elow you will find a selection of writing that spans the near entirety of the Washington Monthly’s history—from roughly the beginning of Nixon’s first term to the beginning of George W. Bush’s second. The pieces showcase much of what we like best about our magazine. They are never quite on the headlines, instead running presciently ahead or following thoughtfully behind. Important people and events are seen through unconventional lenses. We view the post–civil rights era racial struggles from a poker table in rural Georgia, the fraying of the American social fabric through a home shopping network, and Bill Clinton through the eyes of his neighbors in Harlem. Rather than looking at a senator’s struggle for election, we focus on the way the machinery of Washington makes his job a farce once he’s seated. Many of the stories we selected for this section tap individual experiences, often painful ones, and therefore say something above and beyond their immediate subjects—they feel not just right, but true.
That said, many of our favorite pieces didn’t make the cut. Partly this was a matter of formal constraint: articles that unspool over many pages often have a magic that cannot be conveyed when cut down to a fraction of their original length. It is also the case that much of the work we are proudest of—our muckraking, reportage, and manifestos—are necessarily bound to their specific time and place.
Indeed, we found that many great Monthly pieces have a curious half-life: they were groundbreaking when published, but also correct enough that conventional wisdom eventually caught up with them. Hence, many stories didn’t make it into this anniversary issue through no fault of their own. To help fill the gaps, we’ve peppered the section with a sort of running scorecard for the magazine: a roundup of the things we nailed before everyone else, and the things we blew entirely.
We hope you enjoy reading these fruits of our archives as much as we enjoyed picking them. —The Editors
The once and future mission of the Washington Monthly
by Nicholas Lemann
James Boyd on Life in Congress
Taylor Branch on Race in the South
James Fallows on the Draft
Arthur Levine on Woodward and Bernstein
Timothy Noah on the Baby Boomers
Phillip Weiss on Steven Rattner
Paul Glastris on the Disability Rights Movement
Katherine Boo on the Gulf War
Marjorie Williams on Politicians' Private Lives
Amy Waldman on Home Shopping
Ta-Nehisi Coates on Bill Clinton
Joshua Micah Marshall on Radical Islam
Bruce Reed on Washington's Warring Subcultures
Nicholas Confessore on David Brooks
Benjamin Wallace-Wells on Barack Obama
PLUS: Our Best and Worst Calls