New York, NY (September 7, 2017) — With next year’s midterm elections starting to take shape, the most glaring unanswered question is whether the Democratic Party will be strong enough to regain control of Congress. For the October issue of the New Republic, Ben Austen’s cover story “Running on Hope” focuses on a new organization working to take the reins in converting congressional seats from red to blue.
The Arena, founded by former Obama staffer Ravi Gupta, was created in response to the widespread outrage over Donald Trump’s election. Modeling its approach after Obama’s politics, the group trains and supports candidates for federal, state, and local office. But it does not insist that they conform to a unified message, allowing them instead to tailor their campaigns to their individual constituencies. As Austen points out, the strategy touches on the central question facing liberals: Can Democrats regain control of Congress and state legislatures without a clear and coherent identity?
“Our cover story this month highlights one of the growing array of grassroots organizations working to oust Trump and return Democrats to power,” says editor Eric Bates. “What made Obama’s first presidential campaign successful was its united central message, something we explored in our March cover story ‘Obama’s Lost Army.’ What remains to be seen is whether organizations like The Arena can garner the same level of grassroots momentum that captivated a vast and diverse range of voters in 2008.”
In “#AlwaysTrump,” New Republic senior editor Jeet Heer presents a case for why we will never be able to go back to a time when Trump didn’t dominate all facets of daily life. As Heer argues, the real concern is the chaos Trump will cause when he leaves the Oval Office. “He’ll do everything he can do to delegitimize our entire system of government even more than he has as president,” writes Jeet. Trump is “a symptom of something deep and intractable in the American psyche that was not caused by a single election, and cannot be cured by one.”
How does one man become the largest private owner of derelict homes in Baltimore? Rachel Monroe’s “Gone Baby Gone” examines how Houston millionaire Scott Wizig was able to make a fortune on vacant properties. Focusing on 1906 Boone Street in Baltimore, Monroe exposes the shadowy web of nearly a dozen shell companies, and the manipulation of online tax sales, that enabled Wizig to purchase more than 300 properties in Baltimore, often for as little as $5,000. “In theory,” writes Monroe, “tax sales are supposed to replenish city coffers and transfer vacant homes from delinquent owners to people who will actually improve the properties.” Instead, the homes are being snapped up by out-of-state investors—a trend that has decimated American cities.
Belgium-based photographer Carl De Keyzerz’s photo essay “Land of the Hermit King” provides a glimpse into North Korea’s process of indoctrination. Over the past two years, Keyzer visited North Korea four times, documenting the propaganda that is presented to North Koreans as early as kindergarten—including field trips to a museum that depicts Americans massacring Koreans. As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jean H. Lee writes in her introduction, “Keyzer’s images do not show us what is kept out of the frame. But within their narrow confines, they reveal much of what is meant to remain unseen.”
[UP FRONT & COLUMNS]
For Up Front, Rachel M. Cohen in “The New Fight For Labor Rights” presents a case for why the only way for the labor movement to survive is by rethinking its strategy. Instead of utilizing the National Labor Relations Act, whose legal protections for workers have been gutted over the past half century, workers should adopt a strategy that pulls from the Bill of Rights instead. “Losing Hearts and Minds” addresses the Trump administration’s decision to redirect funding for the Countering Violent Extremism program away from grants to community groups that help turn people away from extremist organizations—including right-wing and neo-Nazi groups—and toward law enforcement and government agencies. As Benjamin Powers comments, “Studies have shown that the best way to confront homegrown terrorists is not through law enforcement, but by partnering with religious leaders and family members in the communities where extremists live.” With construction on the expansion of Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline beginning this month, Ben Adler in “The Next Standing Rock” highlights the disastrous environmental ramifications of the project. Now, First Nations people and their allies are preparing to set up camp along the pipeline route, as they did previously at the Standing Rock and Keystone pipeline protests, to protect the water, wildlife and native peoples who will be impacted by its construction. “Art of the Steal” reveals the ways politicians have been able to boost their book sales in order to help them get a spot on the New York Times best-seller list. Trump was one of the first to do so. As Alex Shephard writes, “the Trump Organization helped boost The Art of the Deal by purchasing tens of thousands of copies on its own.” Trump’s spot on the list and the exposure it garnered helped Trump land two other careers, as host of The Apprentice and later president of the United States.
Bryce Covert and John B. Judis contribute columns for the October issue. In “Deadbeat Democrats,” Covert writes about the disastrous consequences of Bill Clinton’s “welfare reform” rhetoric and legislation in the mid-’90s, and argues that with Trump and the GOP looking to enact a new round of welfare reforms modeled on Clinton’s in 1996, it’s time for Democrats to finally start reframing the debate and provide concrete proposals that match the GOP’s anti-poverty rhetoric. In “Redoing the Electoral Math,” Judis explains why he and Ruy Texeira were overly optimistic in their influential 2003 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, and argues that the whole idea of a forthcoming “majority-minority” electorate is deeply flawed. Instead of relying on “people of color” to give them a future, or pandering to white working-class voters at the other extreme, Judis writes, Democrats need to “fight for an agenda of shared prosperity that has the power to unite, rather than divide, their natural constituencies.”
“Rules for Radicals” profiles the economist James McGill Buchanan and how important he was in transforming America. Citing Nancy MacClean’s new book Democracy in Chains, Alan Wolfe delves into Buchanan’s “public choice theory,” which states that “there is no such thing as a disinterested public bureaucracy that carries out neutral policies devoted to the common good...Each participant in the political process tries, single-mindedly, to further his own interest, at the expense of others if this is necessary.” As a result, his theory aided in the rise of inequality in America through a strain of thought with a longstanding impact.
How has Russia’s history shaped its foreign policy? Sophie Pinkham examines this in “War Stories.” Citing two new releases (Russia: The Story of War and Near Abroad: Putin, the West and the Contest Over Ukraine and the Caucasus), Pinkham highlights how these books differ vastly from the narrative of Russia presented in the US. In particular, they shed light on the parallels between America and Russia. Both believe they were “the uniquely appointed savior of Western civilization,” writes Pinkham. “Understanding Russia’s self-image is not only a way of better understanding Russia’s behavior. It can also help expose America’s most cherished illusions about itself.”
Also in Review this month, Nicholas Dawidoff writes about the 50s noir novelist Ross Macdonald
in “True Detective.” The creator of
the new-type detective, in Macdonald’s books the detective, “doesn’t just
discover what happened to a missing person,” writes Dawidoff. “He reveals what
makes a person feel lost—the perverse and tawdry elements that define people as
castoffs in a skewed American landscape.” In “Theory Conspiracy,” Sven Birkerts analyzes Lauren Binet’s novel, The Seventh Function of Language. A work
of “auto-fiction,” Birkerts details how Binet manipulates autobiographical
material while asserting that “memory is just another form of narrative
Christian Lorentzen reviews The Unknown Girl, a new film by the the Dardenne brothers. Comparing the film’s female protagonist to their past work, Lorentzen addresses how the film and its lead may be a manifestation of the creators and the impact their success and status has had on their work. Rachel Syme’s “Mean Streets” spotlights HBO’s new series, The Deuce. Created by David Simon (The Wire) and George Pelecanos, as Syme writes, “The Deuce is about intractability and cycles; the vortex of poverty and pain that characterized the city in the bankrupt era. Some people manage to get out with plucky innovation; some never will.”
Hadara Bar-Nadav contributes the featured poem this month, “Sun.” With Trump pushing the US closer to potential nuclear war, Adam Reynolds’s photograph for Backstory depicts a former Air Force control center & facility hidden underneath a ranch house in Jackson County, South Dakota tasked with potential signs that intruders had breached the perimeter. It serves as “a reminder of the last time world leaders pushed us to the brink of total annihilation.”
The October issue of the New Republic hits newsstands Thursday, September 7th.
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