I was recently talking to a Democratic strategist who believes in a strong progressive majority among Gen Y (born starting in 1978 or 1982 depending on who you ask); under-30s were the only age group to vote for Kerry, 54-46, and they have become even more progressive according to polling since then. This is a large generation and will make up a larger proportion of the electorate in 2008 than in 2004. (For more info on the 2004 youth vote, go here).
Ideally, this could translate into support in 2008&beyond for candidates who offer a new New Deal to American workers: portable, affordable health care benefits, a federal living wage, and a retirement system that really works, protecting the most vulnerable workers while fairly distributing resources among the generations. Oh, and reining in of the predatory credit industry that drives so much misery. This is the largely economic progressive vision shared by groups like ACORN, Jobs with Justice, Jobs for the Future, and many others. The "new generation" I referred to means not only groups I talk about in the book, like Working Today, TechsUnite, Young Workers United, but a whole cohort of college-educated progressives who came up through programs like Union Summer, or were exposed to union organizing by graduate students on their campuses. They believe in social movement unionism as an outlet for progressive action.
Of course, this progressive dream runs smack up against America's precarious strategic and financial situation: the record deficits, growing trade imbalances, outsourcing, losing ground in education, and demographic shift. It could be that the New Deal analogy is all too apt: it could take an economic collapse to spur a radical expansion of economic protections.
In the long term, I believe that America will finish out the century as a great power, but not the Great Power.