Nicholas Lemann is a Professor at the Columbia ­Graduate School of Journalism and a staff writer at The New Yorker. His books include Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the ­Decline of the American Dream and The Big Test: The Secret ­History of the American Meritocracy.
 (February 2020)


Can Journalism Be Saved?

Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts

by Jill Abramson

The Powers That Be

by David Halberstam
Both of journalists’ prevailing fantasies about the history of our work—that we have always operated in a libertarian environment, and that original independent reporting on public affairs is an unbroken American tradition going back to the founding—are actively unhelpful in finding a way out of our predicament. The flourishing of reporting took place for a brief historical season, under an unusual set of economic and policy circumstances that are unlikely to recur. It was a happy accident, not an embedded feature of American society. But that hardly means that it’s now time to say goodbye to such journalism, or to be reduced to praying for some kind of magic solution to come along.

What Happened to Clintonism?

Bill Clinton

Brother Bill: President Clinton and the Politics of Race and Class

by Daryl A. Carter

Bill Clinton

by Michael Tomasky
Bill Clinton was eighteen years old and already set on a career in politics when, in 1964, the Democratic Party won its most substantial victory since the New Deal. Lyndon Johnson got more than 60 percent of the popular vote in the presidential election and carried forty-four states. The Democrats …

On the Election—III

Donald Trump at the first presidential debate, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, September 26, 2016
This year’s election is not about economics. The paramount question is whether a person exhibiting no qualification for the office—neither experience, nor preparation, nor personal character—is nonetheless to become president. Yet economics is at the heart of the matter.

Can We Have a ‘Party of the People’?

Thomas Frank

Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century

by Daniel Oppenheimer

The Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America

by Steve Fraser
As a reviewer of political books, I get a lot of them unbidden in the mail. I remember vividly, one day in 2003, opening a package from a publisher, finding Arianna Huffington’s anticorporate screed Pigs at the Trough, and thinking: finally, after all these years, somebody has moved from right …

Reagan: The Triumph of Tone

Ronald Reagan being welcomed by Puerto Ricans and Cubans in Tampa, Florida, during his 1980 presidential campaign

Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency

by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Ronald Reagan

by Jacob Weisberg
The Republican presidential candidate debates, which have shown non-Republicans just how factionalized the party is and how many possible meanings of the term “conservative” there are, have produced one point of general agreement among the many contenders: Ronald Reagan was a great president. For a committed Republican audience, Reagan stands …

Unhappy Days for America

‘Baby Toss,’ 2009; photograph by Julie Blackmon from her book Homegrown. It includes an introduction by Billy Collins and an interview with Reese Witherspoon, and is published by Radius Books.

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis

by Robert D. Putnam
Robert Putnam is convinced that today relative mobility, as well as absolute mobility, is declining alarmingly—that most Americans are more firmly destined to remain where they started out than they were when he was young. His passion about the need to change this situation overwhelms his social scientist’s epistemological caution.