From the Executive Editor
Cities and factories are the iconic images of American prosperity. Together, manufacturing and urban development created the foundation for the middle-class nation that emerged after World War II. When once-prosperous industries and cities decline, so too does the vitality of our collective life.
In this issue, we provide insight into the revitalization of cities large and small. Washington Post staff reporter Alec MacGillis writes about urban evangelist Richard Florida and his apparent change of heart about his advice that every fading Rust Belt town replace long-lost manufacturing jobs with art galleries and coffee shops. Alyssa Katz reports on the new landscape of housing in New York, with empty high-end condominiums and failed privatizations of huge rental complexes creating both problems and opportunities for affordable housing. And Kai Wright explains how microlending could help urban America's natural entrepreneurs make the most of their instincts and talents, even as economic and personal turmoil leave them vulnerable.
Turning to the engines that drive jobs and prosperity, this issue's special report takes on the current condition of American manufacturing and a strategy to revive it, co-edited by Prospect co-founder Robert Kuttner and editor-at-large Harold Meyerson, with a powerful concluding statement by entrepreneur Leo Hindery, Gov. Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania, former Sen. Donald Riegle Jr., and labor leaders Leo Gerard and Tom Buffenbarger. Like a city, manufacturing doesn't emerge by accident -- it requires a strategy. We're long overdue for one. -- Mark Schmitt
In response to Gabriel Arana's piece on the federal challenge to Proposition 8 ("Gay on Trial"), longtime activist Jack Fertig takes inventory of the "progress" the gay-rights movement has made in the past few decades: "I am amused when anti-marriage campaigners say that they really do like their gay friends -- they just want to preserve the sanctity of marriage. At least the rhetoric has improved since the 1970s, when Anita Bryant and John Briggs openly hated us and said our mere existence was a threat to civilization. Now, at least they say we're good neighbors and nice people -- it's only our pursuit of matrimony that threatens to bring earthquakes and plagues of locusts."
Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic also responds to Arana's analysis of the case: "It's a deeply risky strategy. But it has the educational benefit of grasping fully the discrimination in so many aspects of life that the gay minority still experiences."
Whose Greater Good?
Ann Friedman's column ("The Company We Keep") on the importance of diversity in the progressive coalition kicked up a storm among the liberal Twitterati. The Nation's Washington editor Christopher Hayes tweeted, "This piece ... should be required reading for all liberal white doodz." Rafael Noboa Rivera called it "spot the hell on." Blogger Nezua wrote, "Finally. Now that a white person said it, maybe progressives can take it to heart." Michael Hartmann said it was "an amazing article and call to action in working together to fight for the liberal ideals to which we subscribe." And James Hupp tweeted, "Liberals: please, please, please listen to [Ann Friedman]."
Reader Eric Bruun takes exception to Harold Meyerson's characterization of federal stimulus funding for clean, green rail transport ("Fed Up With Federalism"). He writes, "Meyerson is right that the feds don't allow local content production, but he missed that the Federal Transit Administration requires 60 percent domestic content under the Buy America Act. As a result, with a few exceptions almost the entire rail and bus industry is nonunion, located in rural areas, and [made up of] tax freeloaders. Not surprisingly, the Buy America Act is viewed as very hypocritical by foreign suppliers. It has also prevented the U.S. transit-riding public from benefiting from superior European technology and lower prices."
David carlton, associate professor of history at Vanderbilt University, assails Mark Schmitt's analysis ("Changing the Tone") of Southern conservatism: "There seems to be a widespread presumption among the D.C. blogocracy that 'Southern white conservatism' has been essentially the same forever. But Southern politics has dramatically changed from what it was in 1949. Southern white Republicanism isn't based in the old black belt oligarchies; it's based in the middle-class suburbs, and modern mass Southern political culture -- as unsettling as it frequently can be -- is far different than the narrowly based regime it replaced. Its ascendancy is also more recent than has been depicted; far from being a direct result of the civil-rights legislation of the mid-1960s, Southern Republicanism took a long time to consolidate and even today is far less dominant than a D.C.?centric view might suggest."