If there was a substantive issue at the core of this recent election, it was the role of government. The right demonized government from top to bottom, and the left defended its role (well, sort of).
My parenthetical above actually suggests an important point. Progressives don’t defend government forcefully enough—not only out of cowardice, but because they don’t really have a modern and fresh-sounding vocabulary for doing so. It’s a big problem.
It’s one we try to solve with this issue. We inaugurate a series we’re calling “First Principles,” in which we examine how the conservative argument prevailed in the first place; expose it as the sham it is; and offer a new way forward for progressives. The three pieces in the package that take on those tasks, respectively, are by Rick Perlstein, Alan Wolfe, and Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer, and they are as timely as urgent as they could be.
As fiscal commissions ponder our debt and deficit messes, we have a persuasive case from MIT’s Andrea Louise Campbell for a progressive value-added tax. We also have a wonderful essay by Michael Bérubé on the “Sokal Hoax” at 15, and how anti-objectivity critiques made by the left in the 1990s have been taken up by the right. And we offer the usual run of excellent book reviews, featuring Alan Brinkley and Mary Jo Bane.