21st Century Limited: The Lost Glory of America’s Railroads

We start in darkness. After fighting our way through the dingy, low-ceilinged, crowded wait-ing room that serves as New York City’s current Pennsylvania Station, we pull out through a graffitied tunnel that follows one of the oldest roadbeds in America.  Freight trains once clattered along open tracks here, spewing smoke within a few dozen yards of the mansions along Riverside Drive and attracting one of the most dangerous hobo encampments in the country, before it was finally all buried beneath a graceful park in the 1930s. Today, we emerge into sunlight for the first time in Harlem, following a route Read More

The Vanishing Liberal: How the Left Learned To Be Helpless

    On the first day of December last year, Barack Obama stood before the assembled Corps of Cadets at West Point and announced this decision to send another 30,000 troops to the war in Afghanistan.  The president’s nationally televised address was, in many ways, the most honest speech made to the American people by their leader in a generation.  Obama conceded that our client state in Afghanistan “has been hampered by corruption” and “has moved backwards.”  He told us he had rejected “a more dramatic and open-ended escalation” of the war because that would require setting “goals that are Read More

Barack Hoover Obama

Three months into his presidency, Barack Obama has proven to be every bit as charismatic and intelligent as his most ardent supporters could have hoped. Read More

A Harper’s Forum: High Noon for the Republican Party , Or Why the G.O.P. Must Die

  Forum Participants:  Kevin Baker, Scott McConnell, Luke Mitchell, Kevin Phillips, Thomas F. Schaller   George Washington, the United States’ first and last unaffiliated president, warned that political parties, should they take root in the new republic, would make government “the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans.” Parties sprang up immediately, of course, but for many years they were short-lived, forming and collapsing according to a natural life cycle. No longer. Our current two-party system has become a shadow constitution, based largely on a system of legal bribery, Read More

A FATE WORSE THAN BUSH: Rudolph Giuliani and the Politics of Personality

  Rudolph Giuliani has, by far the most dubious known personal history of any major presidential candidate in American history, what with this three marriages and his open affairs and his almost total estrangement from his grown children, not to mention the startling frequency with which he finds excuses to dress in women’s clothing.  Many of his fellow Republicans despise him for his support of gay rights and abortion rights and immigrants, for the confiscatory gun laws he enforced while mayor of New York City, and for having a personality that is irreducibly New York.  Richard Viguerie, the venerable right-wing Read More

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The Fake Quest for An “Authentic Democrat”

    Discussed in this essay: How American Democracy Was Trivialized by People Who Think You’re Stupid Joe Klein Doubleday 272 pages   The Good Fight:  Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again Peter Beinart HarperCollins 304 pages   Here they come again!  As we move into the midterm elections, the usual suspects have emerged with a fresh batch of new books and articles, all designed to teach the Democrats how to regain power.  “What the Democrats still don’t have is a philosophy, a big idea that unites their proposals and converts them Read More

STABBED IN THE BACK!: The Past and Future of a Right-Wing Myth

First drink, hero, from my horn: I spiced the draught well for you To waken your memory clearly So that the past shall not slip your mind! —Hagen to Siegfried Die Götterdämmerung   Every state must have its enemies.  Great powers must have especially monstrous foes.  Above all, these foes must arise from within, for national pride does not admit that a great nation can be defeated by any outside force.  That is why, though its origins are elsewhere, the stab in the back has become the sustaining myth of modern American nationalism.  Since the end of Word War II, Read More

The Magic Reagan

Founded in 1998, the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project is dedicated to naming "a significant landmark or institution" after Reagan in each of the fifty states, and in everyone of the nation’s 3,142 counties—and to replacing Alexander Hamilton’s picture on the ten-dollar bill with that of the Gipper. So far it has managed 50 such dedications, in sixteen states and three foreign countries. (So far there has been less success in replacing Hamilton, whom the renamers consider "a big government guy," Read More