RESTORING TRUST IN GOVERNMENT. At a time when trust in government is at all-time lows, when anti-government “slash-and-burn” rhetoric dominates our discourse and Washington remains saturated in money, influence and partisan bickering, a key question looms: Will we ever trust government again? That is the central focus of The Nation’s special issue this week, “How Do We Restore Trust in Government,” guest-edited by Jeff Madrick and published in partnership with the Rediscovering Government Initiative at the Roosevelt Institute. The issue brings together diverse voices, including Robert Reich, Dorian Warren, Rinku Sen, Mike Konzcal and others to restart the debate about the proper role government should play in shaping our future.
As Madrick explains in the introduction, since the Reagan era, government has been cast as the problem, and anti-government crusaders and free-market absolutists have played on exaggerated fears about the deficit to justify deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, infrastructure and education, maintaing that record-high income inequality, prolonged joblessness and economic stagnation are “acceptable byproducts of the free-market.” The Nation’s special issue considers a range of arguments as to why government is key if we are to reverse these trends and share in widespread economic opportunity, income equality and social justice. As Jeff Madrick writes in the introduction, “Americans from every corner can rediscover the value of government, throw off the blinders of the past generation and lead their policy-makers to a wiser path. This is the urgent mission of our times.”
The special issue examines what government does right, how it’s corrupted and how progressives can recapture the narrative and make government work “by and for the people.” From regulation and consumer protection, to establishing standards for social justice, James Lardner and Rinku Sen offer a look at government’s integral role in guarding progressive gains over the last century. Dorian Warren examines research that shows black Americans trust government more than whites and why that might be the case. And I explain why we must challenge the “self-made” myth, also the subject of an important new book by Brian Miller and Mike Lapham debunking the notion of “self-made” success. In addition, Robert Reich and Greg Marx insightfully explain how government is bought and paid for by big money interests, including the media, and what progressives and the grassroots can do it about. From systemic and institutional reforms to crafting a common language about how we talk about government, Mark Schmitt and Dianne Stewart consider how we can get citizens engaged and believing in government again.
THE NATION EN ESPAÑOL. We’re delighted to announce the launch of The Nation En Español! Every week, we’ll be translating an editorial, column or feature article from print into Spanish and publishing it at thenation.com, where we’ll make it widely available to both the Spanish-speaking US audience. With the help of Claudio Ivan Remeseira, an Argentinian journalist and founder of the blog Hispanic New York, we hope to expand this program, perhaps eventually even publishing a Spanish-language edition of the magazine. Be sure to check out our first three translations, “The NYPD’s Spies,” “Free Abdulelah Shaye” and Michael Moore’s “The Purpose of Occupy Wall Street is to Occupy Wall Street.”
JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON MARTIN. “The crime of killing a black person still is not greater than the crime of being black,” writes Mychal Denzel Smith this week, in a compelling piece about the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black teenager shot dead by a neighborhood watch volunteer for “looking” suspicious. Indeed, this is a story as much about race as anything else. But equally alarming, Smith points out, is that George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old college student who killed Martin, remains free to walk the streets because of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law.”
In an important 2008 piece, “Justifiable Homicides Are on the Rise: Have Self-Defense Laws Gone Too Far?” Nation associate editor Liliana Segura reports how similar laws, on the books in fifteen to twenty states across the country, “broaden the right of civilians to use lethal force under the auspices of self-defense.” “The new laws,” she writes, “are particularly expansive in that they go beyond the boundaries of private homes to include cars, workplaces or anywhere a person may feel threatened.”
On Wednesday, over a 1,000 demonstrators in hoodies gathered in New York City’s Union Square to show solidarity with the family of Trayvon Martin and to call for the arrest and prosecution of Zimmerman, report Nation interns Umar Farooq and Connor Guy. More protests are planned in cities across the country.
THE TYLER CLEMENTI AND DHARUM RAVI WE WILL NEVER KNOW. Two years after Rutgers student Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his roommate, Dharum Ravi, used a webcam to broadcast Clementi kissing another man, the story still invokes sadness and outrage. On Friday, Ravi was convicted of nine charges of “bias intimidation,” turning his conviction into a hate crime. On the surface, the case was a simple matter of bullying and intimidation based on sexual orientation. But the facts reveal more, as Richard Kim explains in “The Tyler Clementi and Dharum Ravi We Will Never Know.” In his eloquent and nuanced piece, Kim writes of Ravi’s conviction, “There is another kind of injustice done when a life is crudely forced into becoming a symbol of social wrongs, when it is made to carry the burden of a composite reality—anti-gay hate crimes—to which it bears but a schematic and hasty relation.” Listen to Kim discuss the complexities of the case on NPR’s On Point, available here.
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