Editor's Note — February 13, 2014, 4:08 pm

Introducing the March 2014 Issue

The decline of America’s left, Barbara Ehrenreich, Norman Rush, and more

Harper's Magazine (March 2014)How will future generations view the presidency of Barack Obama? In this issue of Harper’s Magazine, we present our latest commentary on the president and his legacy with a cover story by University of Pennsylvania political science professor Adolph Reed Jr. His essay is a compelling assessment of the failure of the American left. He begins with the left’s abandonment of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal principles and achievements, and goes on to criticize both Bill Clinton and Obama for having moved toward the center. Yet Reed’s harshest salvos are directed at the left itself, which he views as effectively dead: it stands for nothing, and is now defined only by its not being the right. A revitalized left is essential, he argues, to our electoral process — and the only way to achieve this is by resurrecting the moribund labor movement.

As a counterpoint to the pomposity and relentless uplift of the Winter Olympics, Bill Donahue reports from Abkhazia, a disputed territory on the Black Sea a few miles from Sochi. Technically independent, Abkhazia remains a client state of Russia, and has fought almost continuously for the past twenty years in an effort to separate itself from neighboring Georgia. While money and tourists pour into Sochi, very little of that affluence is apt to rub off on war-torn Abkhazia, whose very existence as a sovereign nation is recognized by only five U.N. member countries (a sixth, Vanuatu, withdrew its recognition last year).

Justine van der Leun reports from Gugulethu, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town, where she spent more than two years getting to know the area’s residents. The township, an apartheid-era invention, was established in the early 1960s to absorb the overflow of migration to the city from other parts of the country. Now it contains almost 100,000 residents, almost all of them black. Van der Leun gives us a vivid, moving portrait of daily life in Gugulethu, as well as a window into the politics and peculiar vulnerabilities of contemporary South Africa.

Can violence be predicted? Can its perpetrators and victims be identified ahead of time? These are the questions Monte Reel takes up in his report on a new program being implemented in Chicago. Using an algorithm that ranks the likelihood that individual city public-school students will be involved in a homicide, a team of sociologists is attempting to stop violence before it happens. Highlighting the case of one teenager, Reel describes the promises and pitfalls of this futuristic (and, alas, failure-prone) program.

Also in this issue: James Marcus discusses the question of restoring the military draft; Ruth Franklin takes on two new books about E. E. Cummings, J. Hoberman reviews Twelve Years a Slave; Barbara Ehrenreich and Norman Rush describe their unconventional childhoods; and a new story by Rebecca Curtis.

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Tom Bissell on touring Israel with Christian Zionists, Joy Gordon on the Cuban embargo, Lawrence Jackson on Freddie Gray and the makings of an American uprising, a story by Paul Yoon, and more

i. stand with israel
I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio. Confident masculine voices telling me the enemy is everywhere and victory is near — I often find it affirming: there’s a reason I don’t think that way. Last spring, many right-wing commentators made much of a Bloomberg poll that asked Americans, “Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or Obama?” Republicans picked the Israeli prime minister over their own president, 67 to 16 percent. There was a lot of affected shock that things had come to this. Rush Limbaugh said of Netanyahu that he wished “we had this kind of forceful moral, ethical clarity leading our own country”; Mark Levin described him as “the leader of the free world.” For a few days there I yelled quite a bit in my car.

The one conservative radio show I do find myself enjoying is hosted by Dennis Prager. At the Thanksgiving dinner of American radio personalities (Limbaugh is your jittery brother-in-law, Michael Savage is your racist uncle, Hugh Hewitt is Hugh Hewitt) Dennis Prager is the turkey-carving patriarch trying to keep the conversation moderately high-minded. While Prager obviously doesn’t like liberals — “The gaps between the left and right on almost every issue that matters are in fact unbridgeable,” he has said — he often invites them onto his show for debate, which is rare among right-wing hosts. Yet his gently exasperated take on the Obama–Netanyahu matchup was among the least charitable: “Those who do not confront evil resent those who do.”

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