There's little doubt in my mind that the incoming, Democrat-controlled Congress represents the most interesting political development in years. That's not because I've got any faith in the Democrats' proposed blitz of legislation during their "first 100 hours," which promises to be as tedious and annoying as a three-day pledge weekend on PBS. It's because the 110th Congress marks what our cover story, "Divided We Stand" (page 18), calls "the long-awaited, much-anticipated return of political gridlock."
We asked some expert observers to predict how things will play out during the next two years. The cautiously optimistic majority view: better than the last half-dozen. As Jonathan Rauch of National Journal and The Atlantic Monthly puts it, "both parties do better when each is watched and checked by the other." And as the San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead notes, "Six years of nearly uninterrupted one-party rule delivered war, corruption, and the biggest expansion in federal spending since Lyndon Johnson. It's hard to imagine how Democrats could beat that record."
If we're lucky, they won't even try. But some of our participants are more pessimistic. As Ryan Sager, author of the essential recent study The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party (and a former Reason intern), puts it, "If the president decides his legacy depends on his administration's commitment to bipartisanship…we could all end up feeling unexpected nostalgia for the last six years."
Beyond the cover forum, this issue is packed with articles that range far and wide: You'll find a riveting essay on "the convoluted politics of zombie cinema" (page 54), written by former Reason Web Editor Tim Cavanaugh, now of the Los Angeles Times; a firsthand report about online freedom—and repression—in Syria (page 38); an exposé of how San Francisco's zoning boards may be tougher on medical marijuana dispensaries than the Drug Enforcement Administration is (page 26); and much more.
No piece, however, is more memorable than "Quotations from Chairman Milton" (page 46), a selection of the wisdom from the late economist Milton Friedman that graced Reason's pages during the last 30 years. Friedman wasn't just the most effective advocate of liberty in the 20th century. He provided an all-too-rare example of a public intellectual who was scrupulously honest, forthright, and fair in every debate he entered. As such, he provides a model that all of us might follow, whatever our
When I heard the news of Friedman's death in November, I thought of the haunting eulogy of the great Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi: "When nature removes a great man, we explore the horizons for a successor. But none comes and none will, for his class is extinguished with him."
I hope not.