Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson is executive editor of The American Prospect. His email is hmeyerson@prospect.org.

Recent Articles

Why Liberalism Fled the City ... And How It Might Come Back

The strongholds of municipal liberalism are gone; the coalition of immigrants, unionists, poor people, and neighborhoods has been replaced by alliances between tough-on-crime Republican mayors and organized business. But the seeds of a revival are there.

I f you want to view the political decay of American liberalism, look at its spawning ground—the great cities. In the late 1990s, there simply are no remaining strongholds of municipal liberalism. In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino has managed to retain the policies of his predecessor Ray Flynn, the one great left-populist mayor of the Reagan-Bush years, but he has not expanded them. The tenure of San Francisco's Willie Brown has been notable only for Brown's considerable panache. And that about exhausts the list of major city mayors with pretenses to liberalism. In Chicago, the latest Mayor Daley is a cleaned-up throwback to machine politics and a close ally of downtown. In Philadelphia, Mayor Ed Rendell, a nominal Democrat, has become a champion of fiscal retrenchment. The collapse of vibrant liberal urban politics has come from two directions—the top and the base. Once, federal funds provided the resources to hold together an often unwieldy coalition. And once, the grass...

Indentured Public Servant

A lan Cranston was always an organizer--one of the best of the post-World War II generation. Soon after the war ended, he founded and built the United World Federalists, an expression of postwar one-worldism that valiantly battled the Cold War zeitgeist. After he left the U.S. Senate eight years ago, he founded and built the Global Security Institute, a group dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons, in which cause he enlisted such notables as Jimmy Carter and, improbably enough, onetime cold warrior Paul Nitze. When Cranston died on the final day of last year, he'd been planning an initiative campaign for nuclear abolition. He never lacked for a worthy project, and no one knew better how to organize both people and money on behalf of a cause. It was his greatest strength. It was his downfall. And his career stands as a cautionary tale of noble ends and rotten means and all that's gone wrong with the business of politics in America. In a sense, Cranston's greatest decade was the...

City of Tomorrow

Even by the fast-forward standards of California politics, where term limits bump off the entire state legislature every eight years, Antonio Villaraigosa has had a meteoric career. In the early 1990s, he was an organizer for the teachers' union, a county supervisor's delegate on the L.A. transit board, and president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California--none of these particularly promising starting points for a career in politics. By 1998, astonishingly, he had become speaker of the California Assembly--and today, he is the great progressive hope in the upcoming election for mayor of Los Angeles. The question now is whether Villaraigosa can hasten the course of L.A. politics-- and that of urban progressivism generally--as he has his own career. For if he is to win the election to succeed the term-limited (and conservative) Richard Riordan as mayor, he must construct a brand-new electoral alliance among communities that have almost nothing in common. The...

California's Progressive Mosaic

Pa Joad: Ain't you goin' with us? Casey: I'd like to. There's somethin' goin' on out there in the West, and I'd like to try and learn what it is. -- The Grapes of Wrath More than 60 years after John Steinbeck's Oakies headed west, California retains its power to confound--or even astound. Over the past decade, America's megastate has been transformed beyond recognition, demographically, economically, politically. The state that only yesterday gave the nation Richard Nixon, Howard Jarvis's Proposition 13, and Ronald Reagan is today the nation's most reliably Democratic big state. Indeed, with its Democratic governor, U.S. senators, state legislature, and congressional delegation, California is the only one of the nation's 10 largest states that is uniformly under Democratic control. California is more than just the Democrats' electoral anchor, however. Increasingly, a number of its cities are coming to look like Justice Louis Brandeis's "laboratories of democracy"--enacting minimum...

L.A. Story

The old order still governs here; the future will not be rushed. Considering all the changes Los Angeles has gone through in just the past decade--white flight and immigrant influx, the displacement of the business elite, the rebirth of the union movement, the rise of a labor-Latino alliance--the idea that a new urban progressive coalition could officially take power this year might have been one transformation too many, one bridge too far (or, at least, too quick). Yet it almost happened--indeed, might have happened if the old order hadn't waged a disgraceful campaign to keep its hold on power. In defeating former California Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, a progressive Democrat, in Los Angeles's mayoral election on June 5, City Attorney James K. Hahn , a mainstream Democrat, organized one last victory for the old Los Angeles. In a city that's increasingly young and Latino, Hahn put together enough older white and black voters to prevail at the polls. Dispatching Villaraigosa...

Pages