Ten or so years ago, liberals finally realized that they were way behind conservatives in terms of building a successful political infrastructure. The right had bigger and better-funded think tanks, training institutes, grassroots organizations; and a web of foundations to fund them into which rich conservatives poured billions. A furious game of catch-up commenced, and gains were made. But the most recent election showed (among other things) that the gulf still exists. It wasn’t just the presidential results—losses at all levels exposed a progressive infrastructure severely wanting.
This topic is the subject of our lead symposium this issue—suggestions for what the progressive infrastructure needs most from 13 advocates, insiders, and writers, including Donna Brazile, Zephyr Teachout, Jonathan Soros, Ilyse Hogue, Ben Jealous, and others.
Our second symposium arises from a debate that has roiled the economics profession ever since the meltdown. It was addressed by economist Paul Romer last fall in his paper “The Trouble With Macroeconomics,” which sparked an immediate controversy within the discipline. In addition to giving the wrong answers, are they also asking the wrong questions? The stellar contributor lineup includes Dean Baker, Jared Bernstein, Benjamin Friedman, and Jason Furman.
Elsewhere, Michael Sandel returns to our pages with a brief essay on the Trump resistance. Susan Madrak and Kathleen Geier debate whether a woman—more specifically, a liberal Democratic woman—can ever be elected President. Ryan Avent explores what a Trump Administration might do on monetary policy—and what should be done.
In the books section, we welcome to our pages Annie Lowrey, reviewing James Ledbetter’s rich history of the gold standard; Alice Echols on a new book about the triumphs and setbacks of feminism in the 1970s; Elizabeth Bruenig on the conservative religious writer Rod Dreher; Maira Sutton on the new work by the influential tech sociologist Zeynep Tufekci; and a review of Sidney Blumenthal’s anticipated second volume on Abraham Lincoln by David S. Reynolds. All in all, the issues features some deep engagement with our current situation—but also some much-needed relief from it.
This journal started in 2006, with the Iraq war still blazing, the financial crisis still to come, and progressives in a similarly dour place. And authors back then still tried to see ahead, see what was possible, see how the broad left could fill in the holes being created daily by a robust and headstrong conservative movement.
After the election, a common sentiment among folks like us, and we suspect like you, was some version of “Why bother?” If this can happen, what’s the use in advocacy work or releasing a white paper or even in high-minded political thinking itself? And while there was plenty of that in this office, and many other offices and homes around the country, we got back to it.
Because, hard as it may seem, essays on tax policy, like those of Lily Batchelder and Kim Clausing, still matter. Reviews on whether technological growth is a thing of the past, like Stephen Rose’s, still matter. Coverage of other countries, like Sophia Pandya’s rundown of the escalating situation in Turkey, still matter. Because government policy, economic trends, and societal change will continue apace, even with a new, very different President.
With that in mind, read a symposium unlike the usual horserace coverage, on the future of liberalism, conservatism, and even language and truth themselves, in the era of Trump. In a new partnership with the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, we have the first in a series of articles on some parts of government policy that could make our economy fairer. The first two articles are on how taxation of wealth and inheritances, and how it’s gone badly astray. Also in the feature well, essays on protecting workers from “big data,” an urgent topic that’s often missing in technology coverage. Finally, Yascha Mounk tells us what’s wrong with the politics of “personal responsibility,” but also what should be saved from it, Henry Farrell diagnoses the ills in British politics.
It’s the heat of the strangest and most disturbing election of our lifetimes—a statement that is undeniably true whether you’re 12 or 102. We couldn’t let this election pass without comment. That said, we decided the world didn’t need another dissection of the Republican candidate. So we offer up a short symposium on some of the more hidden keys to this election. Is working-class feminism a potent electoral strategy? Will latent sexism in the electorate reveal itself in the vote? Will “household economics” be enough? How big a deal will the Supreme Court be? What is this “Latino community”? And where will the Sanders movement go, in November and beyond? Respectively, Thomas Sugrue, Ellen Fitzpatrick, Mark Schmitt, Brianne Gorod, Fernand Amandi, and Theda Skocpol provide answers.
Next, we look at the unconventional ways to unleash greater economic growth. In conjunction with the Kauffman Foundation, we asked leading experts in a range of areas, from health care to antitrust law to always overlooked areas like labor mobility: What kinds of laws, rules, and practices are holding back growth, and how can they be changed to unleash it? I can promise that you will learn something interesting in each of the pieces.
Elsewhere, Richard Vague offers a new answer to the question of what’s holding back the global economy: private debt. Mohja Kahf of the University of Arkansas responds to our lively “Islam and Liberalism” roundtable discussion from the last issue. Henry Aaron reviews Samuel Bowles’s The Moral Economy. Danny Postel considers the long-awaited new volume on Iran’s internal domestic politics by the journalist Laura Secor. And Joshua Holland digs into a new book urging us all to pray for the day when our economy more resembles that found in Star Trek.
That would be great. But first, let’s make it through this election; then we’ll worry about living long and prospering.