How the Center for American Progress conquered America

CAP changed that equation not only through organization but also by supplying the ideological motives behind political action. Its influence is apparent not only in the faces of the Obama administration and the Democratic caucus but also in the policies the administration and the caucus put forward. The anniversary video cites three issues—Iraq, health care, and green jobs—where the organization’s ideological impact has been most apparent. We are out of Iraq, we are enduring Obamacare, and though clean energy cronyism may have paused during You Decide 2012, now it’s back.

CAP provided a home for liberal policy intellectuals to formulate a response to the challenges of empire and globalization. The response to crises of security and war was simple: get out. The response to inequality and wage stagnation was more complicated: spend money freely to improve education and infrastructure, create entitlements to health insurance and pre-K, tax the wealthy and use the revenues to improve the condition of the poor and lower-middle class. Post-material concerns such as reducing carbon emissions and expanding gay rights were married, so to speak, to the national security and economic agenda.

Above all, CAP permitted liberals not to be embarrassed by their positions or by their ideas; not to be defensive in a supposedly conservative America; not to apologize continually for the liberal messes of the sixties and seventies. By embracing the labels of “progress” and “progressive,” CAP and its youthful allies in the Netroots reconnected the Democratic Party to its heritage as a force for advancing history, understood as the upward evolution of liberty and equality, through technical expertise as administered by the federal bureaucracy.