Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson is the editor-at-large at The American Prospect and a columnist for The Washington Post. His email is hmeyerson@prospect.org

Recent Articles

Democracy Deadlocked

T his is a dispatch from purgatory--the purgatory to which we've all been condemned until this business about the identity of our next president is cleared up. I'd never realized until quite late on election night just how nervous purgatory can make a person. This particular purgatory is finite, endless though it may seem; you know that something either better or worse awaits on January 20. Unless you voted for Ralph Nader, however, exactly what awaits is a matter of some moment. (If you voted for Nader, the fate of mere people and nations--indeed, the effect of your vote on mere people and nations--is as naught next to the eternal verities that Nader proclaimed and that won 2.6 percent of voters' support on election day.) Still, from the vantage point of purgatory, it's becoming clear that whether it's George W. Bush or Al Gore who finally takes the oath, the sheer closeness of the election will constrain his administration. Should Bush win, the Republicans will...

Indentured Public Servant

A lan Cranston was always an organizer--one of the best of the post-World War II generation. Soon after the war ended, he founded and built the United World Federalists, an expression of postwar one-worldism that valiantly battled the Cold War zeitgeist. After he left the U.S. Senate eight years ago, he founded and built the Global Security Institute, a group dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons, in which cause he enlisted such notables as Jimmy Carter and, improbably enough, onetime cold warrior Paul Nitze. When Cranston died on the final day of last year, he'd been planning an initiative campaign for nuclear abolition. He never lacked for a worthy project, and no one knew better how to organize both people and money on behalf of a cause. It was his greatest strength. It was his downfall. And his career stands as a cautionary tale of noble ends and rotten means and all that's gone wrong with the business of politics in America. In a sense, Cranston's...

City of Tomorrow

E ven by the fast-forward standards of California politics, where term limits bump off the entire state legislature every eight years, Antonio Villaraigosa has had a meteoric career. In the early 1990s, he was an organizer for the teachers' union, a county supervisor's delegate on the L.A. transit board, and president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California--none of these particularly promising starting points for a career in politics. By 1998, astonishingly, he had become speaker of the California Assembly--and today, he is the great progressive hope in the upcoming election for mayor of Los Angeles. The question now is whether Villaraigosa can hasten the course of L.A. politics-- and that of urban progressivism generally--as he has his own career. For if he is to win the election to succeed the term-limited (and conservative) Richard Riordan as mayor, he must construct a brand-new electoral alliance among communities that have almost nothing in common. The...

California's Progressive Mosaic

Pa Joad: Ain't you goin' with us? Casey: I'd like to. There's somethin' goin' on out there in the West, and I'd like to try and learn what it is. -- The Grapes of Wrath M ore than 60 years after John Steinbeck's Oakies headed west, California retains its power to confound--or even astound. Over the past decade, America's megastate has been transformed beyond recognition, demographically, economically, politically. The state that only yesterday gave the nation Richard Nixon, Howard Jarvis's Proposition 13, and Ronald Reagan is today the nation's most reliably Democratic big state. Indeed, with its Democratic governor, U.S. senators, state legislature, and congressional delegation, California is the only one of the nation's 10 largest states that is uniformly under Democratic control. California is more than just the Democrats' electoral anchor, however. Increasingly, a number of its cities are coming to look like Justice Louis Brandeis's "laboratories of democracy"--enacting minimum...

L.A. Story

T he old order still governs here; the future will not be rushed. Considering all the changes Los Angeles has gone through in just the past decade--white flight and immigrant influx, the displacement of the business elite, the rebirth of the union movement, the rise of a labor-Latino alliance--the idea that a new urban progressive coalition could officially take power this year might have been one transformation too many, one bridge too far (or, at least, too quick). Yet it almost happened--indeed, might have happened if the old order hadn't waged a disgraceful campaign to keep its hold on power. In defeating former California Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, a progressive Democrat, in Los Angeles's mayoral election on June 5, City Attorney James K. Hahn , a mainstream Democrat, organized one last victory for the old Los Angeles. In a city that's increasingly young and Latino, Hahn put together enough older white and black voters to prevail at the polls. Dispatching Villaraigosa...

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