After trailing along with Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel on a Sunday morning last month, I got a chance to talk to him when we stopped at Bagel on Damen, a small coffee shop in Wicker Park that features fresh bagels and Stumptown coffee. Emanuel had just visited a church, a South Side restaurant, and a North Avenue bicycle store, at which he proposed going the Daley administration one better by adding 25 rather than eight miles a year to the city’s dedicated bike lanes.
So the bloom is off the rose. President Obama’s Grant Park oration now seems as antique a moment as Ronald Reagan telling us it was “Morning in America.” As glorious as it felt at the time, it was longer on drama than substance. Just why, with the state of the nation as it is now (and was then), did we suppose that anyone could “bring us together”? It was, I always thought, an unspoken idea that Obama’s “diversity” somehow enhanced his substance, his Mensch-liness.
Not that my political history is so important. After all, no one in either the near or more remote environs of The New Republic required my enthusiasm for Barack Obama to kindle their own. As for my own enthusiasm--actually, it was at first a quizzical intrigue--it was sparked by the disciplined and thoughtful passion of my thirty-something children, first my film director (First Love, Last Rites; The Chateau; The Ex) son, soon thereafter my writer (Vanity Fair) daughter.
Convention season is upon us. There will be clichés, giant flags, funny hats--and much, much whining about how these party-themed infomercials aren’t worth our time. But are there ways in which we could genuinely improve the content of the conventions? We asked a few friends of the magazine to offer their suggestions. Here’s James Galbraith, professor of economics and government at the University of Texas and author of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too. Twenty years ago, I encountered in the halls of the Lyndon B.