It is always difficult to cover a presidential election in a quarterly magazine, and it hasn’t gotten easier as the election campaign has been steadily extended in time. Still, this is probably the most important election in many decades, and we shall try to address the central issues that the country should be debating-but won’t be if liberals and leftists allow the president’s unprecedented fund-raising and campaign spending to determine the shape of the debate. We begin in this issue with Rogers Smith’s account of the dangerous erosion of civil liberties in the aftermath of 9/11-an especially important article because Smith makes the effort that many liberal and left writers have avoided: to balance the requirements of security and freedom.
We also feature an article by Dylan Otto Krider exposing the ruthless politicization of scientific research by the Bush administration and an article by David Leavitt on how to make the environment the election issue it should be. All these writers are new to Dissent‘s pages. In coming issues, we will carry important pieces about the economy, health care, and education. The readiness of this administration to leave many, many children behind, while pretending that it is committed to all of them, should be a central issue in the election-but, again, it won’t be unless liberals and leftists make it so.
Iraq continues to be a necessary focus for Dissent writers, not only because it too must figure in the political debate but also because we still disagree among ourselves about what the position of the Democratic Party, and of the left, ought to be. Adam Michnik explains the support for the war of many East European dissidents; Andrew Arato provides a precise and illuminating illustration of how one can oppose the war and still argue constructively about Iraq’s reconstruction. James B. Rule and Joanne Barkan discuss the effects of the war on domestic politics here at home and in Europe. In the letters column, we print a strong critique of Paul Berman’s piece in the last issue and his strong response. n But everyday politics, compelling as it is right now, cannot be our only concern. We are proud to include in this issue a number of essays that are of immediate interest but at the same time far removed from today’s headlines: Susie Linfield’s brilliant argument about what might be called the political morality of photographic journalism; Mansour Farhang’s reflections on earthquakes in Lisbon and Iran, then and now; and Daniele Archibugi’s socialist critique of the common practice (in the United States, but less and less so in Europe) of tipping service workers. These pieces offer some intellectual relief from what is sure to be a critical but ugly election.