Liberals often excoriate the Right for its supposed hostility to science. But as John Tierney argues in our cover story, the real war on science is being waged by the Left. From shutting down debate on global warming to fear-mongering over genetically modified foods, from falling prey to confirmation bias to blurring the lines between politics and research, liberals have regularly betrayed the Enlightenment ideals that they claim to uphold. Tierney’s important essay sets things straight. In “Ronald Reagan’s Quiet War on AIDS,” Peter W. Huber explodes another myth. He shows how the Republican president, wrongly criticized by liberals for ignoring the AIDS crisis, appointed scientifically informed regulators, who bent Washington rules to speed up the delivery of lifesaving drugs for people suffering from the lethal disease—thereby providing a model for fighting grave illnesses today.
As the 2016 presidential race staggers to its conclusion, this issue of City Journal devotes considerable space to American politics. Three stories look at the presidential scene. We’ve heard a lot this year about the emergence of the populist alt-Right, its support of Donald Trump, and the centrifugal forces ripping apart the Republican Party. Michael J. Totten’s “Children of the Revolution” charts the growing influence of what one can call the alt-Left: the “assorted Marxists, Ωsafe-space≈ activists, cop-haters, anti-Zionists, anti-vaxxers, and blame-America-firsters” who threaten to blow up the Democratic Party. The alt-Left, which enthusiastically backed Bernie Sanders in his failed bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination from Hillary Clinton, isn’t going away, Totten shows, reporting vividly from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. In fact, with youth on its side, it’s likely to shape the party’s—and the nation’s—politics in disturbing ways.
In “The Obama Tragedy,” Myron Magnet returns to the outgoing president’s unusual upbringing and his psychologically conflicted embrace of “authentic” blackness to understand how a leader many believed heralded a post-racial America has instead left the country far more racially divided and pessimistic about the future. Harry Stein’s “The Goldwater Takedown” goes back to the 1964 presidential race, when the press did everything in its power to sink the Republican’s candidacy—revealing a partisanship in the media that has become all too familiar in the years since.
Local politics get a hearing in our issue, too. Illinois is a fiscal disaster zone, and one man can take a disproportionate amount of the blame, argues Daniel DiSalvo in “Madiganistan.” Democrat Michael Madigan—speaker of the Illinois House for 31 years and counting—has built a vast political machine of patronage appointees, lawmakers, lobbyists, donors, friendly businesses, and family. The machine serves the ends of the politician, not the people, and it’s draining the state—and its great metropolis, Chicago—of vitality. Seth Barron tells another story of self-serving governance in “Charlie’s Angles,” his reflection on the career of retiring Harlem congressional titan Charles Rangel. More hopefully, Steven Malanga’s “City Hall GOP” profiles a new generation of Republican mayors, who’ve been focusing on the nuts and bolts of urban governance: balancing out-of-kilter budgets, keeping streets clean, and ensuring public safety. And Hadley Arkes, in “The Lost Structures of Civility,” recalls the wonderfully civil Chicago of his youth, when a ten-year-old could ride the El to go downtown alone.
The latest in our ongoing series on the dysfunctional Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is Judith Miller’s report, “The New York Police Force That Doesn’t Work.” The Port Authority police are responsible for protecting some of the region’s high-profile terrorism targets, including the World Trade Center, but there’s plenty of reason to worry about whether they’re up to the task. Working less and paid far more than most other tristate police forces, including the NYPD, and operating under a doorstop-size contract filled with absurd work rules, the Port Authority cops need reform badly, as a never-released 2011 report, from the former director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, found. Miller’s eye-opening piece should galvanize new calls for change.
—Brian C. Anderson