Ronald Brownstein

Ronald Brownstein is the national affairs columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

Recent Articles

State of the Debate:

The Truth of Power: Intellectual Affairs in the Clinton White House By Benjamin R. Barber. W.W. Norton and Company, 320 pages, $26.95 The Best of Times: America in the Clinton Years By Haynes Johnson. Harcourt, 610 pages, $27.00 From the Center to the Edge: The Politics and Policies of the Clinton Presidency By William C. Berman. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 141 pages, $16.95 Political Fictions By Joan Didion. Alfred A. Knopf, 338 pages, $25.00 In Washington, conservatives still roam the Capitol trying to name airports, post offices, and federal buildings for Ronald Reagan. But Democrats seem entirely unsure about what to make of their only recent two-term president, Bill Clinton. In 2000, Al Gore thought Clinton more of an albatross than an asset and became so spooked by the administration's odor of scandal that he also ran away from its record of peace and prosperity. In a January speech critiquing President George W. Bush's management of the economy, Senate majority leader...

The Successor Generation

If the profusion of legacy candidates this election season is any indication, having a political pedigree can do wonders for your electoral chances. As we hurtle toward the possibility of the first all second-generation presidential race, it's time to ask: Do dynastic advantages trample democratic fairness?

A s a democracy," historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., once insisted, "the United States ought presumably to be able to dispense with dynastic families." Well, you'd never know it by looking at the November ballot. This is shaping up as a banner year for candidates with marquee names. From Maine to Texas, and from Florida to California, the sons and daughters of politicians—and in some cases, the grandsons and granddaughters of politicians—are lining up for a shot at the family business. Given all that's gone on in Washington over the past year, this might be a time when sensible young people might consider, say, bridge construction or mine detonation to be careers with better long-term prospects than elected office. But instead, the list of second- and third-generation politicians trying to prove Schlesinger wrong is growing to a formidable length. In Indiana, Evan Bayh, the son of former Democratic Senator Birch Bayh, is heavily favored to win a Senate seat. Democratic...

More Liberal Than You Thought

As George W. commandeers the political center, Gore and Bradley may find more compelling voices as liberals.

Bill Bradley wants to require the registration of all handguns. Al Gore says that all handgun owners should be required to obtain a license. Bradley wants to prohibit police departments from using "racial profiling." So does Gore. Gore wants to raise the minimum wage. So does Bradley. Both men talk about making it easier for labor unions to organize. Bradley says day care should be more widely available; Gore has pledged to fund universal access to preschool. Gore wants to expand the children's health insurance program to cover more children and as many as seven million work ing parents now without health insurance. Bradley's first detailed proposal was for near-universal coverage. Both campaigns strenuously deny it, but something that looks very much like a bidding war for the hearts of hard-core Democratic activists is breaking out as Gore and Bradley engage in an unexpectedly tight battle for the party's presidential nomination. Given that both men gravitated toward the center...

Green Light, Red Light

See the Sidebar: Immigrants on Campus by Natasha Hunter Maybe the best measure of the deteriorating prospects for fundamental immigration reform after the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon came at a congressional hearing on, of all things, airport security. Amid the debate over arming pilots, deploying sky marshals on commercial flights, or turning over airport security to the federal government, Republican Congressman Harold Rogers of Kentucky had another concern. Why, he wondered, was there no requirement that the men and women who monitor the checkpoints screening passengers hold American citizenship? How remarkable is that thought? Today even the U.S. military doesn't require soldiers to be citizens. It accepts immigrants who are permanent legal residents--that is, those who have obtained a green card and are allowed to remain in the United States indefinitely. But to Rogers, that didn't seem a tight enough standard for luggage screeners. Rogers's question captured...