Correspondence

Check Yourself

Ann Friedman states ["Strength in Numbers," July/August 2008] that the achievement of one Pelosi or one Clinton (almost) is not enough to assure proper political influence for women so long as they are "stuck at the 25 percent barrier" and that the limit appears "in almost every professional field."

One place to apply that needed correction might be The American Prospect itself. The masthead shows what is essentially gender equality at the top, including the writer herself. But on the level of senior correspondents and contributing editors, who often provide much of the content of the magazine, the "25 percent barrier" is in effect. Perhaps the author could use her influence to change the situation right at home.

Daniel Mann

Bethesda, MD

Going Public

I wanted to thank Elyn Saks for her article about how having schizophrenia has affected her ["A Professor's Story," July/August 2008]. As someone who has schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, I deeply appreciate her coming forward and putting a humanizing (and deeply accomplished) face on those of us who suffer from mental illnesses. This article will do a lot of good for a lot of people.

At the same time, I must take issue with some of the assumptions behind Sasha Abramsky's article "A Worthy Diversion" [July/August 2008]. Cracking down on crime (like the consensual adult prostitution and drug use Sally Judson was accused of) by labeling it a symptom of mental illness is a tool of social control.

As someone who was involuntarily hospitalized, who witnessed other patients so heavily pacified and zombified with drugs that they could do nothing but sit and stare all day at the TV, I am not in favor of forced hospitalization or current mental hospitals in general.

One good thing that came of the hospitalization was that I got the medications I needed and am now working and living on my own. May we all get the help we need to make the contributions that we are capable of.

Lynn Schroder

Seattle, WA

***

From the Executive Editor

The election is still months away, the inauguration of the next president another 84 days beyond that, but it's hard not to begin thinking about life after January 20, 2009. The first two years of a new political alignment (which we'll have even if John McCain wins the White House and Democrats hold a sizable congressional majority) are inevitably a thrilling, fascinating time, when a mandate for change collides with all the institutional forces that resist it. It will be a period in which this magazine will be indispensable, shining a light on the corner where politics and policy meet. I learned much of what I know about politics and policy in the first two years of the Clinton administration, when I worked in the Senate. It is these periods, far more than election years, that really set our nation's direction for decades thereafter.

Since that quick education on Capitol Hill in the 1990s, I've worked for a foundation and at a think tank, and since 2005, I've written a column for the Prospect called "The Out Years." (Another likely project for January: come up with a new name for the column.) With this issue, I become executive editor of the Prospect. I'd like to express my gratitude to Harold Meyerson for his time at the helm, and I look forward to his more frequent contributions to these pages as editor-at-large.

As Dana Goldstein and Ezra Klein demonstrate in this issue, one big difference between those early Clinton years and a potential Obama administration is that Obama—in contrast to his image as an insurgent, post-partisan force—has done more to build a robust, nationwide Democratic Party than any candidate before him has. They write that his "operation was built to amass two different types of votes: those that will win Obama the election and those that will pass his legislation if he becomes president." But as Rick Perlstein argues in an accompanying piece, history shows that progress is made not by increments but in big, sweeping, ambitious moves.

Still, even with the expiration of conservatism as an ideology (see E.J. Dionne's review of four new books about the history of the right), an ambitious agenda will meet plenty of friction from within as well as outside the majority coalition: As Bob Kuttner shows, conventional wisdom about government spending and an "entitlement crisis," with backing from sensible centrists and congressional "Blue Dog" Democrats, may be a constraint on the next president's freedom to fix the economy. Eli Sanders' profile of successful Democrats in the Mountain West hints at a potential fissure between the pragmatists of that region and more ideological liberals elsewhere. And as strong as the Democratic Party may become, there are still issues on which it hasn't been able to speak with a single voice, as Kevin Carey shows in a piece detailing how Democrats have stumbled on education over the past decade.

These challenges, though, as Ben Brandzel notes in his article about the future of MoveOn.org, are very different and more complicated than those of the Bush years, when outraged opposition was an easy response. And so we look forward to watching them and writing about them in the years ahead. -- Mark Schmitt

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