The Best of the Washington Monthly

Below you will find a selection of writing that spans the near entirety of the Washington Monthlys historyfrom roughly the beginning of Nixons first term to the beginning of George W. Bushs 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 postcivil 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 senators struggle for election, we focus on the way the machinery of Washington makes his job a farce once hes 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 subjectsthey feel not just right, but true.

That said, many of our favorite pieces didnt 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 ofour muckraking, reportage, and manifestosare 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 didnt make it into this anniversary issue through no fault of their own. To help fill the gaps, weve 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

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