From the Executive Editor
A few years ago, I saw an analysis of the most widely syndicated newspaper columnists in the country and realized that while we coastal elites often obsessed about the latest thing Charles Krauthammer or Thomas Friedman had written, most of the country was reading completely different voices -- among them, Kathleen Parker's. Now that Parker is known even to readers of The Washington Post, Kerry Howley, a first-time contributor to the Prospect, looks back at many years' worth of Parker's columns to figure out just where this quasi-conservative, provocative columnist fits in the current debate. And Paul Waldman, who writes a popular weekly column on our Web site, debuts in print with an examination of the peculiar economics of the op-ed columnist and the future of this odd literary form.
Elsewhere in this issue, Sarah Laskow and I explain some of the lobbying and political forces that have shaped the health-care reform debate. Tim Fernholz explains why "too big to fail" is not a helpful way of thinking about risky financial institutions. And Dana Goldstein notes how the words "innovation" and "innovators" pervade the language of the Obama administration. It's easy to let them pass by as innocuous buzzwords, but as Dana writes in this issue, they represent real choices with real consequences.
Sadly, it's also with this issue Dana leaves the Prospect to join The Daily Beast in New York. Dana has written numerous classic stories for this magazine and has been one of the main voices on TAPPED, our blog. She has also been a talented editor and -- dare I say it -- innovator on both the Web and print magazine. -- Mark Schmitt
Brown's Non-campaign for Governor
Joe Mathews' profile ("See Jerry Run. Again.") of former Gov. Jerry Brown of California "delves further into Brown's un-campaign for governor and the puzzling question of what in the heck he's planning to do once he gets there," writes David Dayen of calitics.com before adding his own spin: "Brown clearly has a blueprint for winning the election -- say as little as humanly possible about the problems that grip the state, and hope that tangerine dreams of the halcyon '70s push him to victory. You cannot blame him -- it's a winning formula. With a pathetically thin state political media, it's fairly difficult to run on any issues to begin with, at least ones beyond the bumper-sticker variety."
A Defenseless Behemoth?
The Economist's Free Exchange blog questions Barry Lynn's assertion (in "How Detroit Went Bottom-Up") that monopolistic parts manufacturers were able to hold the automotive industry hostage: "There's the notion that the big car firms were helpless to do anything about the situation once it arose. But they must have seen it coming; after all, as [Lynn] says, the old firms vertically integrated 'to gain an advantage over their competitors or to protect themselves from predation.' ... General Motors spun off Delphi in 1999; you're telling me that in the last decade GM completely lost the ability to develop its own parts-producing capacity or build a minor market player into a competing parts supplier? And wouldn't it do so if a crazed, irrational monopolist threatened to bring down the whole of the automotive industry by jacking up parts prices? It doesn't make sense, and it strikes me as excuse-making for firms that badly needed to go out of business, not to mention a poorly crafted argument against outsourcing and free trade."
G. William Domhoff, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, takes Mark Schmitt to task for what he sees as his "Pollyannaish" reflection on Who Governs?, Robert Dahl's book about New Haven politics. Domhoff writes, "Since most people who write about power, including Dahl and me, want to see more equality, and hence believe in 'pluralism' as a goal, it is hardly a big deal that we all should have pluralism as an 'objective.' The question is always what pluralism should look like and how much we can get. It just strikes me as a weak conclusion."
Bartenders Versus Forecasters
Alan Abramowitz, a political-science professor at Emory University, responds to pollster Stanley Greenberg's review of The Message Matters by Lynn Vavreck in our October issue: "Greenberg makes some disparaging comments about political-science forecasting models, stating at one point that 'bartenders do as well as modelers.' Greenberg's sweeping generalization is inaccurate and unfair. There are many forecasting models and some have proved to be more accurate than others. In 2000, for example, most of the final pre-election polls had George W. Bush winning the popular vote. My own Time for Change forecasting model has correctly predicted the winner of the popular vote in the last five presidential elections with an average error of 1 percentage point -- better than the final pre-election Gallup poll. I don't know what bartenders Stan Greenberg has been talking to, but I seriously doubt that their predictions of the outcomes of these presidential elections would have been as accurate."