From the Executive Editor
In February, this magazine co-hosted a conference called "Thinking Big, Thinking Forward," which drew almost a thousand people to hear Paul Krugman, Alan Brinkley, Theda Skocpol, Deepak Bhargava, and others speak about the kind of transformative economic policy that will lead to sustained and shared prosperity.
But thinking big also means, in a sense, thinking small. We will not re-create the bubbles of consumer spending and financial speculation that drove economic growth over the last few years. Ever since Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980, the conventional wisdom has been that blind, boosterish optimism beats the language of realistic expectations and shared sacrifice every time. But as Kevin Mattson points out, when Carter called for common purpose and civic renewal, it gave his flagging presidency a huge boost and forged a language that President Obama picked up in his Inaugural Address. Economist Robert Frank explains how reducing the consumption arms race can make us all happier and how specific tax policies can achieve it.
America's schools have been the site of a long battle between those who want to use strict standards and market mechanisms to improve school performance and those who argue that schools and teachers can't reverse the influence of economic inequality and disintegrating communities. As Dana Goldstein reports, signs of a truce are in the air, as innovative leaders of teachers' unions find ways to work with charter schools and teacher--accountability measures. Also in this issue, Robert Kuttner profiles the complex and challenging views of Cass Sunstein, whom Obama has placed at the nexus of all regulation, and Tara McKelvey looks at the dilemmas of American policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan through the personality and experience of our new special envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke.
-- Mark Schmitt
In response to Adam Serwer's article on the challenges facing the NAACP, blogger Prometheus 6 writes that the NAACP "is so hooked into the political infrastructure, it would be foolish to ignore its connections or let it die. But honestly, the problem that caused activists in my cohort to detach from the mainline civil rights groups as they seemed to be in the business of making symbolic gestures or selling indulgences. Okay, selling indulgences is wrong, but institutions would claim a donation to the official guys proved you weren't racist in much the same way as the spook who sat by the door did."
Eat ItTom Laskawy, a blogger for the environmental news Web site Grist, is a bit more critical of Alice Waters than Ezra Klein was in last month's Up Front feature, "Foodie Politics." Laskawy writes, "I'm hesitant to step in the middle of any debate over Alice Waters' contributions to food policy." But he continues, it's "a shame ... the same qualities that contributed to her success in the professional kitchen -- her rigorousness, her passion, her attention to detail, her unwillingness to suffer fools gladly -- are clearly not serving her well at the moment. ... And this becomes an issue for food policy generally to the extent that the message gets entangled with the messenger. If nothing else, the contentious role Waters continues to play makes clear that the progressive food movement is a work in progress and that its ?leadership' is very much up for grabs."
After reading Eli Sanders' feature, "Anatomy of a Netroots Failure," the subject of the piece, Darcy Burner, chose an appropriately new-media forum to respond. Burner posts on her Twitter feed: "I think the people who accused Eli Sanders of having a crush on me can safely conclude he's long over it with the 3/09 American Prospect."
British and U.S. conservatives alike take note of "Britain's Great Right Hope," James Crabtree's feature on the Tories' comeback. Crabtree "outlin[es] what he thinks U.S. Republicans can learn from David Cameron's leadership of the Conservative Party," blogs popular British conservative writer Iain Dale, one of many in his sphere to link to the article.
On this side of the pond, former Bush speechwriter, David Frum, finds the piece very timely as Republicans debate the importance and prominence of Rush Limbaugh. Frum links to the feature on his Web site, The New Majority, and notes that Cameron's success in the U.K. "was achieved with small changes in policy supported by dramatic changes in style and tone." Frum deems Cameron's approach "the alternative" to Limbaugh's style of conservative politics.
New Help, New Hope
Courtney Scrubbs, community service co-chair of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), reached out to TAP after reading Chandra Thomas' piece in our March special report, "After Katrina," on housing struggles in New Orleans. In her article, Thomas writes about La'Tina King, "a single parent of five girls ages 9 to 5 -- all with special psychiatric needs now exacerbated by the Katrina ordeal." Scrubbs thinks SNMA can help; her group is hoping to "adopt" King's family by giving them medical assistance as part of a program related to SNMA's annual conference this month in New Orleans. Planning is underway, and we hope the group is able to connect with King's family.