Editor's Note

Editor's Note

Michael Tomasky introduces Issue #38

By Michael Tomasky

Some of us can still recall how negatively liberals responded when E.D. Hirsch Jr. first published his list of “cultural literacy”—the things any reasonably well-informed American should simply know—back in the 1980s. Hirsch’s list was heavy on the words and deeds of what were called at the time DWMs—“dead white males.” Hirsch was thus attacked as a conservative. But he was, and is, not a conservative, and the idea of a shared cultural base of knowledge is in fact a progressive one. Today, the point is to update the concept for the far more polyglot America we have now. Eric Liu has done just that in our remarkable lead essay. We invite you not merely to read it but to visit our website and make your own suggestions for the items that belong on any list of current-day American cultural literacy (see instructions at the end of the piece).

We don’t make a habit of inviting sitting administration officials into our pages, but we thought the trade debate was both important and divisive enough for us to ask Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative, to make his best case to Democracy readers about why the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a progressive document. He offers some interesting arguments that don’t usually get an airing. The journal takes no position on TPP, and we will feature responses in future issues and online, but we certainly think Froman’s points are worth consideration.

Corporate short-term thinking is under heightened scrutiny these days (finally!), and William Galston and Elaine Kamarck address the problem with some smart, targeted solutions that could move corporations away from it. And in our continuing series on “Our Digital Future,” Larry Downes warns that the IT revolution is about to explode into new areas like health care, autonomous vehicles and drones, the Internet of Things, and elsewhere, and we’d be wise not to hinder the explosion.

In the books section, we welcome Pulitzer Prize-winner Connie Schultz to our pages, contemplating Anne-Marie Slaughter’s book that grew out of her celebrated Atlantic article on having it all. Kim Phillips-Fein reviews Kevin Kruse’s book on the Christian right and capitalism, Bruce Bartlett discusses David Madland’s new book on middle-out economics, and Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig reviews the new Robert D. Putnam. Ian Millhiser offers a rejoinder to Amanda Hollis-Brusky’s review of his book about the Supreme Court, and UCLA Law Professor Katherine V.W. Stone responds to the Nick Hanauer and David Rolf article on shared security from the previous issue.

Finally, we are delighted to welcome four new members to our editorial committee: Melody Barnes, Karen Kornbluh, Cristina Rodríguez, and Mona Sutphen. We thank them for making Democracy part of their lives.

Michael Tomasky

Michael Tomasky is the editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and a special correspondent for The Daily Beast.

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