Mark Schmitt

Mark Schmitt is director of the program on political reform at the New America Foundation and former executive editor of The American Prospect



Recent Articles

Torments of Liberalism

If there is a single thread that connects the free market liberalism of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill to the more recent American liberal embrace of activist government, it is the idea of confident, continuous movement forward. Liberals have believed themselves to be pushing aside the cobwebs of history, ending ideology, freeing society from illusions, overturning outdated power structures, and taking society to a morally superior, more prosperous place. Thus it comes as a final withering insult, compounding all the injuries of the past three decades, to realize just how reactive modern American liberalism has been. Rather than seeing the future clearly, liberals have been twisted and tormented by the events of the moment, by the failure of their own schemes, by a public unimpressed by their knowing assertions and scornful of their manner. With enough distance from these difficulties, a revisionist history begins to emerge that depicts liberalism as an approach reacting to...

When Losers Win

Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the american Consensus, Rick Perlstein. Hill and Wang, 671 pages, $30.00. Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right, by Lisa McGirr. Princeton University Press, 395 pages, $31.95. The rise of the right has been a subject of fascination to writers on the left ever since they started taking it seriously--generally about five years after it sunk in that Ronald Reagan was president. By now, the tale has achieved canonical status through books like The Rise of the Counter-Establishment (1986) by Sidney Blumenthal and A World Turned Right Side Up (1996) by Godfrey Hodgson. (Both are pale imitations of George H. Nash's more sympathetic work The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945. ) When told by liberals like Blumenthal, the story gives intellectuals the central role. By this standard account, it was when conservatives realized that "ideas have consequences" (a phrase coined by the southern reactionary...