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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More from Ellen Rosenbush:

Editor's Note September 12, 2019, 12:33 pm

Inside the October Issue

A forum on the constitution; Andrew Cockburn on progressive prosecutors; Adam Wilson interrogates the Golden Age of TV; Linda Stasi on sexual abuse in the world of Orthodox Judaism

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Inside the September Issue

Rich Cohen visits the N.F.L. combine; Rachel Poser investigates Zionist archeology; Sean Williams on the Black Axe; an acid-fueled memoir by Chris Rush

Editor's Note July 15, 2019, 9:47 am

Inside the August Issue

Ted Conover among the homesteaders of Colorado’s San Luis Valley; Christopher Ketcham on the Gilets Jaunes; Marc de Miramon on former Rwandan President Paul Kagame; Jacob Mikanowski on Hungary’s far right

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America’s Constitution was once celebrated as a radical and successful blueprint for democratic governance, a model for fledgling republics across the world. But decades of political gridlock, electoral corruption, and dysfunction in our system of government have forced scholars, activists, and citizens to question the document’s ability to address the thorniest issues of modern ­political life.

Does the path out of our current era of stalemate, minority rule, and executive abuse require amending the Constitution? Do we need a new constitutional convention to rewrite the document and update it for the twenty-­first century? Should we abolish it entirely?

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Good Bad Bad Good·

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About fifteen years ago, my roommate and I developed a classification system for TV and movies. Each title was slotted into one of four categories: Good-Good; Bad-Good; Good-Bad; Bad-Bad. The first qualifier was qualitative, while the second represented a high-low binary, the title’s aspiration toward capital-A Art or lack thereof.

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Power of Attorney·

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In a Walmart parking lot in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 2015, a white police officer named Stephen Rankin shot and killed an unarmed, eighteen-­year-­old black man named William Chapman. “This is my second one,” he told a bystander seconds after firing the fatal shots, seemingly in reference to an incident four years earlier, when he had shot and killed another unarmed man, an immigrant from Kazakhstan. Rankin, a Navy veteran, had been arresting Chapman for shoplifting when, he claimed, Chapman charged him in a manner so threatening that he feared for his life, leaving him no option but to shoot to kill—­the standard and almost invariably successful defense for officers when called to account for shooting civilians. Rankin had faced no charges for his earlier killing, but this time, something unexpected happened: Rankin was indicted on a charge of first-­degree murder by Portsmouth’s newly elected chief prosecutor, thirty-­one-year-­old Stephanie Morales. Furthermore, she announced that she would try the case herself, the first time she had ever prosecuted a homicide. “No one could remember us having an actual prosecution for the killing of an unarmed person by the police,” Morales told me. “I got a lot of feedback, a lot of people saying, ‘You shouldn’t try this case. If you don’t win, it may affect your reelection. Let someone else do it.’ ”

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Carlitos in Charge·

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I was in Midtown, sitting by a dry fountain, making a list of all the men I’d slept with since my last checkup—doctor’s orders. Afterward, I would head downtown and wait for Quimby at the bar, where there were only alcoholics and the graveyard shift this early. I’d just left the United Nations after a Friday morning session—likely my last. The agenda had included resolutions about a worldwide ban on plastic bags, condemnation of a Slobodan Miloševic statue, sanctions on Israel, and a truth and reconciliation commission in El Salvador. Except for the proclamation opposing the war criminal’s marble replica, everything was thwarted by the United States and a small contingent of its allies. None of this should have surprised me. Some version of these outcomes had been repeating weekly since World War II.

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Life after Life·

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For time ylost, this know ye,
By no way may recovered be.
—Chaucer

I spent thirty-eight years in prison and have been a free man for just under two. After killing a man named Thomas Allen Fellowes in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight in 1980, when I was nineteen years old, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Former California governor Jerry Brown commuted my sentence and I was released in 2017, five days before Christmas. The law in California, like in most states, grants the governor the right to alter sentences. After many years of advocating for the reformation of the prison system into one that encourages rehabilitation, I had my life restored to me.

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