In American politics, this was obviously not a year worth celebrating. But as resistance to the orange-headed troll and his nasty band of GOPers gets rolling, we should note that several of the most popular articles published in Dissent in 2016 either revealed what was happening or explored what it will take to reverse the fortunes of the democratic left in this time of crisis.
Acute ways to understand the problem attracted hundreds of thousands of readers. Peter Mandler showed it was resentment of cosmopolitan, big-monied London that drove English citizens outside the capital to favor Brexit. Jedediah Purdy and N. Turkuler Isiksel warned about the dangers that authoritarian-minded politicians pose to constitutional norms. In a moving personal essay, Matthew Sitman told how an emerging consciousness of class turned him away from the evangelical conservatism of his family and community in central Pennsylvania. Theda Skocpol contributed an incisive critique of top-down interpretations about the power of the American right.
But ideas for how to advance towards a decent society earned a multitude of clicks as well. Patrick Iber and Mike Konczal explained why Karl Polanyi, the celebrated Hungarian-born writer who died in 1964, remains an excellent guide to why social democracy is essential to taming the evils of capitalism. Nancy Fraser and Sarah Leonard discussed how the increasing number of women responsible for the very young, the ailing, the elderly, and the disabled in our economy could organize to ensure they receive benefits and respect equal to the care they give. And Jedediah Purdy, among other writers, teased out the implications of Bernie Sanders’ remarkable campaign for president and how the excitement it roused might be converted into an enduring movement.
We also ran pieces about social movements that claimed new ground, in spite of major victories for the forces of reaction. Water protectors at Standing Rock blocked the construction of the nearly completed Dakota Access Pipeline—for now, at least—and asserted their right to clean water, air, and land. Fight for $15 organizers helped secure major wage hikes across the country and put ever-rising inequality at the center of national debate. Prisoners went on strike in at least twenty-four states, demanding “an end to prison slavery.” And the Movement for Black Lives continued to call attention to rampant police violence and its place in a larger pattern of racial and economic injustice.
Abroad, too, activists won important victories against increasingly dire odds. In Poland, tens of thousands of women—and men—took to the streets to stop the country’s right-wing government from instating a draconian abortion ban, and mounted a wider challenge to the governing party’s “anti-gender” politics. In Syria, even as the Assad regime regained control over important swaths of territory (with the help of Russian airpower and callous disregard for civilian lives), little-recognized local councils and civil society groups found ways to protect their fellow citizens and enact a measure of democracy. Meanwhile, as the death of Fidel Castro renewed debate over the legacy of the Cuban Revolution, a left-wing opposition continued to work for democratic socialism in that country.
Here’s a complete list of Dissent’s twenty most viewed pieces of 2016:
- Peter Mandler, Britain’s EU Problem is a London Problem (June 24)
- N. Turkuler Isiksel, Prepare For Regime Change, Not Policy Change (November 13)
- Patrick Iber and Mike Konczal, Karl Polanyi for President (May 23)
- Richard Tuck, The Left Case for Brexit (June 6)
- Jedediah Purdy, What Trump’s Rise Means for Democracy (May 4)
- Sarah Leonard and Nancy Fraser, Capitalism’s Crisis of Care (Fall 2016)
- Matthew Sitman, Leaving Conservatism Behind (Summer 2016)
- Maggie Doherty, Who Pays Writers? (Winter 2016)
- Bécquer Seguín, The Spanish-Speaking William F. Buckley (September 28)
- Jedediah Purdy, A World to Make: Eleven Theses for the Bernie Sanders Generation (April 21)
- Maggie Doherty, After Irony (Summer 2016)
- Theda Skocpol, Who Owns the GOP? (February 3)
- Timothy Shenk, Booked: The Living Dead (March 10)
- Jedediah Purdy, Sanders and the Theory of Change: Radical Politics for Grown-Ups (January 23)
- Timothy Shenk, Booked: When Slaveholders Controlled the Government, with Matthew Karp (October 27)
- Nick Robinson, Authoritarian Democracy: A Playbook (November 14)
- Vadim Nikitin, Love and Death in Revolution Square (Fall 2016)
- Mike Konczal, The Violence of Eviction (Summer 2016)
- Jesse A. Myerson, An Anti-Trump Electoral Strategy That Isn’t Pro-Clinton (July 28)
- Tressie McMillan Cottom, Trickle-Down Feminism, Revisited (April 21)
With our new billionaire-in-chief and his reactionary cabinet settling in on Capitol Hill a few weeks from now, the outlook for 2017 may be bleak. But the kind of ferment needed to impede Trump’s program—and build toward a radically different future—is stronger than it has been in many years. As resistance to Trump ramps up, Dissent will be continue to be an important part of it.
In 2016, we reached more people than ever online and in print, hosted lively events on the vital debates of today, launched a new climate podcast, and celebrated 100 episodes of our flagship labor podcast, Belabored. We’re kicking off 2017 with discussions in both London and New York on how to respond to right-wing populism, and launching an issue stacked with not one but two special sections: The Future of Work, edited by Sarah Jaffe and Natasha Lewis, and The Fight Ahead, featuring a series of forward-thinking responses to the U.S. election.
Whatever challenges we may face in the coming years, we plan to go on providing a home for the democratic left and fighting for a more equal, just, and sustainable society. But we can’t do it without your support. Please subscribe—as a solidarity subscriber for $10/month if you can—or donate to help ensure that Dissent is more spirited than ever in 2017. We need it to be.
Michael Kazin is editor of Dissent.