Thursday, January 13, 2011

Recalibrating this blog

In a few hours, Scripps Howard should release the latest column from Ben Boychuk and yours truly. We talked about the Tucson shooting, of course: It's the only thing to talk about this week. And I hope my editors at Scripps will forgive me for teasing the column with this teaser summing up my take:

Nobody pauses. Nobody reflects. The only way to start trusting each other again would be to shut up and listen to each other once in awhile.  But what are the chances that’s going to happen? Non-existent, it seems. I’m right, you’re wrong, and that’s all anybody needs to know.

I'm not really happy with my contribution to this week's column. I'm not sure there's 300 words on the topic I could've written about Tucson that would've made me happy. I didn't want to re-hash the case that every liberal has made about militant rhetoric on the right; I didn't want to do one of those false equivalency things, either, where I suggest the problem stems from both sides; and yet I don't want to let my side of the argument off the hook and suggest that liberals offer a high-minded approach to public discourse that conservatives don't -- because, well, I don't believe it. 

But I do believe that paragraph above. I'm not sure if there's actually a way anymore to do vigorous, lively politics -- and politics is how we do democracy --  without retreating into base tribalism. I'm as guilty of that as anybody, from time to time. And I guess I'd like to recalibrate my own contribution to the conversation a bit, to make it less knee-jerky and more thoughtful: To stand for some ideas instead of tearing down what other people offer. 

So I'm going to attempt to retreat from the way I've done blogging lately, and try a different approach. Instead of scattershot snarking, I want to do a few things in this space:

* Curate the most interesting commentary I read, from a variety of sources.

* Interact with longer-form journalism and books.

* Expand the the topics here beyond politics to include some of my other favorite things: Literature, movies, TV, city life, and parenting. A whole life should not be confined to one's ballot-box preferences.

These are all things I've done before. But I'm going to be a little more intentional about them. I suspect it won't do wonders for my blog traffic, but that's ok: This space is a hobby, not a job, so I don't need to worry about that. 

In practice, this means I'm going to stop reading the morning papers on a laptop with the mouse button hovering over the browser's Posterous "blog-now!" button. I'll retreat to my iPad, which allows for sharing quickly, but not blogging efficiently. I'm going to consume information without expecting to produce new information immediately in response.

The end result is that you can expect me to revive my series of blog posts about the Federalist Papers. After last week's argument about the Constitution in the House, I'm more convinced than ever that liberals can -- and should -- make a case for constitutional liberalism that's rooted in (but not at all confined to) the Founders' vision. 

And as I've previously said, 2011 is my year of reading about income inequality and the welfare state. I'm almost complete with my first book in the series, Paul Krugman's somewhat-dated "The Conscience of a Liberal." You can expect my thoughts on that in a few days.

This is what I'm going to attempt. This will still be a liberal place. I don't pretend that I have more than a microscopic influence on the national conversation, but I'd like it to be productive. And for me, that probably means going slower and deeper.

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