Some people like change. Others do not. But change is inevitable. And this is a season of changes. Looking back over the long sweep of American history, arguably no new president took the oath with a more varied list of national troubles than those facing Barack Obama. America has certainly had more dangerous moments internationally than this one. We’ve been in worse shape domestically. But never before has the combination of our situation at home and around the world been tougher than today.
Therefore, in this era of the presidential BlackBerry, we must embrace a “multitasking progressivism,” confronting the many areas of national need, not sequentially, but at the same time.
In this issue of Democracy, we offer a series of ideas covering the wide range of areas where new thinking is necessary. In our lead article, Georgetown University Professor Charles Kupchan (writing with Adam Mount) argues that in a multipolar world, the drive to spread democracy to other countries is both counterproductive and likely to fail. Instead, he proposes a new doctrine–”the Autonomy Rule”–in which America would honor the autonomy of those nations that in turn honor the individual autonomy of their citizens. It is sure to be controversial, but it is an idea worth serious debate.
Looking at the front-burner issue of the economy, New York University’s Dalton Conley proposes that the United States create a sovereign wealth fund of its own; the New York Times’ Paula Dwyer draws lessons from a number of recent books about the economic meltdown; and Bruce Katz, Mark Muro, and Jennifer Bradley of the Brookings Institution offer a new “MetroPolicy” that recognizes America’s metropolitan areas as the font of our prosperity.
Also in this issue, James Paul Gee of Arizona State University and Michael Levine of the Sesame Workshop argue that educators should embrace video games and other digital media, while Clay Risen proposes a truce in the battles over education policy. Third Way’s Jim Kessler offers new solutions to the coming crime wave, Harvard’s Elaine Kamarck writes on why government still needs to be reinvented, and Spencer Ackerman details why General David Petraeus should not serve as a progressive lodestar. Jessica Arons writes on the reproductive rights movement, Richard Kahlenberg writes on the Civil Rights movement, and The New York Times Magazine’s Matt Bai–one of the best chroniclers of modern-day politics–assesses whether our democracy has truly gone digital.
We at Democracy have watched with swelling pride as some of the founding members of our Editorial Committee have gone on to service in the new administration: Louis Caldera as the head of the White House Military Office, Susan Rice as ambassador to the United Nations, and Anne-Marie Slaughter as director of policy planning in the State Department.
And the most eagle-eyed of our readers will have noticed that the apostrophe in this Editor’s Note has moved one letter to the left. Kenneth Baer, the co-founder and co-editor of Democracy, has been named an associate director of the Office of Management and Budget in the White House. Over the past four years, he has worked with our staff, Editorial Committee, Board of Advisors, hundreds of authors, and many others to take a crazy idea that he and I developed over lunch one day in Washington’s Mackey’s Pub and turn it into a publication with more than 30,000 readers in more than 150 countries. Our country is fortunate to have someone of his caliber in such an important economic role at this moment of crisis. This is certainly an instance where Democracy’s loss is our democracy’s gain.
As we bid Ken farewell, we are also thrilled to announce that beginning with the Summer 2009 issue, Democracy will have a new editor: Michael Tomasky. As a former columnist for New York magazine, executive editor of the American Prospect, and editor of Guardian America–and in his books and many articles–Michael has established himself as one of the foremost public intellectuals of our time. As I step into the role of Democracy’s president, he will bring to the task of running our day-to-day operations a professionalism and seriousness of purpose that–combined with his willingness to think big, break with comfortable assumptions, and shatter conventional wisdom–makes him an ideal person to continue this journal’s remarkable growth. Our leadership may be changing, but our mission of offering path-breaking new ideas to respond to the huge transformations facing America remains the same as it was when we began this journey. Beginnings end no matter how meaningful they may be and while this marks the end of our beginning, I believe that all of us who were part of bringing Democracy into being will look back on these years and remember not just the labors but the joy.