No region of America has experienced as much social and political change over the past two generations as the American South. In less than half a century, it evolved from a Democratic stronghold into a region dominated by conservative policymakers. Not surprisingly, such a change profoundly impacted the lives of Southern citizens. It also altered the American legislative dynamic.
However, the South remains in flux. Driven by changes in demographics, it has over the past few election cycles shown increasingly Progressive tendencies. Accordingly, Project New America – which was formed five years ago as Project New West by Western leaders, thinkers, and strategists as a tool to interpret and exploit the values and attitudes driving two decades of dramatic growth in the West – has now turned its resources and expertise to the South.
In an effort to gain a deeper understanding of the opportunities inherent in the South’s changing fabric, Project New America officially launched The Southern Project at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September, 2012. Modeled after its successful efforts in the West, this collaboration of Southern leaders will conduct and compile state-based research designed to guide strategy, messaging and civic engagement efforts.
Project New America’s subscription model provides a ready-made dissemination mechanism for its research and strategy tools. Many progressive actors in the South already receive PNA research through their national annual subscriptions. PNA is also developing a robust training program to ensure that its research and data can be easily translated into action. Specific deliverables include a series of trainings and the development of a comprehensive tool-kit of strategies and actionable language that will be made available to PNA subscribers and other Progressive stakeholders in the Southern region.
The Southern Project currently includes a broad scope of research in Florida and North Carolina that will provide a critical foundation upon which PNA can build. Initial research projects and intensive trainings have been completed this summer. Coming next is a regional effort that will begin to provide stakeholders with a much richer understanding of Southern voters, and the values-based messaging that can resonate with them. The goal is not merely success over the next few elections, but a state-by-state shift reversing the trends of the past five decades.