October 20, 2006

Boring Partisans

From the Wall Street Journal:

Some producers say they are weary of the bickering between the left and right, each parroting talking points emailed from party headquarters. Most news-talk shows have pundits representing only "the four poles -- Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives," says CNN's Mr. Bohrman. He has an Internet reporter "scouring the blogs," partly to look for non-partisans who can articulate the middle ground in an engaging way. He says he'd love to find the great American "centrist pundit."
Producers aren't the only ones bored with the format. How about hiring lots of centrist pundits? In Oregon, where I live, registered Independents outnumber both Democrats and Republicans. Some of us who still haven't bothered to re-register as Independents are also basically centrists.

Scouring the blogs is a good call for producers who have finally figured out that Hannity and Colmes, the now defunct Crossfire, etc., bore the bejeezus out of people who aren't reactionaries or hacks. Here are a few places to start. Half of them have been on TV already. Put them on more often!

Ann Althouse
Andrew Sullivan
Jeff Jarvis
Matt Welch
Armed Liberal
Megan McArdle
Dean Esmay

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 20, 2006 11:23 AM
Comments

Andrew Sullivan is a centrist??? I can't disagree with most of the rest of the list for either lack of personal knowledge or agreement(though I don't like reading Jarvis most of the time).

I think your stat about registered independents doesn't really tell anything though, regarding "centrists" for a two reasons:

(1) Centrist is a meaningless term. From anyone's perspective, he or she is a centrist.

(2) "Independent" is not equal to "centrist." I don't know Oregon election law, but if Oregon has closed primaries, there is an advantage in being independent: you can choose which primary to vote in. Plus, everyone likes to say "I'm independent" while following along (witness tattoos as expressions of "individuality").

Posted by: John Jenkins at October 20, 2006 11:47 AM

Yes, John, Sullivan is a centrist. The proof is that I don't know why you're objecting to the term. Do you think he's right-wing or left-wing? He can be, and is, called both by different people.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 20, 2006 12:13 PM

I don't think I'd call Sullivan a centrist. I think on the whole his strong left and strong right views balance each other out, or at least they did when he was still supporting the Catholic Church and the administration's anti-terror strategy. Even then, while he may have been a centrist, no one would call him a moderate.

Ultimately I think Sullivan's politics are too inconsistent, personal, and too deeply stamped with his own feelings of betrayal to stand as an exemplar of any particular label.

Posted by: Eric J at October 20, 2006 12:51 PM

May I nominate my blog for its independence? I am admittedly conservative and generally vote Republican.

Nonetheless, my blog is quite critical of the Bush administration, in particular, its exploitation of a weak Democratic Party having no message in order to maintain a war in Afghanistan and Iraq at a level designed not to lose. No president should ask a young man to hunker down in a combat zone until the next election.

Likewise, I am just as disillusioned with the pandering of Republican candidates to the lowest common denominator on the right as I am about the Democrats chant "Bush Lied, People Died!"

Here's a recent post about the parties. http://burketokirk.blogspot.com/2006/10/republican-voter-by-default-not-by.html

Posted by: Tertium Quid at October 20, 2006 02:51 PM

I don't think you have to be a centrist to be bored of television punditry. I'm right of center (with an occasional liberarian streak) and I can't stand shows like Hannity and Colmes. They never present an issue that I haven't already heard about a million times, and neither host nor any of their guests ever presents a unique or interesting opinion on the overcooked issues the show covers. I'm convinced that the people who like those shows are masochists because all that happens is guests yelling over each other and then the hosts talk over the guests. YAWN. Give me a blogger with an interesting viewpoint over that old media stuff any day of the week.

Posted by: Fern R at October 20, 2006 04:12 PM

Sullivan is generally an extremist, both in his right wing and his left wing views. That doesn't make him a centrist.

Posted by: JimK at October 20, 2006 06:11 PM

I'll take Sullivan and can live with Althouse. From what I can see Jeff Jarvis and Matt Welch, they're apolitical localists.

Jane Galt seems like at least an analytical realist. So I should give your list a high-five.
But Dean Esmay and Armed Liberal instantly and totally alientated me, visting them for the first time, with mendacious,vaccous, partisan blow-offs of the Lancet survey.

I'm on a tear about "independent centrists" recently. They're willing to diss Republicans, but always take care to generalize the left as beneath even Republicans - Sullivan being the only exception with no clear rhetorical trend. There are several pro-gay marriage 'independent centrists' on here, but not even one pro-withdrawal centrist, even though there are plenty of pro-withdrawal and anti-war independents/centrists in real life. It seems to me like the political games played by Putin in the Duma to pretend his legislature functions, creating parties that are allowed to express dissent in a careful range of parameters towards aspects of the ruling dynamic that the real power source thinks are losing hands in the long-term anyway.

The independent centrists all seem to emulate Glenn Reynolds. It's as if Pajamas Media sends them a form to fill out. Who knows, maybe it's just indicative of trends of thought in American society as a whole, as a liberal I'd rather listen to polite out-and-out conservatives at the Corner.
They're independent in the sense of not directly serving the Republican party, but they seem predictable.

Yes, this is a rant, and probably a quite fallible one at that. Sorry, Mike. You already know I'm crochety.

Posted by: glasnost at October 20, 2006 08:38 PM

What am I?

I believe passionately that the US is a force for good in the world. I believe that the US must be strong and must stand up resolutely against truly sick, evil regimes.

I support a woman's right to control her body. I also support stem cell research.

I am a "deficit hawk." I am willing to pay higher taxes in order to bring down the national debt, as long as others do their share. I am willing to see my cherished programs frozen or reduced, so long as pork is aggressively squeezed out everywhere.

I strongly oppose mixing church and state. I strongly oppose the insane efforts of the religious right to get schools to teach creationism and religion.

I would like to see tobacco banned; it nearly killed my dad. I absolutely oppose legalizing drugs.

I don't care what consenting adults do in their bedrooms. I would rather they kept it there. I'm okay with some kind of domestic partnership law.

I support efforts to get people off welfare.

I support our national parks.

I strongly support Israel.

I strongly oppose the use of torture and am disgusted by an executive branch that thinks it is above the law.

I DON'T want the US to yank the troops out of Iraq. That would cause Iraq to collapse. The shock waves could well level half the planet.

I strongly support gun control. I've been mugged at gunpoint. I'm okay with guns being sold. But we have a free-for-all now.

I support aggressive pursuit of renewable and alternative energy. I oppose resolutely the use of nuclear energy or drilling in the ANWR.

I oppose quota systems. I believe that affirmative action via need-based scholarships (not a matter of race) and encouragement is superior to forcing percentages.

I oppose amnesties for illegal immigrants. We have laws. Everyone has to obey them. If we want more immigrants, we are perfectly capable of increasing immigration ceilings.

I oppose forcing hospitals to report on illegal immigrant status. This would create a potential public health crisis.

I believe that politicians on both sides of the aisle need to be reminded that a public servant is supposed to serve the public.

I am disgusted by the cynical and manipulative nature of the Republican leadership.

I think a lot of Democratic leaders are naive idiots.

What am I?

How many of you are truly strict "conservatives" according to today's measures? Strict "liberals"? It's hard to believe that an educated person would truly be that mindless "off the record."

Posted by: Zvi at October 20, 2006 08:47 PM

glasnost: It's as if Pajamas Media sends them a form to fill out.

Not a single one of those people is on Pajamas Media.

But Dean Esmay and Armed Liberal instantly and totally alientated me

They wouldn't if you would bother to stick around.

Yes, this is a rant, and probably a quite fallible one at that. Sorry, Mike. You already know I'm crochety.

Then are you forgiven!

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 20, 2006 09:18 PM

Michael,

I think Jim & Eric are right about Sullivan and you're wrong. He's not really any kind of centrist however you want to define it (unless it's the average of one's most extreme positions, then he is dead center).

The proof is that I don't know why you're objecting to the term.

That's an amazing logical step there, but I don't know how you get there. I object because I don't think there really is a political center. People either have an opinion on something, or don't.

To take Sullivan, for example: he is obviously pro gay marriage. One either agrees or does not.
(but, what about civil unions? That's gay marriage, whether you want to call it that or not). I happen to agree with Sullivan on that issue, but I don't think either of us is a centrist. As near as I can tell, your "centrists" are people with whom you agree more often than not, which is precisely my point number 1.

To some people you are a radical, to others a reactionary. Their definition of centrist will not be yours. Centrist seems only to be a mishmash of inconsistencies (oh, I haev this position, but if you don't that's okay, we can both be right, even if our positions are mutually exclusive).

Alternatively, what you're objecting to may be rhetorical excess. I would submit that the people who watch those kinds of shows watch for precisely that and that making the shows bland will not improve the ratings. People don't know or care about reasoned policy debates. They just don't (the majority, I am sure your readers are a self-selecting sample who do: that's why they are your readers).

Any number of people have made calcualted, impassioned, rational arguments against the drug war, on TV, in print, and on the internet and it continues unabated. You're dealing with irrational behaviors and rational ignorance wrapped together in an unpleasant package, and I don't think the bland "centrist" will be any more appealing to people.

Posted by: John Jenkins at October 20, 2006 09:56 PM

What about Fareed Zakaria at Foreignexchange.tv and the editor of Newsweek International?
Brookings Inst. writers?
National journal writers?

Posted by: Adam at October 20, 2006 11:15 PM

There are two types of centrists, from a Rep vs. Dem perspective.
1) Extremists on different issues, eg extremist pro-gay marriage AND extremist cut taxes and size of gov't (eg Sullivan).
2) Non-extremist on most issues, eg civil unions but NOT gay marriage, and NOT anti-civil union laws; reducing taxes ONLY when gov't spending is reduced.

There is no real "centrist" position on Iraq; nor on Darfur. Either we fight (one extreme), or we don't (the other extreme). Perhaps supporting a fight in Iraq but not in Darfur or N. Korea or Iran?

Liberals hold "liberal" views, Conservatives hold "conservative" views, and Centrists hold "centrist" views. What is really missing is defining a centrist view, issue by issue.

Those who do not have extremist views seem mushy, not centrist.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at October 21, 2006 02:38 AM

Ummm!
I don't know how to break it to you guys, but there is a group of bloggers that have been pushing the concept of a centrist viewpoint for years.

You can start with the Kinja weblog guide:
http://kinja.com/user/centrist

Then move on to themoderatevoice (which has a huge assortment of links sorted by left, right and center):
http://www.themoderatevoice.com/

Then finish your journey at:
unity08
http://www.unity08.com/

and the blogger of the Centrist Coalition:
http://www.centristcoalition.com

Posted by: Bob J Young at October 21, 2006 09:06 AM

Only one who truly finds the issues themselves "boring," would find "partisan bickering" not worth the bother of close scrutiny. Certainly the two protagonists, the GOP and Dems (or conservative v. liberal), offer clearl opposing views on the issues of, say, terrorism/Iraq and federal taxes. If those two issues make you yawn, then the current election debate will seem meaningless no matter how sexy or ugly the partisan arguments seem.

How revealing it is that this thread quickly turns into a silly debate over whether Andy Sullivan is a centrist or not. Forget the war on terrorist issue coz, hey, Jimmy Page is the greatest rock guitarist ever!

Even a few weeks out of the election, I do not doubt most Americans themselves would cheer Totten's "weary" post. The economy is humming along and America ain't seen no terrorist attack for five years. Thank goodness.

Oh, yawn...

Posted by: Marc S. Lamb at October 21, 2006 10:29 AM

Not a single one of those people is on Pajamas Media.

Dean Esmay is with Pajamas Media.

Andrew Sullivan is very much a conservative, so I'm not sure how he can be labelled a centerist. And Dean Esmay is fairly right-wing, I don't think I've seen many opinions on his blog that would qualify as liberal or even liberal-leaning.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 21, 2006 11:05 AM

Sullivan is definitely a fiscal conservative. On the other hand, on social issues he ranges from fairly liberal, to merely tolerant, to somewhat conservative. Which might, arguably, be called centerist -- picking positions on what one sees as their merits, rather than on what fits an ideology. Or you could say that he is in the tradition of the rather libertarian western conservatives (e.g. Goldwater), rather than the southern conservatives (which now seem to control the Republican party).

Posted by: wj at October 21, 2006 11:23 AM

DPU: Dean Esmay is with Pajamas Media.

You're right, my mistake.

Andrew Sullivan is very much a conservative

Well, he's a conservative who hates the Republican Party and is more or less siding with the Democrats for now.

And Dean Esmay is fairly right-wing, I don't think I've seen many opinions on his blog that would qualify as liberal or even liberal-leaning.

He looks right-wing to you, but you're pretty far left. I don't know if you've been reading him lately, but he has been on a relentless tear against Robert Spencer and Michelle Malkin and other like-minded people. He does a good job of it, too, and has invited some left-leaning Muslims to blog with him.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 21, 2006 12:19 PM

He looks right-wing to you, but you're pretty far left.

My own ploitical position doesn't color my ability to determine other's political positions. I simply don't see much coming from Dean that is liberal or left-wing. Some support for unions is about all I've seen in that regard.

If you want to see how liberal he is, ask him about socialized medicine. Stand back first though.

I don't know if you've been reading him lately, but he has been on a relentless tear against Robert Spencer and Michelle Malkin and other like-minded people.

I've been reading his blog daily for the last four years. He's not tearing into these guys for their political views, but for their anti-Muslim bigotry. While that is commendable on his part, that is neither right nor left-wing, just non-partisan.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 21, 2006 12:39 PM

Sorry, make that "socialized healthcare".

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 21, 2006 12:39 PM

slightly off this post topic - I was catching up on your blogging from the past couple weeks and had a good chuckle from your Oct. 16 pre-election update. regarding voting a straight Dem ticket - I made exactly the same point on my blog a couple weeks ago (http://theexpatthing.blogspot.com/). It's nice to know that others feel the same way - if enough others back in my hometown (Columbus, Ohio) do the same........well, we'll just wait and see.

on other stuff, I remember you mentioning awhile back that you were thinking of studying Arabic in Egypt (I think). have you considered Damascus? - cleaner than Cairo, and not near as many people trying to practice their Engish on you.
Bonus: quick access to Lebanon:)

Posted by: Dave at October 21, 2006 01:31 PM

I think on the whole his strong left and strong right views balance each other out

Ah, yes: The concept that bothers people almost above all others in discussions such as this, as demonstrated here, a bit.

Damn those people for refusing to shape their edges to fit neat peg holes!

Those damnable people deserve to be damned. from all sides.

If only--but not just only--'cause they're so damned annoying.

Posted by: reader_iam at October 21, 2006 07:18 PM

Isn't Ann Althouse that lady law prof from Minn. or Wisc.? Likes to highlight her "solo" adventures. She has a definite right wing slant, but as many, thinks she is a centrist. Howabout Instapundit? there's a guy that really thinks he is a centrist but is so far right it's hard for him to stand up straight. He's also less than an ideal host to visiting bloggers.

Posted by: lk at October 21, 2006 07:29 PM

lk: Howabout Instapundit? there's a guy that really thinks he is a centrist but is so far right it's hard for him to stand up straight.

Wow, did you write that with a straight face?

On a scale of 1-100, 1 being farthest-left and 100 being farthest-right, I'm at 48 or 49.

David Duke is at 100.

Ann Coulter is at 90.

Michelle Malkin is at 80.

David Brooks is at 70.

James Lileks is at 60.

Glenn Reynolds is somewhere around 55.

Where are you? 4?

He's also less than an ideal host to visiting bloggers.

How would you know? Have you ever visited him? I have. I rather doubt you did.

If you did miraculously get invited to his house and if you said to his face that he's so far right he can barely stand up straight, I imagine he would have been a little less nice to you than he was to me.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 21, 2006 08:40 PM

Glenn Reynolds is somewhere around 55.

I tend to see people through a foreign policy standpoint, but I'd put GR at around a 70. Reynolds is probably the defining archetype of the nominally anti-current-republicans, viscerally total-anti-lefist, pro-gay marriage, Club-For-Growth-Terrorist-Hawk that I was thinking of when I ranted. I'm not making this idea up, either, ask Greg Djerijan or Sully himself.

Posted by: glasnost at October 22, 2006 12:05 AM

I'm not sure you've allowed enough room in your 1-100 scale for the really ugly extremists, especially on the right. But really, Left and Right are kinda limited and contradictory definitions anyway. I think each issue has to be approached individually- but most people would consider me near-right. On the internet I'm usually considered mid-right, occassionally accused of being far-right. Maybe that's just because I hang out with lefties?

Posted by: wreckage at October 22, 2006 03:21 AM

Even on Foreign Policy only, what does "right wing" mean?
Pat Robertson, near 100 right on the MJT scale, is against the Iraq war; W. F. Buckley too (I think); certainly lots of Libertarians -- because it costs too much, not US business, etc.

Does that make Cindy Sheehan a right winger? And what would a 'centrist' say about Iraq? Or does it make "left-right" a silly scale to apply to Iraq?

If the latter, this thread is mostly silly -- so I'm wasting my time.

Oh well, I'm printing my mother-in-law's foto with her husband before we go celebrate "Babka's" 65th Birthday with a great chocolate cake.
(Is liking chocolate left or right?)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at October 22, 2006 05:08 AM

Rating people on a scale of 1 to a 100 is a very one dimensional way to look at the world.

Sure it's easy to see that Coutler and Sharpton are not centrists, but then, they are just entertainers selling different flavors of venom to a willing audience. The hard part is judging where you stand. After all, most people think they are reasonable and can't comprehend how everyone else can be so wrong.

From the discussions I've seen, being a centrist is about having an open mind. One of the most important values is the willingness to say you could be wrong. An to consider that possibility early and often. Maybe even have an criteria preselected to test when it's time to admit you are wrong.

If you are so emotionally invested in a stance, that a tidal wave of disastrous news is required just to get you thinking, “I may be wrong”, then you may not be a centrist.

If you don't find the idea of “party talking points” offensive, then you may not be a centrist.

If you have an ideology rather than an open mind, you may not be a centrist.

If you can't even conceive that the other side may be right, you may not be a centrist.

If you find yourself calling other people names and flinging insults, you may not be a centrist.

Posted by: Bob J Young at October 22, 2006 07:46 AM

I'm ususally typecast as a right-winger, even though I support the legalization of drugs, the generous funding of public schools and child care. In some people's eyes, if you say positive things about democracy, Israel, freedom or self-defense, you're on one side, and if you say positive things about the UN, the Palestinians and authoritarian regimes, you're on another side.

If the scale was a 10 for extreme libertarian trotskyite popinjays vs. 0 for centralized-power stasist utopians

Glenn Reynolds and Christopher Hitchens would be 9s

Jane Galt, Bill Buckley would probably be 7s or 8s, as would most of the centrists listed here.

"Open-minded" Dems like Jimmy Carter and Dennis Kucinich would be 2s. So would Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson

David Duke would be a 1, as would Noam Chomsky and Cindy Sheehan.

Stalin, Hugo Chavez and a surprising number of Europeans would be zeroes.

To the totalitarian-wannabes out there, Glenn Reynolds or anyone else who prattles about freedom, individual rights or self defense looks like a right-winger. To Europeans, most Americans look like 'extremists'.

Posted by: mary at October 22, 2006 08:27 AM

If the scale was a 10 for extreme libertarian trotskyite popinjays vs. 0 for centralized-power stasist utopians.</>

Based on what, exactly? Tolerance or love of autoracy? If so, I don't recall Jimmy Carter being a big fan of unrestricted state power. Hitchen, on the other hand, was a devotee of the gentleman who set up the Red Army and crushed the Anarchists at Kronstadt, so he wouldn't be a nine. And why lump Trokyists with Libertarians anyway?

That's a seriously odd scale.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 22, 2006 10:27 AM

Based on what, exactly? Tolerance or love of autoracy? If so, I don't recall Jimmy Carter being a big fan of unrestricted state power. Hitchen, on the other hand, was a devotee of the gentleman who set up the Red Army and crushed the Anarchists at Kronstadt, so he wouldn't be a nine.

George Galloway (a 1 if there ever was one) called Hitchens a "drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay". But Galloway has been wrong before. In any case, Galloway and Hitchens are at opposite ends of the pro/anti freedom spectrum, yet they'd both call themselves leftists.

Jimmy Carter has always been a fan of authoritarian regimes, most notably in his efforts to use his headless chicken strategy to expand the inflence of totalitarian Islamism. If Hugo Chavez ever needs an election to be verified, he knows who to call. Jimmy's not a total authoritarian monster, but he is at about Pat Buchanan's level.

And why lump Trokyists with Libertarians anyway?

I'm not a Marxist or even an ex-marxist, so correct me if I'm wrong, but Trotsky's idea of a worker's 'permanent revolution' seems to be similar to libertarian anarcho-capitalism in its attitude towards authority.

Posted by: mary at October 22, 2006 11:42 AM

I'm not a Marxist or even an ex-marxist, so correct me if I'm wrong, but Trotsky's idea of a worker's 'permanent revolution' seems to be similar to libertarian anarcho-capitalism in its attitude towards authority.

Not even remotely close.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 22, 2006 11:50 AM

And by the way, one doesn't need to be a marxist or ex-marxist to understand marxism and its various sects.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 22, 2006 12:15 PM

one doesn't need to be a marxist or ex-marxist to understand marxism and its various sects.

Maybe, but only a very, very strong interest in the subject will provide the motivation you'd need to plow through texts which are, to put it kindly, turgid.

Posted by: mary at October 22, 2006 12:27 PM

Maybe, but only a very, very strong interest in the subject will provide the motivation you'd need to plow through texts which are, to put it kindly, turgid.

Well, that would explain your libertarian-marxist mashup.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 22, 2006 12:36 PM

Great idea!!!! If the media rediscovered the center, that could be a wonderful improvement to the American political scene.

I'd like to hope that it could reinvigorate the Democratic party which has been scaring me by having a "grass roots" filled those horrible, immature, deeply ignorant KOS activist types or whatever the non-internet version of a KOS activist is.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at October 22, 2006 12:58 PM

You have to be pretty far right (or naive) to consider Instapundit a centrist. I consider him to generally be to the right of NRO. He's also no longer a libertarian in any meaningful sense of the word. I'd put Glenn in the same boat as people like Hugh Hewitt, slightly to the left of Malkin. He may be a nice guy in person, but as a blogger I find him really weaselly and really hard to stomach.

Posted by: vanya at October 22, 2006 06:28 PM

Vanya, I find much of NRO unreadably partisan. I don't have that problem with Glenn at all. Michelle Malkin is way harder (for me) to stomach than even NRO on its worst day, let alone Instapundit.

I guess it partly depends on what pushes your buttons and what doesn't.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2006 06:37 PM

If you don't find the idea of “party talking points” offensive, then you may not be a centrist.

If you have an ideology rather than an open mind, you may not be a centrist.

If you can't even conceive that the other side may be right, you may not be a centrist.

If you find yourself calling other people names and flinging insults, you may not be a centrist.

Hear hear!

Posted by: glasnost at October 22, 2006 09:24 PM

...bore the bejeezus out of people who aren't reactionaries or hacks

What's a "hack"?

Posted by: Carlos at October 22, 2006 11:02 PM

The trouble with Crossfire and its myriad clones is their formulaic, branded "balance". These shows draw from a stable of public-issue celebrities whose views are widely known, and whose positions on any given issue are predictable. Persona X, of Brand A, regurgitates the Brand A mantra; persona Y, the Brand B.

Policies regarding medical care? Juan Williams (Brand A) will argue for publicly subsidized, universal health insurance (the Brand A position). George Will (Brand B) will yearn for the abolishment of Medicare. If I know that Juan and George will appear together on a given show, I don't need to tune in to know the essence of what they will say, once an issue is raised. I can even imagine their facial expressions and body language, if not the precise witticisms they would deploy, so familiar are their schticks by now.

Iraq? Anyone here could plausibly script the "dialog" for the Juan and George bots.

The point is not that Juan and George are mindlessly partisan bots; it's that everyone knows their views and affiliations already, and is therefore predisposed to accept or reject what they have to say. The only reason to watch is for the art of their sparring.

How I long for an utterly unbranded talking heads show, for which the producers would make no attempt to find guests that fit into arbitrary pigeon-holes. Rather, they would scour the country to find articulate, thoughtful, and generally well-informed citizens that no one has heard of before. Not media types; not political operatives; not celebrities; nor even bloggers (whose views are all too predictable).

No, the producers of this refreshing new show would canvas the country in search of ordinary, level-headed citizens with a talent for civilized discussion -- just as Jepoardy scouts the populace for trivia whizzes. To produce a year's worth of programming of a once-weekly show, featuring a moderator plus two guests, you'd need about a hundred such people, each of whom might be invited to appear twice during the year. A weeknightly show, with the same 1+2 format, might have each guest on for five consecutive days.

There would be no attempt to achieve political or racial or ideological "balance" for each show. Let luck of the draw determine the show's ideological biases. Guests would be introduced by name alone -- neither their employers, professions, geographical region, nor voting history would be announced. The moderator would merely introduce "Jack Smith and Jane Jones", and launch into the first topic. If they substantially agree on health policy, well, so be it. Let arguments stand or fall on the merits; let no a priori labels prejudice the viewers' evaluation of the opinions expressed.

Lest anyone attempt to cram themselves with talking points beforehand, the topic(s) to be discussed would not be known ahead of time to the guests. Or abandon an agenda altogether, and let the participants wander freely through whatever public-affairs issues they deem worth discussing.

No, the goal is to elicit reasoned discussion, to eavesdrop on bright, articulate citizens as they grapple with the burden of self-government.

Posted by: db at October 23, 2006 12:30 AM

I know Sullivan thinks highly of you, Michael, but to give him the accolade of 'centrist' is unworthy praise. Sullivan is far too polemical to be a centrist; he is a man constantly on the attack. E.g., he excoriated anyone against the war in 2003 - now he exocriates anyone who still defends it. He snipes at other bloggers and has a hair-trigger sensitivity to any percieved attack on himself or his positions [witness his strained relationships with Glenn Reynolds and Mickey Kaus]. Every pronoucement from the Bush administration is characterized as having evil portent. And while he might tone it down for his Time pieces, his blog writing is highly intemperant. None of this militates in favor of giving Sully the centrist label.

Moreover, for good or ill, Sullivan is also a one trick pony ... gay marriage being the nil plus ultra of his political mindset; even when he blogs on 'torture' (which to him includes coercive interrogation and is so broadly defined as to render the word a meaningless) I am left with the inescapable feeling that this is not some heartfelt position but merely a convenient club for beating 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. My view of centrists is that they should have much broader perspective ... again, something that Sullivan lacks.

A good centrist is interested at arriving at the truth. Sullivan is more interested in scoring points. And his pretensions at an intellectual conservatism aside, his 2004 embrace of John Kerry proves his heart lies with the left even if he hasn't been able to convince himself of that yet.

All that being said, I agree with your main point. The problem is that centrists rarely make good tv. I'd rather watch Christopher Hitchens than Jeff Jarvis.

Posted by: Tryptich at October 23, 2006 04:12 AM

It is foolish to try to categorize Andrew Sullivan, even though he himself does so. He is not a conservative or a liberal, a doer or an analyst. He has no particular expertise other than editing, and gay issues.

Instead, he is a controverialist, living for the adrenaline of constant argument and controversy, craving attention. So is Eric Alterman, who is a left-winger, but needs controversy to justify his public existance.

Posted by: Sparky at October 23, 2006 05:30 AM

It's interesting to note the number of times gay marriage comes up in this discussion as a defining issue in determining where one stands in the left/center/right continuum. By that barometer, Libertarians are the leftmost and liberalist of all.

And by the way, I'm totally way more emo than all you guys.

Posted by: Swan at October 23, 2006 10:12 PM

I think a better idea would be to have experts on, instead of pundits and media celebrities.

That's what media in the developed world does, anyway.

Posted by: Foreigner at October 24, 2006 12:42 PM

Hey, as long as you have Dean Esmay on that list, why not stick "Tom Grey -- Liberty Dad" up there too? He's every bit as vapid as Dean is.

Posted by: Fergus Carthstone at October 24, 2006 06:35 PM

David Duke would be a 1, as would Noam Chomsky and Cindy Sheehan.

What?

How, exactly, is Cindy Sheehan a "centralized power statist?" Or is that your term for people with whom you disagree?

Posted by: spencer at October 25, 2006 09:23 AM

I guess it partly depends on what pushes your buttons and what doesn't.

Yep.

Everyone prioritizes issues differently.

Someone who disagrees with you on an issue you think is important is an 'extremist'.

Someone who disagrees with you on an issue you don't think is important is a 'partisan'.

Someone who agrees with you on issues you don't think are important is a 'centrist'.

Someone who agrees with you on issues you think are important is a fellow (insert your party affiliation here).

Re Sullivan: call him a righty or a lefty if you like, but he is not a centrist. Centrists look at candidates positions and make a net positive or negative assessment of the candidate's positions. Sullivan is a one-issue voter, and so long as that remains true, it is fallacious to claim that his right and left positions 'balance out' to make him a centrist.

Posted by: rosignol at October 26, 2006 11:15 PM

SAVE THE PRESIDENCY

Experience has taught the wise and simple that the spirit of man and faith should not be frustrated in stormy days for they hold the keys of all breakthroughs and success. Even so it was and so shall it be that the American dream would never be won on a silver platter. It was Thomas Paine who prior to the revolutionary war said; “THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

In the gospels we are informed of an encounter the good Lord had with His disciples in a ship when crossing the Sea of Galilee. Before the journey the Lord said to the disciples; “let us cross over to the other side.” (Mark 4:38, Luke 8:22) But not many hours after their journey began they were met with a boisterous wind during which period their leader was found asleep. In the fear of their life they woke their leader who rebuked the storm and the situation became as normal as it could be. Even so it was that at the end of the revolutionary war Thomas Paine concluded; “The times that try men’s soul are over.” Nonetheless, the war on terrorism is not over. As such the maximum of the American dream is still hanging. For that matter it may be considered erroneous to throw over board our leader and faith.

History has shown America that Republican’s can be trusted than the democrats when it comes to issues concerning national security. Even so currently the President has demonstrated unshaken determination and resilience to defeat the terrorists of our days better than his compatriots on the other side of the political divide. The terrorist know too well that the weakness of President Bush is a measure of their success. So they are doing everything they can to frustrate America and to weaken the President for their agenda to be achieved.

Therefore, let America know that a democrat majority in the house/congress is a weakness to the President and a victory to the terrorist. So let us choose from these two evils that, which will protect America, establish a better national security and strengthened the President while the war continues. As the saying goes; “it’s not over until all is over.” God bless America.

Manney

Posted by: Pastor Emmanuel Mills at November 2, 2006 01:19 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member



Testimonials

"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

"Terrific"
Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere


Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com


News Feeds




toysforiraq.gif



Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button

totten_button.jpg


Tip Jar





Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn