March 01, 2003

Best New Political Sub-Cate...

Best New Political Sub-Category of the Day: The "'Even the New Republic' school of liberalism." Coined by Max Sawicky (or maybe Eric Alterman -- see comments).

Posted by at March 1, 2003 08:35 PM

Actually, I think that phrase comes from Alterman's book. At least, that's the first place I saw it.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at March 1, 2003 09:05 PM

Bah. Max Sawicky is talking about me. He says "Cohen and Totten hail from the "even the New Republic" school of liberalism."

I hail from no such school. I have been reading The New Republic for about ten years now, and I've always thought that magazine was more conservative than I am. Sawicky assumes I am one notch to the left of Joe Lieberman because I'm "the type of liberal who writes for Front Page Magazine."

Yes, I have written for David Horowitz's magazine and will do so again. But Horowitz writes for Salon. Is Horowitz "the type of conservative who writes for Salon"? What does this sort of thing mean? I think Sawicky is simply trying to say I'm not a "real" liberal because I favor regime-change in Iraq.

What type of liberal am I? I'm the type of liberal who voted twice for Ralph Nader, and the type whose leftism is consistent, which makes me strongly anti-fascist, and therefore pro-war.

I definitely don't hail from the "Even the New Republic" school of liberalism. As I said: Bah.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 1, 2003 11:24 PM

Ah yes. Another pigeon hole for the left to label folks who stray from party line dogma:

Christopher Hitchens: Neo-con
Camille Paglia: Homo-con
Michael Totten: New Republi-con

Adopt the label, Michael. Wear it proudly!

Posted by: Ray Eckhart at March 2, 2003 09:24 AM

Yeah, as mentioned in an earlier thread, as soon as I said "the other L word"-- libertarian-- at, they came at me with hatchets, accusing me of believing all sorts of things I had never stated nor, in fact, believed. But it seemed VERY IMPORTANT to that crowd to have me properly labeled and disposed of as quickly as possible.

Besides whatever substantive disagreements I have with Even the Alterman-Sawicky type of liberal, there are two more or less style issues that I think play a big role in why people like me hunt for, and occasionally find, more congenial company in people moderately (Instapundit) or considerably (National Review) to my right. One is that they don't seem to be in this business of ideologically vetting and disqualifying potential allies the way the left is (when I mentioned half a dozen issues on which a libertarian and a leftist might find common ground, the response was uniformly "Yeah, like we really need you fascists on our side!" Well, you sure do if you want to grow Nader to more than 2% next time...) The other, of course, is just panache, joie de vivre, the pleasure of reading engaging writing-- the left is so bloody miserable and unpleasant to be with (this site and Neal Pollack's giddy serial bludgeoning of Andrew Sullivan being among the few exceptions).

Posted by: Mike G at March 2, 2003 10:47 AM

Michael -- *Twice* for Nader! Damn, bro! (I voted for Jerry Brown in '92, so I guess we're pretty close....).

I agree, with sadness, that the tendency of dismissal-by-categorization is stronger on the self-described left side of the political spectrum. Though maybe it's just my personal experience talking. I have actually had my affiliation with Reason magazine brought up "against" me by liberal editors. Believe that shit? I guess I'm now "the type of liberal who writes for Reason magazine and the National Post." Funny, no right-of-center type has ever called me "the type of neo-con who writes for" ...

Still, I found Sawicky's category, if not the categorization, humorous.

I'll say this for my would-be boss Richard Riordan: If he upheld the same ideological/political litmus test as certain left-of-center editors -- including some who have already criticized his publishing efforts as being ideological -- there would be NO WAY I could qualify to work for him. Thank Jeebus there are some in the journalism biz -- including, as it turns out, ex-politicians -- who value journalism ahead of political affiliation.

Posted by: Matt Welch at March 2, 2003 11:49 AM

I don't think either Sawicky or Alterman can claim credit for this phrase. It looks like it's been around for a while.

From the New York Observer:

Here we go again: The New Republicís railing on the Democratic Party. This time, theyíve got a publicist calling up reporters, touting a hot new redesign and bragging that the magazine is getting "daring" and "more conservative."

This happens from time to time. The New Republic has a long tradition of within-the-party tree shaking, including stances against Jimmy Carterís foreign policy and to nuclear freezes. It supported the deployment of advance missiles to Germany; it opposed what owner Martin Peretz deemed the "racialization" of the party by men like Jesse Jackson. During that time, remembered former editor Michael Kinsley, The Wall Street Journalís editorial board accused the magazine of "attacking conservatives while stealing their ideas," and staffers joked that TNR should change its name to Even the Liberal New Republic Says..., because it was used so many times to support conservative positions.

Posted by: Dave Bergman at March 3, 2003 12:56 PM

Ideologically narrow? Some on the left, certainly, but moi? Any look at my blogroll will reveal the contrary, replete as it is with conservatives, libertarians, and pro-war liberals. The political links are similarly diverse. (In my post, I mentioned that I thought TNR was a good magazine.) So are the comments and commenters (Mike G was not treated badly. He was taken seriously and duly criticized by people who disagreed with him. Anyone curious can look and see for themselves). As Matt knows, there's a band of left and right that I helped put together all singing kumbayah over at Stand Down, including some dudes from Reason.

Classifications are interesting. That doesn't mean you ostracize someone who thinks differently. I work with people of different political stripes all the time. I have civil, boring debates with outright right-wingers.

I do draw the line in one sense. I don't care if Totten voted for Gus Hall. There are rightists whose every utterance is devoted to justifying repression of the left, broadly defined. Just last night I saw the aforementioned David H. saying anti-war protesters are guilty of treason. So those who play footsie with people that want to repress you, up to and including put you behind bars, deserve a little extra classification. That's been a concern of mine since I started blogging. You don't turn the other cheek to those who constantly question your right to political participation. You give the respect you get.

The stereotype of ideologically narrow is real, but that doesn't mean it fits every dude you see coming down the pike. You want to see narrow, go back and read about the GOP presidential primary in South Carolina.

Posted by: Max Sawicky at March 3, 2003 12:56 PM


I have profound disagreements with David Horowitz. He and I are miles apart politically, hundreds of miles apart. And so I don't think it's right to provide me any "extra classification" just because he has published my work. Horowitz has also published Michael Walzer and Todd Gitlin, but that does not make him a leftist, nor does it make those gentlemen right-wingers. Horowitz writes for Salon, which has published many anti-war articles, but that does not make Horowitz tainted in any way with pacifism.

I am not the best-known writer around, and so I don't hold it against you that you're unsure where I stand on the spectrum. But that's just another way of saying it's best not to categorize people contrary to the way they categorize themselves. When I call myself a "liberal," it's best to take my word for it. Until very recently I used the term "leftist" to describe myself. I am not a "conservative Democrat" nor a left-leaning Independent. I am, for example, in the 2 percent minority who is thrilled that "God" is being struck from the Pledge of Allegiance. And I am part of the 20 percent minority in Oregon who voted for the "Leninist" health care plan last November. I voted twice for Ralph Nader because Clinton and Gore were too conservative for me. I just happen to support this war and want to write about it. I would rather have published those articles in "The Nation," but "The Nation" didn't want them and Horowitz did, so Horowitz got them. That's all. There is no more signif" />

sted by: Max Sawicky at March 3, 2003 02:40 PM

At the risk of discussing one forum on another forum (I promise I'll find a bigger insight here): I didn't say I was treated badly on Sawicky's site. I just found it an interesting phenomenon-- the rush to judgement on what a "bleeding heart libertarian" must be (pretty much none of which was true in my case) and, especially, the comment (maybe comments) that the Left didn't NEED libertarian-leaning folks that it could make common cause with on opposition to the Patriot Act and all that digital piracy legislation and so on. Um... seems to me you need everybody you can get, especially in Florida. Ideological hairsplitting and apostate-banishing isn't strictly a left-side or Democratic phenomenon (see Giuliani, Rudolph, attitude of Christian Coalition members to) but it does seem to be rather too much of a first reaction, and occasionally raised to a fine art.

I'll tell you (here comes the real insight, I promise) I would love a school of liberalism that could include me and people to my right and left on a key set of issues that are really relevant right now and essentially related to core Democratic values, and weren't just an outgrowth of the influence on the party of the unions and the grievance industry. I'd love a candidate who could run on fighting Bush's richwastrelnomics (the repeal of the estate tax and dividend tax) without giving the impression that he/she thinks wealth is created mainly by the public sector and the private sector is merely a burden to be tolerated (and investigated). Who could do a Nixon going to China on school reform, and who wasn't afraid to use American force with some of Rumsfeld's boldness, but was also willing to stay the long course once he did so. Who gave the impression that he had actually used a computer and the Internet a few times and knew something about the future of technology and why it needs to be protected from Hollywood. Who wasn't willing to kiss Al Sharpton's ass and in fact frankly asked black America why the only truly impressive black people anyone talks about for the presidency both already work for the Bush administration.

Maybe that guy's in the race now. I hope if he is, he gets that message out before the consultants and pollsters tell him to run on a prescription drug benefit and leave the war and economics to the Republicans.

Posted by: Mike G at March 3, 2003 03:41 PM
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