New Republic, Nov. 19 A feature argues that the United States is becoming fundamentally more liberal. The realignment stems from an increase in the number of American professionals in recent decades, from 7 percent in the 1950s to 20 percent of today’s work force. Since 1988, professionals have been voting Democratic. Support for Obama among women—who began to move left in 1980—also reflects a shift toward liberalism. … Another article considers the influence that John Podesta, founder of the Center for American Progress, will have on Obama’s administration as co-manager of the president-elect’s transition team. Podesta is known for running a tight ship; his staffers refer to his alter ego, “Skippy,” as the boss they don’t want to cross. However, “the cult of discipline can also staunch the healthy tensions that produce intellectual rigor and new ideas.”
Time, Nov. 17 The cover story offers a rhapsodic analysis of Barack Obama’s historic victory. He won “because at a very dangerous moment in the life of a still young country, more people than have ever spoken before came together to try to save it.” As he faces the grave challenges of his presidency, Obama “needs to use his power in ways that make both parties equally unhappy, to dust off the weighty words we need to hear, not just the uplifting ones—like austerity, sacrifice, duty.”… A feature looks at past “presidential rookies” to see what advice Obama can gather from their experiences in office. Despite the parallels pundits have drawn between Obama and Abraham Lincoln, a more likely model for the president-elect is Woodrow Wilson, whose “reserved and intellectual approach to managing the national welfare” helped him “stabilize and equalize a volatile national economy.”
Economist, Nov. 8 An editorial lauds Obama’s refreshingly cosmopolitan perspective thanks to his “half-brothers in Kenya, old schoolmates in Indonesia and a view of the world that seems to be based on respect rather than confrontation.” The article offers the needless reminder that “under George Bush America’s international standing has sunk to awful lows,” but the magazine has confidence in “the redeeming effect” of Obama’s election. The editors recommend reaching out to Republicans by keeping Robert Gates as defense secretary and finding roles for Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel and even defeated opponent John McCain. … A special report on Spain assesses that country’s risk for falling into a steep economic decline. From 1994 to 2007, Spain was “responsible for creating about one in every three new jobs in the euro zone.” Now Spain, too, has suffered a burst housing bubble and faces rising unemployment and a stagnant economy.
New York Times Magazine, Nov. 9 The cover story examines the evolution of congressional oversight and revisits the legislature’s strengths and weaknesses during the last few administrations. During the Bush years, most senators failed to “stand up for Congress in the battle over the president’s wartime powers.” The author points to the Clinton impeachment trial as the turning point, in which senators were “trying to balance their party loyalty with their duty to keep a close eye on the executive branch.” Now Congress faces the challenge of “reassert[ing] itself in the next administration” in order to “restore the constitutional balance” of powers. … A feature investigates “a Saudi government initiative that seeks to deprogram Islamic extremists.” Inmates who have been “convicted of involvement in Islamic extremism” undergo a two-month-long program that prepares the young men to re-enter society without succumbing to the social “alienation” that might have driven them to become jihadists in the first place.
Vanity Fair, December 2008 An article compiles an oral history of Motown 50 years after its founding. Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, founder Berry Gordy Jr., and others chime in on Gordy’s vision for a record label that united cultures during the civil rights movement with its “infectious kind of music.”… A feature explores the “isolating effects” of reporting on the Iraq war from the Baghdad bureau of the New York Times. “The day-to-day toll—the infighting, isolation, and near-death experiences—of covering the most important story no one wants to read” has made it harder for the Times to convince new reporters to go to Iraq. It has also strained relationships among those journalists already there. Still, the paper has the strongest presence there among the Western media, and “for the moment at least, it is setting the standard” for coverage of Iraq.
New York’s feature on the capture of fugitive murderer James Kopp, who killed a doctor who performed abortions, is a thrilling read that reveals the moral reasoning behind the actions of some of the most radical anti-abortion activists.
An interview in Time with Obama pollster Joel Benenson on how Obama won lacks structure and coherence as it meanders around the obstacles the president-elect faced during his campaign.
Best Politics Piece
A New York Times Magazine feature shows how congressional oversight of executive authority became so weak and why it needs to be strengthened in the next administration.
Best Culture Piece
Vanity Fair’s Motown history, accompanied by a portfolio from Annie Leibovitz, looks at the friendships that still endure among the Motown family, such as founder Berry Gordy Jr. and Smokey Robinson, who still get together “for ferociously competitive games of chess and good-natured bouts of musical one-upmanship.”
Late to the Party
The Economist’s piece on blogging as a standard feature of the mainstream media is absurdly behind the times.