Our friend Nick Hanauer, the Seattle venture capitalist, has established himself in recent years as probably the leading voice among the zillionaire class for a sensible progressive economic policy built not around more tax cuts for him but around more investments in the middle class. In numerous venues, he’s made a strong case against supply-side economics and the view of human nature (that we’re all just greedy self-maximizers) that underpins it.
In this issue, Hanauer argues that to revive labor, the largest employers must be made to lead the way to pay better wages and benefits—and should be penalized when they fail to. It’s exactly the kind of reform package we need to be talking about: big and bold, but also achievable. Democratic presidential wannabes, take note.
We are—we hope—halfway through the Trump era, which inspired our symposium “Halfway Home,” in which we invite a number of contributors, some old friends of the journal and some first-timers, to share their thoughts about where they think things stand, and what our side needs to be doing as we hurtle toward 2020. Things got better on November 6, but there’s still a lot of building to do, and this symposium helps show the way.
We also publish in this issue two important foreign-policy essays. Daniel Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Obama, assays President Trump’s attacks on NATO, and insists that it must be defended against Trump’s assaults. And Ganesh Sitaraman argues that it’s not right-wing populism that is the real threat to liberal democracy—it’s nationalist oligarchy. Both are bracing and provocative essays. Also, Didi Kuo issues a bracing call for corporate civic responsibility, and Ian Millhiser lays out the controversial case for changing the Supreme Court.
Few conservative writers have made as interesting and thorough a journey in the Trump age as Max Boot. Suzanne Nossel reviews Boot’s new book and comes away only somewhat convinced. Brentin Mock reaches similar conclusions about DeRay Mckesson, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter. And Jon Shelton reviews a new book about why Wisconsin, with its strong progressive history, moved to the right in recent years—a movement that, happily, was arrested in November.
We open this issue with more entries in the “what Democrats need to do” series. First, we welcome our publisher Bernard Schwartz to our pages, who writes a sharp essay with former Foreign Policy magazine editor David Rothkopf on the needed Democratic priorities heading into this fall’s midterms and especially to 2020. We follow that with an important piece from Jake Sullivan, who was Hillary Clinton’s top policy adviser, discussing lessons from the campaign about what issues and areas the Democrats need to emphasize next time around.
Longtime readers will know that defending the positive contributions of gov- ernment has been a cause of this journal’s for some time. In this vein, we are delighted to publish an adaptation from The Value of Everything, due out this fall from University College of London economist Mariana Mazzucato. She shows how, for centuries, economics has totally failed to measure the true value of wealth created by or with the help of the public sector. Her work should spark a wholesale reassessment in how we measure public value, which in turn would change the way we think about public investment.
Rounding out the feature well are two provocative essays. The first, by James Traub, details the assault—in North Carolina and other states, not to mention Hungary and Poland—by right-wing regimes on the independent judiciary. The second, by Stephen J. Rose and Ruy Teixeira, argues against the standard liberal-left notion that automation is going to take away millions of jobs and posits instead that the real problem of the future will be our failure to prepare enough people to succeed in the high-end economy, which is easily picking up the slack.
The issue features four excellent book reviews. Writer Sarah Jones, whom we welcome to our pages for the first time, digs into the topic of the opioid crisis through a book that describes the bleak situation in her native southwest Virginia. The veteran journalist Joe Klein assays the strange (and often strained) relationship between Franklin Roosevelt and Al Smith. Princeton political theoretician Jan-Werner Müller reviews William Galston’s take on the future of the West. And political scientist Norman Ornstein discusses a lively and original history of polarization by the young historian Samuel Rosenfeld.
The anti-Trump conservatives—as opposed to the anti-Trump Republicans, of which there are perhaps two—have made for a fascinating story in this era. And so we thought this was a good time to check in with a few of them and sound them out on Donald Trump, Trumpism, conservatism, and the Republican Party.
The four with whom we chose to converse all represent slightly different slots on the spectrum: David Frum is anti-Trump and was indeed a critic of the GOP long before Trump came along but still calls himself a conservative. Peter Wehner, like Frum, a Bush Administration veteran, is an evangelical Christian, also firmly anti-Trump and particularly critical of the Republican Party. Liz Mair, a political consultant, is anti-Trump but still a staunch conservative-libertarian Republican. Meanwhile, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin seems to have come closest to giving up on the whole enterprise. Democracy board member E.J. Dionne Jr. and I sat down with the four of them in late April to ask about Trump, but also about whether they’ve reconsidered their views on other matters like preemptive war. A fascinating conversation.
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember the journalistic phenomenon of liberal contrarianism—the 1990s fashion of liberal pundits and critics coming with counterintuitive takes along the lines of “actually, overturning Roe would be good for feminism.” Well, thankfully, it’s just about dead—liberals have finally learned, contra Will Rogers, to take their own side in an argument. Michael Bérubé, one of the great cultural critics of the last 20 years, reads the phenomenon its rites in a wickedly smart essay.
In late February, we posted a report from Pennsylvania by our board member Theda Skocpol of Harvard and Lara Putnam of the University of Pittsburgh on Resistance activity in the Keystone State. In mere days, it became one of our most talked-about pieces ever. No one has burrowed into how the movement is working the way Theda and Lara have. We publish it here, with some updates, for the benefit of our print readers. And finally, Robert Atkinson, another longtime friend of the journal, makes an important and novel case for a much higher minimum wage: not only in the name of fairness, but because it will spur greater economic growth.
Elsewhere, we welcome Jeffrey Isaac to our pages, with his reply to Sean Wilentz’s essay on liberalism and progressivism in the last issue. And we feature excellent book reviews by Nancy Tomes, Rachel Cohen, and Charles P. Pierce. Finally, our Recounting this issue is by Robert Gordon, a veteran of the Department of Education, on how a new and revitalized Civilian Conservation Corps could produce jobs, but even more importantly, citizens.