One year ago, we launched Democracy: A Journal of Ideas with the mission of standing athwart history and yelling, “Forward!” Believing that conservatives had grown tired in their thinking just as their ideas had failed, and that likewise too many progressives had grown comfortable with political posturing and policy tinkering, we wanted to create a place to wrestle with the transformations of our times–and forge a rejuvenated, ambitious, modern progressivism that could change America and the world for the better.
Looking back on the year, we are proud of our forward movement. Democracy has engaged some of the most pressing questions facing America and the world, including the intersection of demography and national security, the sources of terrorist conduct, the nature of the China challenge, how to make globalization work for workers, and the path to peace in the Middle East. Closer to home, our authors have explored campaign finance reform, corporate social responsibility, health care and the tax code, disaster preparedness, the future of cities, bilingualism, and progressive jurisprudence–to name just a few topics. And in nearly every article, the authors have begun to map the contours of creative solutions to these various challenges.
More importantly, these articles have had an effect beyond our pages. At a time when our political discourse has grown debased, angry, and–at times–childish, Democracy articles have sparked spirited discussions on important questions within the progressive movement. One of the surest signs of our success so far is that even conservatives have taken notice. “There’s lots of stuff that I disagree with, but as someone who beats his high chair about how liberals have become intellectually deracinated,” wrote Jonah Goldberg of the National Review about Democracy, “it’s incumbent on me to congratulate them when they do it the right way.”
Of course, this is just a start to the long work of building a new progressive intellectual infrastructure. To that end, this issue puts forward ideas for reform of institutions critical to American life. Elizabeth Warren, the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard, argues that financial products–such as credit cards and mortgages–need regulatory oversight just as consumer products do. Jason Bordoff, of the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, puts forward a new way to understand the obligations that the state, private sector, and citizens have to one another. Jason Kamras, former National Teacher of the Year, and Andrew Rotherham, a member of the Virginia Board of Education, call for an overhaul in how we educate, mentor, and compensate teachers. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, a physician and the head of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, examines the health of our health care system. And in response to Cristina RodrAï¿½guez’s article in our last issue, Yale Law School’s Peter Schuck argues that the bilingual education system fails the very immigrants it is supposed to promote.
Moving to important moral issues facing our nation, Jonathan Moreno of the University of Pennsylvania says that progressives need to take seriously the ethical challenges of advances in biotechnology, such as stem-cell research. Jonathan Rauch counters the conservative case against gay marriage. And William Galston–a frequent contributor and member of our Editorial Committee–argues for a distinctly progressive form of doubt to reenter public life.
Looking abroad, Carter Malkasian–who spent several months in Iraq’s Al Anbar province advising the Marines–posits that, once there is an American drawdown, what’s needed is a “grassroots Iraqization” that looks to Sunni militias and local police forces to keep the peace. Shadi Hamid of the Project on Middle East Democracy says that we must continue with democracy promotion and be willing to accept moderate, non-violent Islamist parties as part of that effort. And Kenneth Baer, writing the “Recounting” column, cautions progressives not to lose sight of future threats while dissecting what went wrong in Iraq.
Understanding our past is a key to understanding our future. Accordingly, in this issue, Fred Siegel of the Cooper Union takes a close look at the history of American liberalism, and Michael Kazin of Georgetown does the same for American communism. And Fred Wertheimer, who has worked on campaign finance reform for more than three decades, counters Mark Schmitt’s take on the historic accomplishments of the movement.
This issue’s lineup, we believe, embodies the type of work we set out to do in Democracy. Now, with one year under our belts, all we can say is: “Forward!”