This summer, President Obama signed into law the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—an idea that started out as “Unsafe at Any Rate,” Elizabeth Warren’s essay in the Summer 2007 issue of Democracy. It’s a rare thing for an idea to go from the pages of a small-circulation journal into law of the land in three years. We believe it is testimony not only to Democracy’s quality and intellectual rigor, but to the fact that ideas still matter.
The issue in your hands provides further evidence. In “Health-Care Reform, 2015,” Yale’s Jacob S. Hacker, the father of the public option, looks ahead to five years from now, one year into full implementation of the law, and explains what will be working, what won’t be, and how progressives can win the next battles.
There’s more: Isabel Sawhill and Greg Anrig debate how progressives should tackle the deficit and strengthen Social Security; Henry Farrell proposes how the EU can heal itself; and Roger Berkowitz offers a meditation on judgment and justice. And there’s the usual excellent assortment of book reviews, including Martin Kettle on Christopher Hitchens, Michelle Goldberg on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Ray Suarez on immigration
You’ve read it once, you’ve read it a thousand times: Barack Obama is not Franklin Roosevelt. He’s no Lyndon Johnson. These were great liberal fighters who made no apologies for their liberalism and “welcomed the hatred” of the moneyed class.
There’s some truth to the statement. But it ignores some extremely important facts about the far less favorable political milieu of today—rabid and rigid conservatism, far smaller congressional majorities—in which Obama is forced to operate. And even more important: constantly comparing Obama’s hits and misses to liberalism’s greatest triumphs can only guarantee despair—and defeat.
In “Against Despair,” Michael Tomasky argue that progressives today misuse history, and that doing so leaves us desolate and enervated at a time when we need to be engaged in a long-term fight against an opposition that is (alas) joyously energized. With the Roundtable conversation about the future of defense and military policy, we introduce a new format and rubric, “America 2021.” Four leading progressive defense intellectuals discuss the issues we will face over the next ten years. We also offer a challenging piece arguing that the United States should open up a channel to Hezbollah; a probing report into the perils of international adoption; and the usual excellent assortment of book reviews.
What happened? Fourteen months ago, the progressive moment was on the ascent. Barack Obama, it was anticipated, would be a transformative president, and so many things seemed possible.
Today...it’s not that all hopes have been crushed by any means. But it’s certainly fair to say that events aren’t shaking up the way we hoped. What went wrong?
For the issue you’re now holding, we asked nine of our country’s leading progressive thinkers and writers to consider that question and assess where liberalism stands. The roster of contributors is formidable: Michael Sandel, Joe Klein, Katha Pollitt, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Walzer, Robert Reich, and others. Their insights about Barack Obama and liberalism more generally are trenchant and well worth your time.
But that’s not the only thing in the spring 2010 issue. Esteemed policy expert John J. Di Iulio, Jr. offers a surprising analysis of crime in America—it hasn’t been reduced as much as you might think, and the time is now for a new crime bill that reduces crime even further and reins in the prison-industrial complex. The noted historian Michael Kazin delivers a serious treatment if not of Sarah Palin herself, then of Palinism. And much more.
In our cover story, Kevin Carey, an analyst at the think-tank Education Sector, explains that quality, not just access, is a pressing issue in American higher education, driven by a skewed ranking system that prioritizes lavish budgets and higher tuition rates over student aptitude. The answer, he writes, lies in bringing objective data to education “consumers,” no easy task in the face of an entrenched and surprisingly powerful higher ed lobby.
In foreign policy, Shadi Hamid examines the role that a more democratic Egypt can play in Middle East peace, if President Obama can just reorient his approach to the country. Peter Edelman presents a new agenda for the inner city, Greg Anrig offers a novel solution to the state budget crisis, and veteran Ted Kennedy watcher Thomas Oliphant gives his unique take on the Senate’s late Liberal Lion.