Interviews conducted by:
Josh Clark, Michael Krasny, and Jay Walljasper.
Statistical research by Leora Broydo. Timeline by Nora E. Connell. Lani Guinier interview by Lise Funderburg.
What did our interviewers have to say about the past 20 years? After they’d listened to dozens of others, we turned the mike on them:
Josh Clark is an associate producer of documentaries for WGBH public television, Boston.
“In working recently on a documentary about Andrew Carnegie and 19th-century industrialism, I explored a period of greed, of rapidly growing wealth inequality, of painful structural changes in the economy, of a frustrated labor movement, and of unethical business dealings born from an absence of regulation. I found it surprisingly good preparation for my next project, a documentary about the Reagan years.” (The Carnegie documentary will premiere next fall on PBS.)
Michael Krasny is a professor of English at San Francisco State University, a host of the award-winning “Forum” radio show on KQED, and a Mother Jones contributing writer.
“Twenty years ago Mother Jones was new. ‘The magazine for the rest of us,’ it called itself. The rest of us are 20 years older now, with more to conserve, and therefore mostly less radical. But who are we? A magazine with as many years as this one has created many friends, built up a lot of capital. It’s pissed people off, created enemies. The redoubtable Camille Paglia let me know right off, ‘I’ll do this interview for you, Michael, but I loathe Mother Jones. I detest them. They are unconscionable.’ Yet the magazine still opens doors. Kindles fond progressive linked memories and real admiration. Inspires trust.
“Certain themes emerged despite the fact that I talked with poets, economists, columnists, ecologists, feminists, politicians, novelists, psychoanalysts, editors, publishers, the left and the right. For many, what we need to learn is seen as a matter of self-interest. Poet Gary Snyder and Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham both spoke of our need to find a new American story. I realized the ‘we’ they were talking about truly is ‘the rest of us,’ those of us trying to hear or tell the story so it makes some sense and follows a path that tells us who we are by looking back on who we were and considering who we might become.”
Jay Walljasper is editor at large at Utne Reader.
“Twenty years ago I believed a great progressive upsurge was just around the corner. What happened? Progressives vastly underestimated the political will of America’s privileged classes to protect and expand their economic power, including rubbing salt in the wounds of racial strife-as Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Newt Gingrich have done. At the same time, the American left largely ignored its historical strength: a genuine concern and understanding for the everyday lives of everyday people.
Where do we go from here? Some political observers point in the direction of thinking Green-not just in the strict environmental sense, but in the more encompassing philosophy embraced by Europe’s Green parties. They emphasize community over bureaucracy, quality of life over economic growth, real-life
experience over abstract theory, local over multinational, sustainability over consumerism, spirituality over materialism, democratic participation over corporate rule, and human comfort over institutional efficiency.”
Victor Juhasz, who illustrated the interviewees for this piece, created his first Mother Jones cover illustration-of Ronald Reagan-in 1981. He thinks the most important change in the past 20 years is the fax.
Special thanks to: David Beers, Chris Johnson, John Judis, R. Taggart Murphy, Robert Schaeffer, William Smock, Mollie Tremain, and Daniel Yankelovich.
Special design assistance by Lori Reed. Additional research by Dee Dee Bollong.
Sources for statistics, listed by trend: 1. Matrix Information and Directory Services, Personal Communications Industry Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Goddard Space Flight Center 2. Visa International, Global Trends-The World Almanac of Development and Peace (New York: Continuum, 1994) 3. U.S. Department of Commerce, American Bankers Association 4. Center for Defense Information, Vital Signs 1995 (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1995), United Nations, Freedom House 5. Vital Signs 1995 6. Vital Signs 1995, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service 7. 1995 World Almanac (New Jersey: Funk & Wagnalls, 1995), National Association of Home Builders of the United States, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 8. U.S. Bureau of the Census 9. Common Cause, Federal Election Commission, Washington Post, Gallup Organization, Lou Harris & Associates 10. Gallup Organization, Council for Excellence in Government, Newspaper Association of America 11. Walt Disney Co., Information Technology Industry Council, American Society for Reproductive Medicine 12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Education 13. Vital Signs 1995 14. Office of National Health Statistics 15. Statistical Record of Women Worldwide (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1995), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 16. U.S. Bureau of the Census 17. U.S. Bureau of the Census 18. Gallup Organization, World Almanac 1995 19. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Promise Keepers, California Department of Motor Vehicles 20. Gallup Organization, New Editions.
Timeline sources: Chronicle of America (New York: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 1995), 1995 World Almanac; Britannica Book of the Year, (Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 1975-1995).
Research assistance provided by Lexis-Nexis.