It’s getting to be high political season, with the general election heating up and the conventions fast approaching. While we’ve no interest in converting ourselves into a source for all the latest campaign news, we decided that we should at least acknowledge the season but do it in Democracy style. So even as we cede “Decision 2012” to the networks, we have put together a package called “Decision 2024” in which we asked nine distinguished contributors a very simple but interesting question: In 12 years, what will our parties and politics look like?
We made a point of asking them—and this is what we think makes this symposium different from others like it—to discuss not just political and demographic changes they expect to see, but also to talk about the implications of those changes for governance and policy-making. So the package is really about the question: Will our politics get un-stuck by then and who will benefit? The answers are as varied as the contributors and will surprise you. Not everyone is as depressed about the future as you might think!
We’re very proud of the collection of contributors in this issue. Within the symposium, we have David Frum, Christine Todd Whitman, Ruy Teixeira, and Kevin Drum, among others. Beyond it, former White House budget director Peter Orszag has written an insightful piece contemplating what might happen in the post-election fiscal showdown that awaits us as the Bush tax cuts are set to expire (at the end of the year) and as the spending limits agreed to in last summer’s debt deal start to kick in. Orszag explains the factors that will lead to that next round of budget brinkmanship, and lays out ideas about the comprehensive reforms that are really needed. E.J. Dionne Jr., our editorial committee chairman among his many other titles, has adapted for us a bracing selection from his new book, Our Divided Political Heart, in which he urges us toward a liberalism that is more grounded in, and passionate about, history.
The noted economics writer James Kwak reviews the much-discussed new book Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. Two leading historians review important works by other leading historians: Geoffrey Kabaservice made a splash a few years ago with a book about Yale and its president, Kingman Brewster, in the 1960s; now, New York University’s Kim Phillips-Fein reviews his new work on the death of moderate Republicanism. And Eric Rauchway of UC-Davis examines Eric Alterman and Kevin Mattson’s history of postwar liberalism and Michael Kazin’s history of the American left.
There’s much more, including two especially provocative responses in this issue—Thomas B. Edsall responds to Larry M. Bartels’s review of his book from the last issue, and Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute raps James T. Kloppenberg for leaving Bill Clinton out of his history of progressive civic obligation. Longtime feminist writer Sarah Blustain weighs in (and how!) on the controversial book by French feminist Elisabeth Badinter. James Crabtree, the Mumbai correspondent for The Financial Times, is well positioned to assess the new work about that city by the esteemed American journalist Katherine Boo. And the highly regarded liberal science journalist, Chris Mooney, is just the right person to assess both the role ExxonMobil has played in our world for the last two decades and Steve Coll’s telling of that story.
Finally, we don’t get many chances at Democracy to be as topical as we are with Adam Sheingate’s excellent essay on food safety. As we were closing the story with the author, two major news stories broke—the “pink slime” mess, and the FDA’s move to regulate antibiotic dosages to animals more tightly. Sheingate’s article explains in fascinating detail how dysfunctional our food-safety system is—and what it would take for comprehensive and enduring reform to take hold.