Editor's Note

In This Issue

We are often asked why we chose "Democracy" as the title for this journal. A big part of the answer is because we believe that faith in democracy: in the ability of people to make decisions for themselves over their government…

By Kenneth Baer and Andrei Cherny

We are often asked why we chose "Democracy" as the title for this journal. A big part of the answer is because we believe that faith in democracy–in the ability of people to make decisions for themselves over their government and their lives–has always been a central part of the progressive creed. And we believe strengthening and expanding the power of democracy–at home and around the world–is a crucial part of our agenda in the twenty-first century. That confidence in the power of people to make the right decisions comes through in this issue’s package of articles and ideas. A decade ago, campaign finance reform was at the top of the progressive agenda. But with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act signed into law and most of it upheld by the Supreme Court, the steam behind the campaign finance movement has dissipated–yet the amounts of money in the political system have grown exponentially. Some observers believe that candidates running for president in 2008 will need to raise $100 million, and that’s just to win their party’s nomination. In our lead feature, Mark Schmitt, who was an integral player in the movement, looks back at the 1990s effort, asks what went wrong, and offers a blueprint to revive campaign finance reform by celebrating, not castigating, the resurgence of a citizen-centered democracy. In our "Recounting" column, Democracy co-editor Andrei Cherny makes the progressive case for reviving the legacy of Louis Brandeis and against "bigness" and the concentration of power. And Kathleen McCarthy, an expert on philanthropy at the City University of New York, argues that in a world in which foundations will have more power than ever before, they need to enhance transparency and openness.

Another critical question facing our democracy is one as old as the republic: How to create a country in which e pluribus unum? Cristina Rodríguez, an assistant professor of law at New York University, counters the hysteria around immigration and the push to "preserve" English by arguing that bilingualism is actually essential to the cohesion of our country. Similarly, Spencer Ackerman, a senior correspondent at the American Prospect, looks at Muslims in America and explains how and why they have become a part of the national mosaic. A vibrant democracy is founded on the rule of law and an economy that allows all to participate. So Neal Katyal–the Georgetown University law professor who argued the landmark Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld–calls for a new approach to defending human rights. Jerome Skolnick, past president of the American Society of Criminology, examines what caused the great crime decline of the 1990s. Brad DeLong of the University of California, Berkeley draws the lessons for progressives from the life of the recently deceased Milton Friedman. And Christopher Howard of the College of William and Mary reveals that the welfare state is larger than we think–but more unfair than we’d like. Turning abroad to the possible threats to our democracy, Jofi Joseph, foreign relations adviser to Senator Bob Casey, Jr., critiques the Bush Administration’s approach to nonproliferation and offers a different strategy for handling Tehran, while UCLA’s Steven Spiegel outlines a neo-regionalist strategy in dealing with the Middle East.

And because democracy–and Democracy–is, of course, about debate, we have two lively responses to essays from the last issue. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, author of the global bestseller Hitler’s Willing Executioners, rebuts Peter Bergen and Michael Lind’s argument that humiliation fuels violent extremism; what’s important, he argues, is what makes those people feel so humiliated in the first place. And two experts in corporate social responsibility (CSR)–attorneys Dan Feldman and Sarah Altschuller–report back from the frontlines that, contrary to Aaron Chatterji and Siona Listokin’s essay in our Winter issue, CSR is an effective strategy to achieve progressive ends.

Finally, we have some good news from the end of 2006. Every year, New York Times columnist David Brooks bestows his "Sidney Awards" (named after the storied public intellectual Sidney Hook) on the best policy and political essays of the year. We are happy to report that he included "Families Valued," an essay on re-engineering the social safety net for today’s families by Karen Kornbluh (Democracy, Issue #2), in this year’s list of winners. This recognition came on the occasion of our six-month anniversary of publication and, while there is much work ahead of us, we’d like to think that the early returns are going our way.

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

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