Eliot Spitzer: This Is What Vision Looks Like
by Matt Stoller, Tue May 16, 2006 at 12:59:58 PM EDT
At the Personal Democracy Forum Conference yesterday, I was very impressed with both Elizabeth Edwards and Eliot Spitzer. Edwards I'll leave aside, because I want to focus on what can happen when progressives govern in the states. Spitzer gave a speech on technology deployment and government policy, and was interviewed afterwards by Mark Halperin of ABC News (and The Note). Spitzer's up on the latest collaborative web technologies and the political implications thereof, and he understood that it was the content and not the technology that made the Dean campaign tick. And in his speech, he laid out what I think will be a key progressive plank over the next fifty years, a universally accessible high speed data network.
While New York has a vast transportation infrastructure to move people and goods, we don't have the broadband infrastructure to move ideas and information. If you're a kid growing up in South Korea, your Internet access is ten times faster at half the price than a kid growing up in the South Bronx. New Yorkers are at a competitive disadvantage that is simply unacceptable.
Spitzer went on to outline the mechanics of implementing a statewide high speed network. He finished with a conclusion that I find fitting, since I'm in a fight where government-sanctioned monopoly providers are arguing against government rule-making.
There will always be nay-sayers - an army of the status quo - who say we can't get this done, that the digital divide is too wide to close or that government is in no position to lead this fight. History is littered with nay-sayers. Governor De Witt Clinton's Erie Canal was dubbed "Clinton's ditch" before his ditch blew up the status quo and transformed New York and the rest of the country. The Wright Brothers were told that heavier-than-air flight was both impossible and contrary to the will of God. The Beatles were even told that their guitar sound was on the way out. And IBM engineers initially were told that there was no market for personal computers.
The future of New York doesn't belong to the army of the status quo. To those who say this can't be done, I say why not. It must be done. If New York State is ever going to regain its competitive advantage, if we are ever going to be the participatory democracy our Founders promised, if we are ever going to be the Empire State once again, every New Yorker must be empowered with the limitless potential of affordable, high-speed Internet access.
There are always critics, and there are deep illiberal strains within the American political system. As progressives, we should always be on the side of the public and never be afraid of a spirited public debate. What a visionary politician does is set a moral and spiritual path to getting there, and that's what Spitzer is doing.
Ok, so maybe there's a little kool-aid drinking going on here, and there are things about Spitzer that concern me. He had no position on net neutrality, though I'm sure he'll come around. On the whole I was really impressed. At least in New York State, there's great progressive Democratic leadership.
Eliot Spitzer 2012?