Domestically, The New Republic as of 2011, supports a largely modern liberal stance on fiscal and social issues, according to former editor Franklin Foer, who stated that it "invented the modern usage of the term 'liberal,' and it's one of our historical legacies and obligations to be involved in the ongoing debate over what exactly liberalism means and stands for." As of 2004, however, some, like Anne Kossedd and Steven Rendall, contend that it is not as liberal as it was before 1974.
The magazine's outlook is associated with the Democratic Leadership Council and "New Democrats" such as former US President Bill Clinton and Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, who received the magazine's endorsement in the 2004 Democratic primary. The magazine endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 general election. While defending federal programs, like Medicare and the EPA, it has advocated some policies that, while seeking to achieve the ends of traditional social welfare programs, often use market solutions as their means, and so are often called "business-friendly." Typical of some of the policies supported by both The New Republic and the DLC during the 1990s were increased funding for the Earned Income Tax Credit program and reform of the Federal welfare system. Supply side economics, especially the idea of reducing higher marginal income tax rates, received heavy criticism from senior editor Jonathan Chait. Moreover, The New Republic is strongly in favor of universal health care. On certain high-profile social issues, such as its support of same-sex marriage, The New Republic could be considered more progressive than the mainstream of the Democratic Party establishment. In its March 2007 issue, The New Republic ran an article by Paul Starr (co-founder of the magazine's main rival, The American Prospect) where he defined the type of modern American liberalism in his article War and Liberalism:
Liberalism wagers that a state... can be strong but constrained – strong because constrained... Rights to education and other requirements for human development and security aim to advance equal opportunity and personal dignity and to promote a creative and productive society. To guarantee those rights, liberals have supported a wider social and economic role for the state, counterbalanced by more robust guarantees of civil liberties and a wider social system of checks and balances anchored in an independent press and pluralistic society.
The New Republic does not focus solely on domestic policy, as it also brings analysis and commentary of various international affairs. Support for Israel has been another strong theme in The New Republic. According to Martin Peretz, former owner of The New Republic, "Support for Israel is deep down an expression of America's best view of itself." According to journalism professor Eric Alterman, “Nothing has been as consistent about the past 34 years of The New Republic as the magazine's devotion to Peretz's own understanding of what is good for Israel…It is really not too much to say that almost all of Peretz's political beliefs are subordinate to his commitment to Israel's best interests, and these interests as Peretz defines them almost always involve more war."
Unsigned editorials prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq expressed strong support for military action, citing the threat of Weapons of mass destruction as well as humanitarian concerns. Since the end of major military operations, unsigned editorials, while critical of the handling of the war, have continued to justify the invasion on humanitarian grounds, but no longer maintain that Iraq's WMD facilities posed any threat to the United States. In the November 27, 2006 issue, the editors wrote:
At this point, it seems almost beside the point to say this: The New Republic deeply regrets its early support for this war. The past three years have complicated our idealism and reminded us of the limits of American power and our own wisdom.
On June 23, 2006 Martin Peretz, in response to criticism of the magazine from the blog Daily Kos, wrote the following as a summary of The New Republic's stances on then-recent issues:
The New Republic is very much against the Bush tax programs, against Bush Social Security 'reform,' against cutting the inheritance tax, for radical health care changes, passionate about Gore-type environmentalism, for a woman's entitlement to an abortion, for gay marriage, for an increase in the minimum wage, for pursuing aggressively alternatives to our present reliance on oil and our present tax preferences for gas-guzzling automobiles. We were against the confirmation of Justice Alito.
The magazine has also published two articles concerning income inequality, largely criticizing conservative economists for their attempts to deny the existence or negative effect increasing income inequality is having on the United States. In its May 2007 issue the magazine ran an editorial pointing to the humanitarian beliefs of liberals as being responsible for the recent plight of the American left. In another article The New Republic favorably cited the example of Denmark as evidence that an expansive welfare state and high tax burden can be consistent with, and in some ways contribute to, a strong economy. Such editorials and articles exemplify the liberal political orientation of The New Republic.
The New Republic was founded by Herbert Croly, Walter Lippmann, and Walter Weyl through the financial backing of heiress Dorothy Payne Whitney and her husband, Willard Straight, who maintained majority ownership. The magazine's first issue was published on November 7, 1914. The magazine's politics were liberal and progressive, and as such concerned with coping with the great changes brought about by middle-class reform efforts designed to remedy the weaknesses in America's changing economy and society. The magazine is widely considered important in changing the character of liberalism in the direction of governmental interventionism, both foreign and domestic. Among the most important of these was the emergence of the U.S. as a Great Power on the international scene, and in 1917 TNR urged America's entry into World War I on the side of the Allies.
One consequence of World War I was the Russian Revolution of 1917, and during the inter-war years the magazine was generally positive in its assessment of the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin. it reversed course with the start of the Cold War in 1947 and the 1948 departure of leftist editor Henry A. Wallace to run for president on the Progressive ticket. After Wallace, TNR moved towards positions more typical of mainstream American liberalism. During the 1950s it was critical of both Soviet foreign policy and domestic anti-communism, particularly McCarthyism. During the 1960s the magazine opposed the Vietnam War, but was also often critical of the New Left.
Up until the late 1960s, the magazine had a certain "cachet as the voice of re-invigorated liberalism", in the opinion of Eric Alterman, a commentator who has criticized the magazine's politics from the left. That cachet, Alterman wrote, "was perhaps best illustrated when the dashing, young President Kennedy had been photographed boarding Air Force One holding a copy".
In March 1974, the magazine was purchased for $380,000 by Harvard University lecturer Martin Peretz, from Gilbert Harrison. Peretz was a veteran of the New Left who had broken with that movement over its support of various Third World liberationist movements, particularly the Palestine Liberation Organization. Peretz transformed TNR into its current form. Under his ownership, TNR has advocated both strong U.S. support for the Israeli government and a hawkish U.S. foreign policy. On domestic policy, it has advocated a self-critical brand of liberalism, taking positions that range from traditionally liberal to neoliberalism. It has generally supported Democratic candidates for president, although in 1980 it endorsed the moderate Republican John B. Anderson, running as an independent, rather than the Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter.
Harrison continued editing the magazine, expecting Peretz to let him continue running the magazine for three years. But by 1975, when Peretz became annoyed at having his own articles rejected for publication while he was pouring money into the magazine to cover its losses, he fired Harrison. Much of the staff, including Walter Pincus, Stanley Karnow, and Doris Grumbach, was either fired or quit, being replaced largely by recent Harvard graduates lacking in journalistic experience. Peretz himself became the editor and stayed in that post until 1979. As other editors have been appointed, Peretz has remained editor-in-chief.
Michael Kinsley, a neoliberal (in the American sense of the term), was editor (1979–1981; 1985–1989), alternating twice with Hendrik Hertzberg (1981–1985; 1989–1991), who has been called "an old-fashioned social democrat". Kinsley was 28 years old when he first became editor, and was still in law school.
Writers for the magazine during this era included neoliberals Mickey Kaus and Jacob Weisberg along with Charles Krauthammer, Fred Barnes, Morton Kondracke, Sidney Blumenthal, Robert Kuttner, Ronald Steel, Michael Walzer, and Irving Howe.
During the 1980s the magazine generally supported President Ronald Reagan's anti-Communist foreign policy, including provision of aid to the Nicaraguan Contras. It has also supported both Gulf Wars and, reflecting its belief in the moral efficacy of American power, intervention in "humanitarian" crises, such as those in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo during the Yugoslav wars.
The magazine also became known for its originality and unpredictability in the 1980s. It was widely considered a "must read" across the political spectrum. An article in Vanity Fair judged TNR "the smartest, most impudent weekly in the country," and the "most entertaining and intellectually agile magazine in the country." According to Alterman, the magazine's prose could sparkle and the contrasting views within its pages were "genuinely exciting". He added, "The magazine unarguably set the terms of debate for insider political elites during the Reagan era."
With the less predictable opinions, more of them leaning conservative than before, the magazine won the respect of many conservative opinion leaders and 20 copies were messengered to the Reagan White House each Thursday afternoon. Norman Podhoretz called the magazine "indispensable", and George Will said it was "currently the nation's most interesting and most important political journal." National Review described it as "one of the most interesting magazines in the United States."
Credit for its quality and popularity was often assigned to Kinsley, whose wit and critical sensibility were seen as enlivening a magazine that had for many years been more conventional in its politics, and Hertzberg, a writer for The New Yorker and speechwriter for Jimmy Carter.
Hertzberg and Kinsley not only alternated as editor but also alternated as the author of the magazine's lead column, "TRB from Washington". Its perspective was described as left-of-center in 1988.
A final ingredient that led to the magazine's increased stature in the 1980s was its "back of the book" or literary, cultural and arts pages, which were edited by Leon Wieseltier. Peretz discovered Wieseltier, then working at Harvard's Society of Fellows, and put him in charge of the section. Wieseltier reinvented the section along the lines of The New York Review of Books, allowing his critics, many of them academics, to write longer, critical essays instead of mere book reviews. Alterman calls the hire "probably [...] Peretz's single most significant positive achievement" in running the magazine. During other changes of editors, Wieseltier has remained as cultural editor. Under him the section has been "simultaneously erudite and zestful", according to Alterman, who adds, "Amazingly, a full generation later, it still sings."
In 1991, Andrew Sullivan, a 28-year-old gay self-described conservative from Britain, became editor and took the magazine in a somewhat more conservative direction, though the majority of writers remained liberal or neoliberal. Hertzberg soon left the magazine to return to The New Yorker. Kinsley left the magazine in 1996 to found the online magazine Slate.
In 1994, Sullivan invited Charles Murray to contribute a 10,000-word article, excerpted from his coauthored book The Bell Curve. The article, which contended that "African Americans score differently from whites on standardized tests of cognitive ability" proved to be very controversial; it was published in a special issue with many responses and critiques. The magazine also published a very critical article about Hillary Clinton's health care plan by Elizabeth McCaughey, an article that Alterman called "the single most influential article published in the magazine during the entire Clinton presidency". Sullivan also published a number of pieces by Camille Paglia.
Ruth Shalit, a young writer for the magazine in the Sullivan years, was repeatedly criticized for plagiarism. After the Shalit scandals, the magazine began using fact-checkers during Sullivan's time as editor. One was Stephen Glass, who would be found to have made up quotes, anecdotes and facts in his own articles, while he served as a reporter years later (later dramatized in the feature film Shattered Glass).
After Sullivan stepped down in 1996, David Greenberg and Peter Beinart served jointly as Acting Editors. After the 1996 election, Michael Kelly served as editor for a year. During his tenure as editor and afterward, Kelly, who also wrote the TRB column, was intensely critical of President Clinton. Writer Stephen Glass had been a major contributor under Kelly's editorship; Glass was later shown to have falsified and fabricated numerous stories, which was admitted by The New Republic after an investigation by Kelly's successor, Charles Lane. Kelly had consistently supported Glass during his tenure, including sending scathing letters to those challenging the veracity of Glass's stories.
Chuck Lane held the position between 1997 and 1999. During Lane's tenure, the Stephen Glass scandal occurred. Peretz has written that Lane ultimately "put the ship back on its course," for which Peretz said he was "immensely grateful." But Peretz later fired Lane, who only got the news when a Washington Post reporter called him for a comment.
Peter Beinart, a third editor who took over when he was 28 years old, followed Lane and served as editor from 1999 to 2006.
Franklin Foer took over from Beinart in March 2006. In the magazine's first editorial under Foer, it said "We've become more liberal … We've been encouraging Democrats to dream big again on the environment and economics [...]". Foer is the brother of novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated (2002).
Richard Just took over as editor of the magazine on December 8, 2010.
Other prominent writers who edited or wrote for the magazine in these years include senior editor and TRB columnist Jonathan Chait, Lawrence F. Kaplan, John Judis and Spencer Ackerman.
In 2005, TNR created its blog, called The Plank, which is written by Michael Crowley, Franklin Foer, Jason Zengerle, and other TNR staff. The Plank is meant to be TNR's primary blog, replacing the magazine's first three blogs, &c., Iraq'd, and Easterblogg. The Stump, TNR's blog on the 2008 Presidential Election was created in October 2007.
The magazine remains well known, with references to it occasionally popping up in popular culture. Lisa Simpson was once portrayed as a subscriber to The New Republic for Kids. Matt Groening, The Simpsons' creator, once drew a cover for TNR. In the pilot episode of the HBO series Entourage, which first aired on July 18, 2004, Ari Gold asks Eric Murphy: "Do you read The New Republic? Well, I do, and it says that you don't know what the fuck you're talking about."
Peretz sells remaining shares, then buys magazine back from CanWest
Until February 2007, The New Republic was owned by Martin Peretz, New York financiers Roger Hertog and Michael Steinhardt, and Canadian media conglomerate Canwest.
In late February 2007, Peretz sold his share of the magazine to CanWest, which announced that a subsidiary, CanWest Media Works International, had acquired a full interest in the publication. Peretz retained his position as editor-in-chief.
In March 2009, Peretz and a group of investors led by former Lazard executive Laurence Grafstein and that also included Michael Atler bought the magazine back from CanWest, which was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Frank Foer continued as editor—the person responsible for the day-to-day management of the magazine—and Peretz remained editor-in-chief.
Starting with the March 19, 2007 issue, the magazine implemented major changes:Decreased frequency: the magazine went to publishing twice a month, or 24 times a year. This replaced the old plan of publishing 44 issues a year. The magazine currently described its publication schedule as "biweekly," with specified "skipped publication dates." There were ten of these in 2010.
New design and layout: Issues featured more visuals, new art and other "reader friendly" content. Warnock typeface throughout were accented by woodcut-style illustrations.
More pages and bigger size: Issues are bigger and contain more pages.
Improved paper: Covers and pages became sturdier.
Increased newsstand price: Although the subscription prices did not change, the newsstand price increased from $3.95 to $4.95.
Website redesign: The website offered more daily content and new features.
On March 9, 2012, Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, announced that he would become the majority owner of TNR and immediately act as the Editor-in-Chief.
Under Hughes, the magazine became less focused on "The Beltway," with more cultural coverage and attention to visuals. It also stopped running an editorial in every issue. Media observers noted a less uniformly pro-Israel tone in the magazine's coverage (in contrast to its editorial stance during Marty Peretz's ownership).
On December 4, 2014, it was announced that Gabriel Snyder, previously of Gawker and Bloomberg, would replace Franklin Foer as editor. Guy Vidra — the magazine's Hughes-appointed CEO, formerly of Yahoo! — also announced that the magazine would be reduced from twenty issues per year to just ten, and that its editorial offices would move from Penn Quarter, Washington DC to New York, where it would be reinvented as a “vertically integrated digital-media company.” These announcements provoked a major crisis among the publication's editorial staff and contributing editors. The magazine’s literary editor, Leon Wieseltier, resigned in protest. Subsequent days brought many more resignations, including those of executive editors Rachel Morris and Greg Veis; nine of the magazine’s eleven active senior writers; legal-affairs editor Jeffrey Rosen; the digital-media editor; six culture writers and editors; and thirty-six out of thirty-eight contributing editors (including Paul Berman, Jonathan Chait, William Deresiewicz, Ruth Franklin, Anthony Grafton, Enrique Krauze, Ryan Lizza, Sacha Z. Scoblic, Helen Vendler, Sean Wilentz). In all, two-thirds of the names on the editorial masthead were gone.
The mass resignations forced the magazine to suspend its December 2014 edition. Previously a weekly for most of its history, immediately before suspension it was published 10 times per year with a circulation of approximately 50,000. The company announced that it would go back to producing twenty issues a year, and began to reshape itself under editor Gabriel Snyder.
Hughes had indicated, in the wake of the editorial crisis, that he intended to stay with the magazine over the long term, telling an NPR interviewer of his desire to "make sure" The New Republic could produce quality journalism "hopefully for decades to come," and writing in an open letter about his "commitment" to give the magazine "a new mandate for a new century." But on January 11, 2016, Hughes put The New Republic up for sale, writing in another open letter, "After investing a great deal of time, energy, and over $20 million, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for new leadership and vision at The New Republic."
On February 26, Win McCormack bought the magazine from Hughes, with Hamilton Fish V taking over as publisher. McCormack assumed the role of editor in chief, and named as editor Eric Bates, the former executive editor of Rolling Stone.
The New Republic's average paid circulation for 2009 was 53,485 copies per issue, a decline of over 47 percent since 2000.
The New Republic's last reported circulation numbers to media auditor BPA Worldwide were for the six months ending on June 30, 2009.
According to Quantcast, the TNR website received roughly 120,000 visitors in April 2008, and 962,000 visitors in April 2012. By June 9, 2012, the TNR website's monthly page visits dropped to 421,000 in the U.S. and 521,000 globally. As of April 16, 2014, the TNR website's Quantcast webpage contains the following messages: "This publisher has not implemented Quantcast Measurement. Data is estimated and not verified by Quantcast...," and "We do not have enough information to provide a traffic estimate...," and "Traffic data unavailable until this site becomes quantified." Demographically, data show that visitors tend to be well educated (76% being college graduates, with 33% having a graduate degree), relatively affluent (55% having a household income of over $60,000 and 31% having a six figure income), white (83%), and more likely to be male (61%). Eighty two percent were at least 35 years old with 38% being over the age of 50.
New Republic editor Michael Whitney Straight (1948 to 1956) was later discovered to be a spy for the KGB, recruited into the same network as Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Kim Philby, and Anthony Blunt. Straight's espionage activities began at Cambridge during the 1930s; he later claimed that they ceased during World War II. Later, shortly before serving in the Kennedy administration, he revealed his past ties and turned in fellow spy Anthony Blunt. In return for his cooperation, his own involvement was kept secret and he continued to serve in various capacities for the US Government until he retired. Straight admitted his involvement in his memoirs; however, subsequent documents obtained from the former KGB after the fall of the Soviet Union indicated that he drastically understated the extent of his espionage activities.
In 1995, writer Ruth Shalit was fired for repeated incidents of plagiarism and an excess of factual errors in her articles.
In 1998, features writer Stephen Glass was revealed in a Forbes Digital investigation to have fabricated a story called "Hack Heaven". A TNR investigation found that most of Glass' stories had used or been based on fabricated information. The story of Glass's fall and TNR editor Chuck Lane's handling of the scandal was dramatized in a 2003 film Shattered Glass, based on a 1998 article in Vanity Fair.
In 2006, long-time contributor, critic, and senior editor Lee Siegel, who had maintained a blog on the TNR site dedicated primarily to art and culture, was revealed by an investigation to have collaborated in posting comments to his own blog under an alias aggressively praising Siegel, attacking his critics and claiming not to be Lee Siegel when challenged by an anonymous detractor on his blog. The blog was removed from the website and Siegel was suspended from writing for the print magazine. He resumed writing for TNR in April 2007. Siegel was also controversial for his coinage "blogofascists" which he applied to "the entire political blogosphere", though with an emphasis on leftwing or center-left bloggers such as Daily Kos and Atrios.
In 2006, associate editor Spencer Ackerman was fired by Foer. Describing it as a "painful" decision, Foer attributed the firing to Ackerman's "insubordination": disparaging the magazine on his personal blog, saying that he would "skullfuck" a terrorist's corpse at an editorial meeting if that was required to "establish his anti-terrorist bona fides" and sending Foer an e-mail where he said—in what according to Ackerman was intended to be a joke—he would “make a niche in your skull” with a baseball bat. Ackerman, by contrast, argued that the dismissal was due to “irreconcilable ideological differences.” He believed that his leftward drift as a result of the Iraq War and the actions of the Bush administration was not appreciated by the senior editorial staff. Within 24 hours of being fired by The New Republic, Ackerman was hired as a senior correspondent for a rival magazine, The American Prospect.
In July 2007, after The New Republic published an article by an American soldier in Iraq titled "Shock Troops," allegations of inadequate fact-checking were leveled against the magazine. Critics alleged that the piece contained inconsistent details indicative of fabrication. The identity of the anonymous soldier, Scott Thomas Beauchamp, was revealed. Beauchamp was married to Elspeth Reeve, one of the magazine's three fact-checkers. As a result of the controversy, the New Republic and the United States Army launched investigations, reaching different conclusions.
As of December 1, 2007, an article titled "The Fog of War" and bearing the byline of Franklin Foer, postdate December 10, 2007, has been available for professional critique. In the article, Foer writes that the magazine can no longer stand behind the stories written by Beauchamp.
- Herbert Croly (1914–1930)
- Bruce Bliven (1930–1946)
- Henry A. Wallace (1946–1948)
- Michael Straight (1948–1956)
- Gilbert A. Harrison (1956–1975)
- Martin Peretz (1975–1979)
- Michael Kinsley (1979–1981; 1985–1989)
- Hendrik Hertzberg (1981–1985; 1989–1991)
- Andrew Sullivan (1991–1996)
- Michael Kelly (1996–1997)
- Charles Lane (1997–1999)
- Peter Beinart (1999–2006)
- Franklin Foer (2006–2010; 2012–2014)
- Richard Just (2010–2012)
- Gabriel Snyder (2014–2016)
- Eric Bates (2016–)
Before Wallace's appointment in 1946, the masthead listed no single editor in charge but gave an editorial board of four to eight members. Walter Lippmann, Edmund Wilson, and Robert Morss Lovett, among others, served on this board at various times. The names given above are the first editor listed in each issue, always the senior editor of the team.John Dewey, essayist and philosopher
W. E. B. Du Bois, writer, professor and sociologist
Otis Ferguson, film critic
John T. Flynn, essayist and New Deal critic
Learned Hand, Judge
John Maynard Keynes, economist
George Henry Soule Jr., labor economist
Agnes de Lima, lead writer on education
Thomas Mann, "Letter to Alexey Tolstoy (sent to Russia through Russian War Relief Inc.)" (1943)
George Orwell, author and essayist
Virginia Woolf, author and essayist
Eugene Szekeres Bagger, author and essayist
Richard Strout, correspondent, The Christian Science Monitor, "TRB From Washington"
John Beecher, contributing writer
Stark Young, drama critic, scholar, novelist, painter, contributing writer.
Reinhold Niebuhr, theologian
Philip Roth, author
Philip Terzian, author/editor
Fouad Ajami, professor of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University
Scott Thomas Beauchamp, freelance writer, soldier
Paul Berman, essayist, author
Simon Blackburn, philosopher
Alan Brinkley, historian
Jonathan Chait, senior editor
Jonathan Cohn, senior editor
Michelle Cottle, senior editor
Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist
Michael Crowley, senior editor
E.J. Dionne, Jr., journalist
Barbara Ehrenreich, journalist
Niall Ferguson, historian
Franklin Foer, editor at large
William Galston, political philosopher
Stephen Glass, reporter fired by TNR for submitting fabricated stories, dramatized in the 2003 film Shattered Glass
Matt Groening, illustrator and The Simpsons creator
David Grann, senior editor
Suki Kim, contributing editor
Adam Kirsch, poet and critic
Jacob Hacker, political scientist
Johann Hari, British writer
David Hazony, Israeli writer
John Judis, essayist
Tony Judt, historian
Stanley Kauffman, film critic
Alvaro Vargas Llosa, writer
John McWhorter, linguist and political commentator
Dana Milbank, senior editor
Sherwin B. Nuland, medical doctor and author
Michael Oren, historian and author
Camille Paglia, essayist
Dale Peck, literary reviewer
George Pelecanos, author
Caryl Phillips, writer
Steven Pinker, cognitive linguist and Harvard professor
David Plotz, editor of Slate
Richard Rorty, philosopher
Kent Russell, writer
Richard Posner, federal judge
Hanna Rosin, senior editor
Noam Scheiber, senior editor
Peter Scoblic, executive editor
Amartya Sen, economist
Lee Siegel, cultural critic
Zadie Smith, writer
Joseph Stiglitz, economist
Margaret Talbot, senior editor
Richard Taruskin, musicologist
Helen Vendler, literary critic
Michael Walzer, philosopher, essayist, author
Alan Wolfe, political scientist/ sociologist
Gordon S. Wood, historian
James Wood, literary critic
Robert Wright, journalist; former TNR senior editor and columnist
Jason Zengerle, senior editor