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Hullabaloo


Friday, December 23, 2005

 
Something To Believe In

the digby


Lots of people are discussing this article about Kos in the new Washington Monthly and wondering whether we need more wonkery and less partisanship in the blogosphere.

It seems to me that there is a lot of great accessible policy analysis in the left blogosphere. Max Sawicky notes that that wonkery rises to the occasion when needed, as in the social security debate (and, I would argue, Juan Cole and other foreign policy specialists when Iraq debates have raged.) Specialists abound. There is political wonkery in the form of analysts like Ruy Teixeira at Donkey Rising. Nathan Newman is the go to on labor issues. PZ Myers and Chris Mooney on science. Economists and lawyers abound, Maxspeak, Angry Bear, Balkinization, Talk Left, Scotusblog, the list goes on. TPM Cafe is a salon devoted to wonkery.

And within the wonkosphere there are generalists and specialists, more often the latter, for obvious reasons. Kevin Drum is a generalist wonk. He has many interests that he enjoys exploring with graphs and data. Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias do too. Most blogwonks aren't like that. (You'll notice that all three of those guys are employed by liberal magazines that specialize in popular wonkery.)

These and the many great blogwonks are essential to the left blogosphere. They are a tremendous resource that I (a card carrying partisan crank) treasure and I link to them more often than anyone else. They are often compelling writers who effectively convey complex information to the lay reader and offer excellent analysis. So I'm not sure I see the beef. I rarely find it difficult to get educated on any number of subjects when I need to (which is often.)

Having said that, I disagree that the rest of the blogsphere is a bunch of screaming hysterics who engage in nothing but "agitation" or partisan catcalling. They all discuss politics --- you're not a member of the left blogsphere if you don't --- and they discuss the subject in different ways with analysis, humor, polemic, grassroots activism, criticism and historical perspective. The big blogs like Kos and Atrios have created virtual communities within the larger community for people to gather and talk about the issues of the day. And that, believe it or not, is the essence of politics.

In the Politics Aristotle said:

"That man is much more a political animal than any kind of bee or any herd animal is clear. For, as we assert, nature does nothing in vain, and man alone among the animals has speech....[S]peech serves to reveal the advantageous and the harmful and hence also the just and unjust. For it is peculiar to man as compared to the other animals that he alone has a perception of good and bad and just and unjust and other things of this sort; and partnership in these things is what makes a household and a city."


Politics is way more than wonkery, although wonkery is essential. And the partisan catcalling is a natural part of it, particularly in highly polarized times such as this. It's human, for better or worse. People need to find solidarity and they need to express their fears, frustrations, desires, needs and beliefs. People turn to bloggers and each other to connect the dots and connect to others.

Wonkery is reason. The comaraderie we find among those of our online political tribe is heart. Successful politics requires both. I've often felt that one of the problems with liberalism is that we lost touch with that side of ourselves --- as Ezra has called it, our "inner RFK" --- the part that gets inspired (or angry) because we deeply believe in something.

Our technocratic side is far superior for actual governance, as we've recently been shown in spades. But it is a grave mistake to think that politics is, or ever has been, fueled by a concept like "competence." It's fueled by much bigger concepts like "leadership" and "inspiration" and "committment." We need some of that stuff, badly.

So I say hooray for the wonkosphere and the crankosphere. I know that each side sometimes offends the sensibilities of the other but we should warmly embrace our bretheren no matter what our temperaments incline us to. Robust progressive politics requires both.



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