Much of the work of implementing a lasting progressive agenda in the next year or two will take the form of dramatic fights -- over health reform, financial regulation, and taxes. But some
of the most significant changes will flow from subtle shifts in language, priorities, and regulations occurring with little notice.

Consider the war on drugs, which has resulted in far more harm than actual reduction of drug use or its negative consequences. As Eli Sanders shows in his profile of drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, just a few small changes --
taking away the czar's Cabinet status, reducing the military rhetoric, and ending federal raids on medical marijuana suppliers -- point the country ever so gently in the direction of a more sensible approach, one based on harm-reduction. Similarly, Harold Meyerson reports from the warehouses of Fontana, California, where workers are Wal-Mart employees in practice but technically work for temp agencies, that passing the Employee Free Choice Act is only a small part of the struggle -- these workers have to be recognized as employees before they can effectively be organized at all. And Michelle Goldberg looks at the ambitious agenda that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has launched to fulfill her legendary 1995 claim that "women's rights are human rights" and considers the many obstacles in her path.

All of these reforms are described as akin to slowly shifting the course of an ocean liner -- a long, hard process whose consequences will take hold slowly but unmistakably. At this point in history, big changes come in little policies.

-- Mark Schmitt


In response to our package of articles about working--class women, reader Anne Manyak writes, "I've been frustrated and straight-up pissed off for years that the voices and lives of middle- and lower-class working women are nowhere in the media. I'm the daughter of a first-generation American, and I am blue-collar to the bone. I've raised my daughter without a husband, by choice, and have never had the option of not working.

? Now I'm getting laid off after 12 years of service, without a severance package and with a dwindling 401K. Where's my voice? Where's my story? So, again, thank you -- it's high time we open the conversation about middle- and lower-class working women."


Michael Caputo, a former speechwriter for Jack Kemp, read Mark Schmitt's column on "The Mystery of the Right" with great interest. Caputo writes, "I am fundamentally disillusioned with today's GOP. In contrast, Jack Kemp was hopeful for the Republican Party until the day he died. ? Schmitt's article errs on an important point: Jack did not mistake slogans for ideas; people made slogans of his ideas. Bush-allied candidates were sure to run on his ideas, win, then promptly drop the subject. In fact, after the Kemp-Roth tax cuts illuminated the Reagan Revolution, the Bush league made sure many of Jack's other ideas never saw the light of day. Perhaps we never succeeded in explaining to the average American what Jack meant when he preached passionately about an American Renaissance."


After reading Dana Goldstein's column about public-school choice across district lines, reader joshua curtis writes, "My parents are white ex-hippie lawyers who sent me to ?bad' elementary and middle schools that had a high percentage of low-income and minority students. However, I doubt this had a negative effect on my long-term academic success. Last year I graduated from Oberlin College and received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grant. In a couple of weeks I'm going to start training for Teach For America. I think many parents, even liberal ones, believe that their children will be hurt if they attend a school with a significant number of low-income students. But as your article says, this is not the case. Making more parents aware of this is important to gain political support, at both the local and national level, for creating racially and economically diverse schools."

However, blogger Erin Dillon at the quick and the ed disagrees: "Making district boundaries more porous is one step toward reducing the growing resegregation of our communities and schools, and it may be beneficial to those students who do transfer. But it doesn't address what most families fundamentally want -- a good, safe school
in their community."


Reader Steve Guilliams takes issue with the interpretation of Star Trek's Lt. Uhura in Danielle Belton's piece on blacks in sci-fi: "With all respect to Ms. Belton, I think the new Star Trek makes a credible attempt to fix the errors of the original, while staying within the general outline of the franchise. ? Indeed, in this version, Uhura holds the sexual power as it relates to Kirk, and her continued rejection provides character development and allows for some touching final scenes that don't need dialogue because each character has been developed to the point where it is unnecessary."

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