Mark Green, president of the New Democracy Project and Air America,called me on the phone the other day to talk about the now released book he co-edited, Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President.

“So it turns out that these past eight years in the wilderness allowed–or compelled–scores of progressive thinkers to do promising work in think tanks, universities, congressional offices,” he said.

Green told me he approached Center for American Progress (CAP) president John Podesta (now on leave to serve as transition chief for President Obama) in December 2006 about gathering together “the best thinking of progressive scholars, activists, and officials into a one-stop shopping, comprehensive volume discussing how to move from a conservative to progressive presidency.” Green edited a similar book for President Clinton in 1991 and wanted to repeat the effort for the 2008 cycle.

Yesterday, nearly two years later, Green and co-editor Michele Jolin–senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund– released the 300,000-word opus that features chapters written by67 scholars, advocates, authors, and officials. As Green described tome the book is “a one volume manual of ideas–not just a list ofsolutions but its bricks and architecture; its nuts and bolts andframework. The proposals are organized around four values that shouldanimate us from 2009 through 2016.”

The four core values at the heart of the book are: democracy, diplomacy, economic opportunity and a greener world. These values are the foundation for the plan which the editors call “Progressive Patriotism” because–as Green notes in his introduction–“there’s nothing more American than always seeking to do things better.”

A look at the contributors reveals writers and thinkers whoNation readers will be familiar with: Bracken Hendricks and VanJones writing about a low-carbon economy; Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center on Renewing our Democracy; Joan Claybrook on Green Reforms for Environmental and Consumer Safety; Peter Edelman and Angela Glover Blackwell on Economic Opportunity for All; LawrenceKorb on Redeploying from Iraq; Joseph Cirincione on Securing America from Nuclear Threats; Ellen Miller on Government Transparency.

There are also no shortage of Clintonista contributors–like SandyBerger, Henry Cisneros, Carol Browner, Laura D’Andrea Tyson, Jack Lew–and we’ll see if their ideas for a “bold agenda” are at the scale needed to tackle a cratering economy, broken healthcare system, two wars, poverty and inequality, and the stained US reputation in the world. But the grim reality of this time may lead even those who once counseled more cautious approaches to tack in a new direction. (Even Larry Summers–who this magazine thinks would be a bad choice for Treasury Secretary–now recognizes the need for real public investment, for God’s sake. Also, see Gene Sperling below.) It’s a question of boldness and scale, and Green noted these ideas can serve as “benchmarks” towards progressive change.

Some of the ideas discussed in the book (full disclosure–I’ve onlyread the preface, intro and some galleys) that appeal to me include: an Office of Democracy to keep the fundamental but unsexy issues ofrepairing our still dysfunctionaldemocracy on the radar; public financing with matching funds forsmall contributions; uniform federal standards for administeringelections; a “Medicare for All” universal health insurance; a plan tocut poverty in half by 2016; a National Infrastructure Bank; anInternational Peace Corps modeled on our domestic one; fair trade withstrong labor and environmental standards; a plan to abolish nuclearweapons; and an expeditious transformation to a low-carbon economy.

After the book release event, former Clinton national economic advisor GeneSperling spoke on an afternoon panel at CAP and talked about theneed to implement a bold agenda at this time of fiscal crisis. Sperlingsaid, “We need to take a Powell Doctrine approach to economic stimulusin 2009…. The idea of the Powell Doctrine is that you come at aproblem with overwhelming force…. The risk of being slow, careful, andincremental are too slow, too careful and too incremental – far exceedsthe risk of expanding the deficit….”

Sperling called for a minimum of $300 billion in direct spending “as thestarting point with an understanding that we may need more.” (And manyprogressive economists would say $300 billion per year for two yearsmight be more along the lines of what is needed.) He spoke of”jumpstarting jobs and jumpstarting the future… find areas that bothinject demand quickly but are down payments on our long-termpriorities.” He cited green jobs and green infrastructure; schoolmodernization and green schools; federal matching Medicaid payments toprevent states from painful contractions; the State Children’s HealthInsurance Program (SCHIP) expansion; investments in healthcareinformation technology.

Sperling spoke to the mainstream media/inside-the-beltway conventionalwisdom that “in light of this…perhaps as high as a trillion dollardeficit and this financial crisis, the [presumed] right and virtuousanswer is to talk about the fact that you’re going to have to cut backand delay the major national priorities that President-elect Obama ranon – such as climate change, universal healthcare, education. I want tosay… that we could not disagree more. The highest cost is the cost ofinaction.”

I’ve long argued that the political center in this country has shifted -that people are seeking a government that speaks to the issues that areat the center of their lives. Change for America offers some compellingnotions on how to move in that direction–it’s a resource not only forpolicymakers, but for citizens who want to see many of the ideas beingput forth by some of the people who will have a role in the ObamaAdministration.