Alan Wolfe has previously written about the capacity of the American people to correct political imbalances and sustain consensus on many issues (One Nation, After All, 1998). In Does American Democracy Still Work? Wolfe does not express such optimism. He is worried that American democracy is in trouble.
“Lo and behold there is a religious left,” declared an article in Slate. “The religious left is back,” announced the Washington Post. The evidence? An increase in blogging and organizing, as well as best-selling books by Jim Wallis, Michael Lerner and and Jimmy Carter.The rise of the religious left provides a natural journalistic lead because it plays against type. The persistent assumption, at least among mainstream media, is that Christians are politically active only on the conservative side.
Writing months before the 2004 presidential election, Thomas Frank predicted that many members of the working and middle classes would vote on issues of culture, not economics. Being correct on this point won’t bring satisfaction to Frank, who begins and ends What’s the Matter with Kansas?
Columnists have the luxury of saying what mainstream media often ignore or brush aside. Within journalistic limits of fairness, accuracy and good taste, the columnist gets to stop and stare at the underside of news reports, which explains why columnists are especially valuable in a polarized political environment.