Top Six Takeaways from NewDEAL Ideas Summit

4 min readMay 30


The NewDEAL 2023 Ideas Summit in Detroit was an action-packed exploration of the most pressing policy issues facing state and local officials. From May 15–16, NewDEAL leaders from across the nation joined non-profit and private sector thought leaders to discuss issues ranging from climate change to democracy to transportation. As NewDEAL CEO Debbie Cox Bultan told attendees, “we can make a huge difference with state and local leaders leading the way and changing people’s lives.”

If you weren’t able to join us in Detroit, full-length videos of plenary sessions can be found at our website. For a snapshot, here are six key takeaways from the 2023 Ideas Summit:

  1. New Poll Shows Widespread Support for Key Democracy Initiatives: NewDEAL CEO Debbie Cox Bultan kicked off the conference by sharing data from a new poll showing broad support for initiatives to strengthen our democratic processes. The poll, conducted by Mercury Analytics*, found that:

— 68 percent of all respondents believe that eligible voters should be able to register on Election Day to cast their ballots;
— 77 percent believe harsher penalties should be enacted for threats against election officials; and
— 78 percent would like to see harsher penalties for voter intimidation.

These solutions were included in the NewDEAL Forum’s Democracy Playbook, released in February 2023. The full data released from the poll underscored the Summit’s themes of restoring trust in government by getting results on the issues that matter most to people and strengthening our democracy.

2. Michigan Democrats Succeed by Countering Chaos with Results: Journalist Laura Berman led an inspiring conversation with NewDEAL Leaders Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist and Senate Majority Whip Mallory McMorrow about the triumphs of Michigan’s recently-earned Democratic trifecta. Gilchrist and McMorrow emphasized that pragmatism has been the secret recipe to Michigan Democrats’ electoral victories and 2023 accomplishments. “What people should take away from Michigan… is not that we need to counter crazy with crazy; it’s that people have had enough of the chaos,” McMorrow urged.

The pair encouraged state and local leaders to be both enthusiastic and persistent about sharing their own policy successes. “The responsibility to tell the story rests with the storyteller,” Gilchrist said, calling on NewDEALers to be vocal about the ways that Democrats are delivering on kitchen table issues.

3. Opportunity Provided by Influx of Federal Investments Comes with the Need to Measure Progress: Policymakers and experts discussed how elected leaders can measure the impacts of their investments as they make progress on issues like improving education and training, boosting affordable housing, and increasing participation in youth service programs.

Oakland County, MI, Executive Dave Coulter joined Results For America’s Chelsea Powell to encourage elected officials to collaborate and share successful models for measuring results. “You do not have to come up with everything on your own,” Powell said. “There are models out there.” Those models include Coulter’s effort to have 80% of county residents earn a post-secondary degree or certified training certificate by 2030.

4. Policymakers Should Prioritize Creating More Service Opportunities for Young People: California Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday joined NewDEAL Leader Hartford, CT, Mayor Luke Bronin for an impassioned conversation on state and local youth service opportunities. Fryday, who has overseen the creation of California’s Climate Action Corps and College Corps, underscored the importance of creating well-paying, meaningful pathways to service for young people, urging that “it’s not just about a job: it’s about a job with dignity, a job with meaning, a job with purpose.”

5. Don’t Miss the Moment to Address Climate Change: New Hampshire Senator Rebecca Perkins Kwoka led a conversation with Michigan House Majority Whip Ranjeev Puri, the Clean Air Task Force’s Jeremy Tarr; Consumer Energy’s Brandon Hofmeister; and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Arnab Pal on climate solutions. The panel emphasized the significant role that federal funding from the Biden Administration has played in not only building climate solutions but also in expanding green jobs nationwide.

Speaking on the Inflation Reduction Act, Tarr urged NewDEALers that “federal agencies need input from you all to help them design the program better and fine-tune it” and that “as we’re building stuff that makes peoples’ lives better, it’s really important to tell people what just happened… We need to win the win.”

6. Defending Democracy Means Not Letting Our Guard Down ahead of the 2024 Elections and Beyond: Ideas Summit 2023 wrapped up with an inspirational conversation on defending democracy led by NewDEAL Leader and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Joining Benson were the DNC’s Reyna Walters-Morgan, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, and Liberty Temple Baptist Church’s Rev. Dr. Steve Bland, Jr. The panel chronicled many of the challenges they have faced in safeguarding democracy, including threats of violence, the proliferation of misinformation by right-wing extremists, and racially-targeted initiatives to limit voting access.

Each of the panelists shared that, in the heat of 2020 election denialism, they experienced moments of despair but were able to find hope. Winfrey shared that, when she was moved to quit her work on elections, Secretary Benson said to her, “if you quit, they win.” The panel reminded the room that although conspiracy theorists and nefarious actors continue to threaten American democracy, election officials and voters have given us many reasons for hope if we remain clear-eyed about the challenges ahead.

You can find more information about the Ideas Summit on our website, as well as from news coverage of the event:




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