Editor's Note

Editors' Note

By the time this issue of Democracy is in your hands (or on your screens), a new Congress will have been elected. Regardless of the outcome, by now pundits will have dissected the results in every conceivable way: Who are…

By Kenneth Baer and Andrei Cherny

By the time this issue of Democracy is in
your hands (or on your screens), a new Congress will have been elected.
Regardless of the outcome, by now pundits will have dissected the
results in every conceivable way: Who are the winners and who are the
losers? What priorities will ascend to the top of the agenda? Which
will fall to the bottom? And what does this all mean for the rapidly
approaching presidential horse race? What this sort of analysis masks
are the continuities in American politics–the transcendent questions
that the nation still must answer and the long-term trends that will
continue to play out no matter who wields the speaker’s gavel.
Democracy’s mission is to focus on these deeper underlying phenomena
and to bring together thinkers who not only can analyze them, but who
can begin to craft a progressive response.

To that end, this issue’s contributors explore topics ranging from
the mind of the average American to that of the suicide bomber and from
the perils of overarching constitutional theories to the sins of
zealous historians. Peter Bergen, who conducted the first television
interview with Osama bin Laden, and his New America Foundation
colleague Michael Lind expose the myth of deprivation–that poverty and
poor economic prospects fuel Islamist jihadism. Joshua Kurlantzick, a
longtime Asia-watcher, argues that similar confusion clouds our
thinking in East Asia, where an emergent China is both menacingly
strong and perilously weak. In response, the United States might need
to rely on the other rising Asian power, India, to keep China from
falling too far in either direction.

We also have a series of articles exploring international
institutions and relationships. Jeff Faux, founding president of the
Economic Policy Institute, contends that an elite “Party of Davos”
dominates world financial institutions and the debate over
globalization. To bring stakeholders other than global corporate
investors into the decision-making process, he argues that progressives
should support a new strategy that speeds globalization instead of
slowing it by pushing for regional economic blocs that link workers and
everyday people, a strategy that should be grounded in a fairer, but,
in fact, more far-reaching, NAFTA. Nancy Soderberg, a former U.S.
Ambassador to the UN and National Security Council official, looks at
the legacy of outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan to show that the UN
is more indispensable to U.S. interests than ever before. And
Soderberg’s former colleague from the U.S. mission to the UN, Suzanne
Nossel, argues that, after six years of the Bush Administration’s
foreign policy, a concerted effort to resuscitate American legitimacy
is vital.

Examining issues closer to home, Duke University’s Aaron Chatterji
and the University of California, Berkeley’s Siona Listokin make the
progressive case against corporate social responsibility, while Jerold
Kayden–co-chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design at
Harvard’s Graduate School of Design–responds to Joel Kotkin’s take-down
of “cool cities” from our second issue. Looking critically at the
history of the American left, Open Society Institute Vice President
Gara LaMarche explains what the history of the American Civil Liberties
Union can teach liberal organizations today; law professor Erwin
Chemerinsky looks at Kermit Roosevelt III’s case against judicial
activism; historian Kevin Mattson tells us how and why his profession
is AWOL from American public life; and the University of New
Hampshire’s Ellen Fitzpatrick writes an incisive essay about how public
polling and its quest for the “average” American has affected American

None of these articles will tell you what piece of legislation will
become law next year or which politician is the next Beltway superstar.
But, taken together, they point to some of the many issues that will
confront not just the next Congress, but American leaders for decades
to come.

Kenneth Baer and Andrei Cherny are the founders of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.

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