From the Executive Editor
The first 15 months of the Obama administration have tested not only the president but the organizations and activists who built the progressive resurgence of the last decade. Those activists now struggle with the complex challenge of simultaneously supporting the administration and Congress while aggressively pressuring them to do the right thing. In a package of articles in this issue, several authors with deep roots in different kinds of citizen organizing weigh its successes and failures in health reform and other issues.
Early in the presidential campaign, the Prospect noted the distinctive tone and strategy of Barack Obama's approach to foreign policy -- which Spencer Ackerman dubbed "The Obama Doctrine" in our April 2008 cover story. In this issue, Ackerman takes a critical look and finds that much of the philosophy has survived the transition to governing, although Obama's effort to end the politics of fear has not.
Finally, some news about us: In March The American Prospect, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary, began a new and promising chapter by entering into an institutional partnership with Demos, the New York–based think tank. You have surely seen Demos credited as a collaborator on several of our special reports, but the relationship between the two organizations goes even deeper: Prospect founder and co-editor Bob Kuttner is also a senior fellow at Demos. Miles Rapoport, president of Demos, has been a member of the Prospect board since 2008 and with this partnership will become president of the Prospect as well. While the Prospect will retain full editorial autonomy, we expect to collaborate even more closely on special reports (including this issue's package on organizing) and public events.
Since its founding in 2000, Demos has become a vital source of new ideas on election reform, voter rights, economic inequality, and financial reform. The engaged intellectual work of Demos and the policy-relevant journalism produced by the Prospect are different, but both expand our sense of what's possible and how to achieve it. We're confident that together, both the Prospect and Demos can do what we do more effectively.
-- Mark Schmitt
What's Not Possible
Ben Smith at POLITICO sees last month's cover story by Suzy Khimm and Tim Fernholz ("The Art of the Possible") as a telling sign of what is, in fact, not possible. He writes, "The focus of the new American Prospect issue says a lot about demoralized Democrats: It's all about what Obama can get done without going to Congress."
In response to Mark Schmitt's analysis of the Citizens United Supreme Court case ("Citizens Restarted"), reader G.M. Chandu notes that the power of corporate-sponsored advertising is only magnified by the decline of print media: "Schmitt attempts to downplay the impact that the Supreme Court decision can have on our electioneering system. He has not fully addressed the impact of relentless advertisements that will be unleashed by corporations- -- and how they mar the public's judgment. Thanks mostly to television, a majority of Americans have relegated the print media to obscurity and become accustomed to sound bites and bumper-sticker slogans; we've become less discerning and more gullible because of it. Corporations -- with their 'money power of persuasion'- -- will reign supreme."
Reader David Newsom responds to David Kirp's critique of school-reform efforts ("The Great School Delusion"): "While improving teacher accountability must be a critical part of education reform -- including providing merit and performance--based financial incentives -- -all too often 'teacher reform' has amounted to union-busting and further moved the education system toward a profit-driven, corporate model. By imposing what some might regard as draconian accountability standards on teachers, many are being forced to work excessively long hours for the sole purpose of burning them out so they leave in order to recruit younger teachers (for example, Teach for America). Such private-sector solutions are similar to those at corporate law firms, where associates work long hours in hope of advancement and compensation.
"People need to recognize that the No. 1 problem with failing schools is not necessarily bad teachers or a lack of resources but a lack of parental involvement. The current form of American capitalism is partly to blame; the days when a single parent's income could support a family -- and mothers stayed home to mentor and take care of children -- are long gone. Perhaps a solution would be moving America away from the 40-hour-plus workweek and encouraging more parents to work 20 or 30 hours per week instead to spend more time with their children. Sadly, that is not feasible with our current economic model."
Correction: In our March issue, a piece by Eamonn Fingleton, "Germany's Economic Engine," erroneously stated the value of Germany's exports in 2008 as $1.49 billion. The correct number is $1.49 trillion.