A clear longing has emerged during this Presidential election for a new era of American politics and governance. Signaling the transformative nature of the times, political labels are in flux. A new phrase, post-partisan, stretches to include Democrat Barack Obama, with his highly liberal voting record, and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, who endorses John McCain. Erstwhile liberals like Hillary Clinton now call themselves progressives. The comeback of McCain, meanwhile, clearly marks a "post-Rovian" moment in Republican party politics and possibly a post-Reagan moment as well, leaving the "ism" in conservatism up for grabs. Yet despite all the shifting labels and alliances, whoever wins the next election will govern a country demanding change and ready to be led in very new directions. On February 29th, the New America Foundation invites you to join a discussion to consider the promise and the perils of this new era. With the prospect of a coming political sea change, the role of institutions, the contours of churning coalitions, and the expanding frontiers for policy innovation remain uncertain. The return to the bipartisanship of the past, which depended on significant overlap between the parties in ideology, is unlikely because the parties are now clearly aligned along right-left lines. Yet, given the magnitude of the nation's problems, and the clear yearning of the electorate for "change," it's equally inconceivable and undesirable to return to partisan gridlock or attempted one-party rule. This event will feature the release of a new paper by Professor Cliff Zukin of Rutgers University, titled "The American Public and the Next Social Contract: Public Opinion and Political Culture in 2007." Zukin's research explores the state of public opinion in America, examining enduring American values and current attitudes on pressing policy challenges. These insights into what the public thinks will provide important context for our panel of experts to consider the next era of American politics from the point of view of our political institutions and what might be possible in terms of policy. The Next Social Contract Initiative aims to reinvent American social policy for the twenty-first century. Through a program of research and public education, the initiative will explore the origins of our modern social contract, articulate the guiding principles for constructing a new contract, and advance a set of promising policy reforms.
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