We must fundamentally reconsider what it means to be an American Progressive in the face of profound and fundamental change.

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Put in a global context, we are talking about the evolution of the United States in the midst of global ecological disturbances. We have entered an Age of Consequences where the steps we take now may determine the fate of us all.

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Its a serious situation, and we need to get serious about developing better strategies and methods for implementing them. Partisan wrangling within a broken political system wont get us where we need to be. We cant keep trying to operate on the basis of reason and facts in the face of massive propaganda systems that crush our ideas in the public realm. And we cant merely count on wealthy progressives to fund an elite system of think tanks and media centers when the stakes are so high. We need an All Hands On Deck approach to mobilizing that engages and empowers everyday citizens to participate in the next stage of the American experiments in democracy and capitalism.

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So let’s not squander another moment. Turn the page, and let’s start creating the strategies that will enable us to create large-scale social change at home and around the world.