Mark Schmitt

Mark Schmitt is director of the program on political reform at the New America Foundation and former executive editor of The American Prospect

 

 

Recent Articles

Big Bad John

Let me begin by admitting that if fortune decrees that the next president of the United States must be another conservative Republican, I'd certainly rather it be John McCain than George Allen, Tom Tancredo, Newt Gingrich, or most of the other current right-wing heartthrobs. But have no illusions: McCain is a very conservative Republican who has now embarked on the project of reaffirming his position as the rightful heir to Barry Goldwater's politics as well as his Senate seat. Last month, for example, McCain voted to extend the very tax cuts that he had once voted against, a move that tax-cut strategist Larry Hunter correctly described to The Washington Times as “a further morphing of McCain into George W. Bush.” So, with this homecoming, we bring to an end one of the most fascinating eras in American politics: the five years during which McCain, with the help of an adoring press, essentially defined and controlled the concept of “bipartisanship.” Consider that there have been two...

Big Bad John

Let me begin by admitting that if fortune decrees that the next president of the United States must be another conservative Republican, I'd certainly rather it be John McCain than George Allen, Tom Tancredo, Newt Gingrich, or most of the other current right-wing heartthrobs. But have no illusions: McCain is a very conservative Republican who has now embarked on the project of reaffirming his position as the rightful heir to Barry Goldwater's politics as well as his Senate seat. Last month, for example, McCain voted to extend the very tax cuts that he had once voted against, a move that tax-cut strategist Larry Hunter correctly described to The Washington Times as “a further morphing of McCain into George W. Bush.” So, with this homecoming, we bring to an end one of the most fascinating eras in American politics: the five years during which McCain, with the help of an adoring press, essentially defined and controlled the concept of “bipartisanship.” Consider that there have been two...

The Progressive Generation Gap

Not long ago, i attended a meeting of 20 or so progressive advocates and experts on a major policy issue. I looked around the room and realized that I was, I'm quite sure, the youngest person there. And that's happened before. But I'm 43 years old. It's fun to feel like a prodigy, but I'm not. In other settings, such as among bloggers, I'm the oldest. But rarely, on the cusp of middle age, do I find myself in the middle of a broad range of ages, or in a room dominated by my coevals. There's a reason for this, and it's rarely talked about publicly: the great progressive generation gap. Between the two great cohorts of progressive thinkers and activists -- those who came of age in the late 1960s or early 1970s, and those who became active in the last five or ten years -- there is an astonishing absence of those of us in our late 30s to mid-40s. We are the Michael J. Fox generation (recall his young conservative character in the '80s sitcom Family Ties ). It was during our college years...

When Liberals Must Conserve

“We need a message.” “We need a philosophy.” “We need a simple statement of what we believe, just like the right has.” No meeting of progressives lasts long before these sentiments are expressed. Sometimes a committee will be assigned to frame the new message. The result might be a crisp but banal statement of uncontested values. Or a list of 62 programs that acknowledge all the key constituencies and causes. As a colleague of mine once said, most attempts at this synthesis are no worse than any other, and no better. Why is this so hard? Why haven't we been able to define what it means to be a progressive (or liberal) in clear, meaningful terms? Here's one take at an answer: It's because the progressive message for the current moment is essentially, by tragic necessity, that of conservatism. Although we still do Republicans the courtesy of labeling them “far right,” the fact is they have gone so far around the bend that they have abandoned all of the conservative tradition, except for...

History Lesson

The question of the week seems to be, Can Democrats nationalize the 2006 congressional election the way Republicans did in 1994? Modernized counterparts to Newt Gingrich's “Contract with America” are being prepared, slogans tested, and national issues developed for an assault on the profoundly weakened beachhead of the GOP autocracy. As is so often the case, though, Democrats are transfixed by the history and perceived successes of the right, when there are better lessons in our own history and our own successes. We'll come back to that in a minute. There's a mundane reason that the 1994 model won't work for Democrats in 2006, and it can be summed up in the numbers 53 and 18. Going into the 1994 election, Gingrich could identify 53 congressional districts whose voters had backed the first President Bush in 1992 -- even as he carried only 37 percent of the nationwide vote -- while sending a Democrat to Congress. Many of these districts had been voting reliably for Ronald Reagan,...

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