Nothing Is Inevitable

Mark Schmitt's December cover story, "The Audacity of Patience," quoted a public letter from William Galston, former Bill Clinton policy adviser and current Brookings Institution senior fellow, to Barack Obama in September, warning that Obama was squandering his opportunity. In response to Schmitt's article, Galston wrote in: "I chose to speak out, urging Mr. Obama to hone his stump speech and focus relentlessly on the economy. My advice had nothing to do with alleged doubts about his ability to maintain an ever-widening coalition, as Schmitt suggests. It reflected my view that Obama's message was curiously muffled at a time that cried out for clarity and force. Schmitt [can't] be sure that Obama's early-September strategy would have been good enough in the absence of later [economic] events. In retrospect, everything looks inevitable, but almost nothing ever is."

Sociologist Norman Birnbaum tipped his hat to Schmitt for rising above typical post-campaign coverage: "I am not the only one struggling with a flood -- a flood of analysis, comment, and historical analogy (generally devoid of historical knowledge) in which hundreds of writers demonstrate their shared commitment to let no event cause them to think, much less rethink. As one might expect, Mark Schmitt's article is a very honorable exception."

High Steaks

Derek Markham, a writer for the environmental news service Planetsave, found solace in Ben Adler's piece ("Are Cows Worse Than Cars?") on the environmental impact of meat. "It really stands out as a reminder of the clearly divided environmental movement," Markham wrote, quipping: "Until the connection between CO2 emissions, global warming, and our diet is accepted, you can be sure that people will be rolling through the drive-thru for a Big Mac, in their biodiesel or hybrid [car], feeling like they're really making a difference." And on tapped, the Prospect's staff blog, commenter Leo wrote, "I didn't even have to know the guy's background to know he was a vegetarian." Sorry to disappoint, but Adler is, in fact, a meat-eater.

Bicycle Built for Two

Politics and culture blog the American Scene enjoyed Dana Goldstein's piece ("Street Fighter") on New York City transportation-policy reform and its biggest backer, Janette Sadik-Kahn. Wrote Reihan Salam, "Sadik-Khan has a winning quality that I can't quite define. If nominated and confirmed -- and I kind of hope she isn't, as it is better to have her devise innovative policies at the local level than to try to steer the Titanic -- I think it is safe to say that she would be the most crush-worthy member of an Obama Cabinet."

Suggestion Soup

Ed Kilgore of the group blog The Democratic Strategist got all tingly reading dayo olopade's piece on progressive white papers covering Obama's desk ("The Paper Chase"). He wrote, "I had a spasm of nostalgia while reading Olopade's reference to the Progressive Policy Institute's 1992 transition tome, Mandate for Change. This effort, to which I contributed a chapter on crime policy, was so unique at the time that it was translated into several languages and was reportedly a best-seller in Japan for a while. This time around, there are so many books, pamphlets, and memos coming out with suggestions for the Obama administration that you can't stir 'em with a stick. And that's a good thing."

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From the Executive Editor

So here we are -- after a long era during which progressive ideas were nurtured by a minority far from power, we find ourselves on the eve of the inauguration of a president who shares our values and whose resounding victory represents at least a rejection of the conservative era.

Now the opposition is the limits of our own imagination: Can we think creatively enough and expansively enough to match the magnitude of the economic crisis? Can we overcome the conventional wisdom about budget deficits or industrial policy that threatens to limit our response to the current recession and thus prevent us from embarking on a new era of creative government? Can we recognize that creating the next era of prosperity and security requires us to develop entirely new solutions on a global scale? These are among the questions that Robert Kuttner and Harold Meyerson take on in this issue.

This month's special report is particularly important to me because for years I was involved in campaign-finance reform and other efforts to improve the political process. Much energy was expended in internal battles over which single procedural reform should be considered the answer: campaign-finance regulation, reform of congressional redistricting, or a dozen others. We've long needed a more comprehensive way of looking at citizenship, one that acknowledges and builds on the strengths of American democracy -- especially as revealed in the 2008 election -- rather than just trying to fix the weaknesses. In recent years, a small movement has emerged to look at democracy more broadly. Our special report is an introduction to the ideas and experiences of this next generation of civic renewal.

-- Mark Schmitt

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